Suggestions for Using a Photograph With an Obituary

Q. I’m preparing an obituary in advance for my elderly father and want to include a photograph. How much extra does a photo cost, and what are the guidelines? Also, what do you think about using a photo from 40 years ago when he was healthy and dashing?

The cost and requirements for an obituary photo vary depending on the newspaper, the size of the photo, the day of the week and how often the obit appears. A small paper might include a photo free of charge, or perhaps add a $50 fee to the cost of text. At a larger paper, a standard 27 line obituary with photo might be $386 – or $535 for 45 lines with photo. Major “national” papers might charge $1,200 or more for a 49-line obituary and photo.

You can probably email the photo to the paper. However, be sure to check the requirements and details for scanning, etc., which can vary. Chances are the publication won't accept a group photo, and will want you to have the picture "cropped" to eliminate the other people. Select a good quality photograph as well. A Polaroid is OK for your photo album, but it's usually not good enough for an obit.

It's entirely up to you whether to use a recent picture of your father or an old, more flattering shot. Some people wouldn't dream of using a 50-year-old photo of a 96-year-old. Others feel differently, and want the deceased to be remembered as young and full of vitality. One obituary for a grandmother used an obviously very early photo, and omitted details of age or date of birth at the deceased's request. In other cases, an old picture might be used because there are no recent ones available.

Incidentally, the newspaper may be willing to write and run free of charge what is called a "news obituary," including a photo – if the deceased is a well-known citizen (think political figure, entertainer, business leader or philanthropist). The death is considered "news" of interest to the general readership. For example, "news obituary" stories ran in top papers across the country when Ben Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, died recently.

However, the deceased needn't be a national celebrity to qualify for a news obituary in a local paper. Just a big fish in a small pond will do.

***

If you have a question for Florence, please email her at fisaacs@florenceisaacs.com.

Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes.... She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com: Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a blog for bereaved spouses and partners.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Messers. Eliott & Fry. John Bale, Sons, & Danielsson Ltd., London

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