Re-enactment photography is a growing pastime for many photographers, but unpredictable light, fast-moving action and photo aging techniques can scare some people off.
In this tutorial we demystify the genre and show you essential skills for setting up to shoot and edit re-enactments. Images and text by Jeff Morgan.
Re-enactment events – where enthusiasts dress up in the clothing of a bygone era, complete with tools and props of the time – are in high demand, with popular themes ranging from Anglo-Saxon villages to the Second World War.
I attended the North Norfolk Railway-sponsored 1940s Weekend, staged over three stations along their ‘Poppy Line’, complete with an active steam train service. Like hundreds of others, I had a total blast!
It was interesting to experience some living history and celebrate some of the better, happier aspects of that era. Everyone – from families with babies, schoolchildren being sent to the countryside and sailors returning to duty – was dressed up and getting into the spirit of the time.
I saw a policeman arresting black-market sellers, lovesick airmen with their sweethearts, a Spitfire fly-by, singers entertaining the troops and NAAFI staff serving ’40s food and drink. There was so much to do, see, and – of course – photograph.
It reminded me of a film set with scenery, props, costumes, music and actors. I found that the enthusiastic participants had put so much effort into looking and playing the part that they were welcoming of photographic attention.
So if you’re shy, or a little nervous about approaching strangers to take a picture, there can hardly be a better place to practice.
Since so many people went to such great lengths to step back in time, we felt we should process our image to look like a time-worn photograph from the 1940s. Here’s how we got on…