Memorial Photocrafting

Mountain View Cemetery, North Plains, OR

It seems appropriate for Memorial Day weekend to highlight a way in which photocrafting can contribute to honoring the past. has collected over 190 million cemetery records as a subsidiary of A most crucial part of each record are the photos of the cemetery, the gravesite, and the headstones. All of this information is provided by unpaid volunteers. We have focused on ways photocrafting can benefit us and our friends. This is an opportunity to benefit others as well.

An image of's ways to contribute, highlighting the buttons for "Photo Requests" and "Upload Photos."
For photocrafting, we are especially interested in Photo Requests and Uploading Photos.

A few years ago, I created an account on FindAGrave in conjunction with working on a family tree in One of the opportunities is to sign up to ask for photos I want from cemeteries not near me and also to take photos for others in cemeteries that are close to me. I can specify a particular cemetery that I might be visiting elsewhere as well.

An image from that lists photo requests within 10 miles of a location.
If you allow the website to know your location, you can specify a range in which you are willing to travel. Here are two examples of requests for gravestone photos from two cemeteries in my area.
An image from that lists photo requests for a specific cemetery.
Here’s an example of several requests at a particular cemetery.

I was planning a visit to Kansas and knew I would visit Hope Cemetery there so I made a list of all the photo requests for that site. One example is the request for Mary Stoy. The request lists the FindAGrave id, the first name, the last name, the birthdate, the date of death, the plot location (if known), and any notes from the requester.

The record showing the request for Mary Stoy's gravesite photo.
Here’s an example of a photo request for Mary Stoy in Hope Cemetery, Kansas.

When in Kansas, I went to Hope Cemetery and located the Stoy gravesite. I took two pictures, one intended to capture the headstone and immediate surroundings and a second to show the detail of the inscription. I’m not a professional photographer and it shows! Note that I didn’t get the full top of the headstone included. I also didn’t do a good job in the sun of avoiding the shadows. In retrospect, I wish I had a third photo that showed the gravestone with more of the surroundings. That offers more context and helps others find the location of the site.

Two images of Mary Stoy's gravesite.  A column on a base and a close-up of the text on the column.
I took two photos of the gravestone of Mary Stoy to fulfill a request on FindAGrave

I uploaded the photos to FindAGrave. This was a photo request so not surprisingly there were no other photos on the page for Mary Stoy’s gravesite. I selected one of the two as the default. Both photos appear on the Photos tab.

An image of the FindAGrave page for Mary Stoy that shows one of my photos alongside her basic information.  There's a tab for Photos that includes both photos I uploaded.
The FindAGrave page for Mary Stoy now includes the photos I took at Hope Cemetery.

I always try to take photos of the overall cemetery as well. There’s a page for each cemetery in FindAGrave so I uploaded the photo to add to the others that were there.

Two photos:  One is a picture I took near the main entrance to Hope Cemetery.  The other is the Hope Cemetery page in FindAGrave that includes the photo I uploaded along with three others added earlier by other users.
I took a general photo of Hope Cemetery and uploaded it to the Hope Cemetery page.

There are lots of tips and a few DON’Ts. I’ve pulled some from the sites that I found offering good information. I encourage you to look at these for additional suggestions.

FindAGrave Cemetery Guide:
Spray bottle with plain waterWetting tombstones can make them more readable. 
Small sweeping brushPaint brushes work well to brush loose dirt off without harming fragile stones. 
Use non-invasive methods …Shaving cream and chemical solvents should not be used because they can harm the stone. 

FindAGrave Headstone Photography:
Make sure the stone is readable; remove debris such as soil, leaves, or twigs.
Take multiple photos. This will give you more choices when uploading photos to the site.
Photograph the entire headstone straight on so that it nearly fills the frame. 
If the headstone has multiple sides with text, then photograph each side. 

Tips for Photographing Gravestones:
One showing the whole cemetery.
Shoot an image that includes the closest stones and provides context.
Photograph the whole gravestone so that inscription and carving are visible.
Make sure to take at least one picture where the inscription fills the camera frame.

It’s easy to navigate FindAGrave and an account is straightforward with no cost and no deluge of email messages. I do get a message when there’s a photo request near my location. If I can, I “claim” it and go take a photo. More often, I note it and when I have time, check the requests for that cemetery and plan a time to take pictures of all the requests for that location.

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