Cemeteries are, hands down, my favorite place to take pictures. Actually, they are one of my favorite places to go, period. They are beautiful, calm and peaceful, and always full of inspiration. Being in a cemetery never fails to get my creative juices flowing. Whenever I post photos taken in a cemetery I always receive questions and comments regarding my choice of location. Perhaps it may seem lugubrious to some, but I assure you that it can be anything but, especially when one looks at it from an artistic perspective.
Here are some etiquette guidelines to refer to if you decide to take some cemeteries of your own. I've also included some tips to help make your adventure worthwhile. All the photos in this post were taken in a cemetery (you can view the original post by clicking the photo).
Be respectful. This is the first and foremost thing to mention when undertaking any activity involving a cemetery. Remember, this is where people are buried. Treat every tombstone marker and mausoleum as if your own family were buried there. Don't ever step on a grave marker. I don't even like stepping in front of the markers over where I think the people are buried - try to stay on designated walkways and use your best judgment if paths are limited. And don't ever remove flowers or other "tokens" near memorials.
Be careful. Don't touch statues or grave markers. And if you do, use extreme caution as some of them are hundreds of years old.
Be quiet. There may be other people there visiting and you don't want to disturb them.
Respect mourners. If there is a burial taking place, even if it is on the other side of the cemetery, come back later. You don't want to be a distraction.
Stay out of the way. If you drive, park your car in a designated parking area or be sure to pull over enough to the side that another car may pass you. Don't drive on the grass. Ride bikes only on designated paths. Don't wheel your bike around the grass - park and come back to it.
Don't argue. If you are asked to leave by a cemetery employee or officer of the law, do it. Don't make a scene. They may have reasons for asking you to leave. Also, if you are ever asked to put your camera away, do it. You can always come back later. (This has never happened to me, but just in case...)
Leave only footprints. Don't leave trash or props behind (common sense, people!). And if you see trash, pick it up and dispose of it yourself.
Don't be afraid. People have a tendency to think of cemeteries as spooky places. Trust me, unless you go at night when everything seems to get shadowy and ominous, they aren't scary at all. Be relaxed. Your photos will be better if you are not freaking out at every little sound you hear. Take in the beauty and the splendor. Retrain your mind to see a cemetery as a calm and peaceful place.
Find the oldest graves. In my experience, the older the tombstone, the more aesthetic appeal it has. Newer markers just aren't the same.
Bring props. Instead of taking things from the cemetery to use (don't do this EVER), bring your own props. Fake flowers, books, and an apple are examples of things I've brought in the past. Have them planned out before you get there. Remember to take them when you leave.
Keep your keys with you. If you drive and park, don't leave your keys in the car! There's too much of a chance of locking them in (really, this goes for any picture taking adventure). Imagine - you got some great pictures, it's starting to get dark, you get to your car, it's locked. The keys are in it. You hear an eerie rustling behind you. Don't be that person! Keep all potentially freaky circumstances to a minimum. Check and double check.
Use what's there. Benches and steps are meant to be used. It is appropriate to touch and use these things because that's what they were meant for.
Research. Do some reading up on the cemetery you will be going to (or have been to). What is the oldest grave? Are any interesting people buried there? Are any graves thought to be haunted? Knowing these things will make your time there more interesting.
Explore. Keeping in mind the etiquette mentioned above, have fun exploring. I have come across some very interesting tombstones during my visits. These make for great photos. Read the tombstones - do any of them say anything unusual? There is great architecture and scenery to be found, so don't limit yourself to just one area.
Keep going. Go at least once during each season. Go before the grass turns green, go when things are in bloom, go when there's snow on the ground...you'd be surprised by how the time of year can affect the aesthetic of your photos!
Take fabulous photos. Take photos from different perspectives. Don't just take boring old outfit photos. Incorporate yourself into your surroundings. Work with the scenery to produce an amazing one-of-a-kind pictures.