Photo Tip Series – Photographing a Civil War Re-enactment


Written by: Nathan Wertheimer

The next Photo Tip Series I will be writing about is photographing a Civil War Re-enactment. Have you ever wanted to go back in time to capture the American Civil War battlefield? If you said, yes I will explain more tips and tricks about how to get the best possible photos. Sorry, you won’t be suiting up to be in a battle. Photographing a civil war is like photographing a sporting event.

First, you’ll need to check your local event guide to find out where a Civil War Re-enactment that is taking place. There are many of them out there. The one I visit to the most is the Battle of Townsends’s Plantation, which is a factious battle at Renningers Twin Markets in Mount Dora, Florida. This battlefield is not large, but is set in the woods behind the twin markets. Most people make it a day experience because there is much to see and do. It is a great learning experience for the children and for adults too.

Before heading down to the battlefield here are a few things you should bring. One needs one camera, a variety of assorted lenses. Some lenses I recommend using either a 12-24mm wide-angle lens or the 18-55mm lens, along with a monopod to stabilize your camera. Sometimes I even photograph using a 70-200mm lens or 70-300mm lens. Don’t forget to bring some extra charged camera batteries too. It is highly recommended to bring earplugs and or noise canceling ear headphones. To enjoy your time, it is recommended to bring a folding chair. No one wants to photograph on his or her knees the whole time at the fence line. Also it is advised not to bring your pet to this event because of the loud noise and movement on the battlefield will cause them to get excited and or stressed.

Make sure you arrive there early to scope out a good place to photograph. Ask the event promoter where the best locations are. The promoter may direct you towards the center or at one of the end zone near the battlefield. Every place in the house is a good viewing point. Just remember it is unknown how the battle will take place. One side may get more action than another. This will depend on the battle day game plan. Spectators are not allowed on the battlefield during the battle. Plus, one needs to be dressed for the part for the battle. Arrangements can be made ahead of time if you’re a serious photographer looking to be on the battlefield.

Before the battle starts, there are many other things to see and do. Visitors are encouraged to check out the various Civil War vendors that are selling a variety of merchandise. Photographer will love photographing the uniform dress, patches, hats, and much more. Some of these things one will not find in your local retail stores.

When the battle starts, look for soldiers battle formation near the end zone on both sides. Eventually they will move toward the middle of the battlefield. Be patient while this is taking place. Focus on the action where it looks interesting. No one can photograph all of the action on the battlefield. When the soldiers are closest to the fence line near me I tend to photograph tight portraits of the soldiers faces and uniforms. It is wise to take a variety of photos. One never knows what you will end up with.

During the peak time during the battle focus on the soldiers around the canons firing them off. One needs to have the right timing when they fire the canons. The key things to look for when canons are fired are the soldier’s yelling and hand gestures. It might take a few times to get the best photo on this. Photographers need to be photographing at a fast shutter speed along with timing to see the flames coming out of the canon’s barrel. This makes for a great photo.

Another neat thing to capture are the soldiers with battle wounds. Watch for the medics picking up the injured soldiers on the battlefield. This makes a great photo moment too. If someone has a real injury on the battlefield one will see real paramedics race to the scene and the battle will have a time out.

At the end of the battle, both sides will line up towards the middle facing the spectators. This is another great time to get the photos of the main re-enactors from the battlefield. There may also be MASH style tents with injured soldiers being attended too. If you like blood and guts than capture the doctors and nurses working on the soldiers.

Good luck in trying to photograph a civil war re-enactment. Each year one photographs a civil war re-enactment it gets easy because one will know what to expect and look for.

After photographing a civil war, then starts the fun part by post-production of your photos. What makes the civil war photos unique is the black and white sepia tone giving it a reddish-brown color. There are some tips online to help with this task. Some people will think these are actually real civil war photos, but they are not.

I hope you enjoyed this Photo Tip Series on photographing a civil war re-enactment. Look for more Photo Tip Series in the near future. If you like this article, then like it on our Otownfun WordPress account. Also, join to be one of our followers at otownfun on WordPress. For more great events, places, and articles, please visit us out at

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