ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Photographing Medieval Theme Events

Updated on November 25, 2014

Plain backdrops are good for in studio shots

CC BY 3.0
CC BY 3.0 | Source

Clothing in the middle ages

"The majority of women’s fashion during the medieval period come from the mid-fourteenth century onwards. Around the year 1340 there was a change in women’s clothing, to lighter-fitting garments, lower necklines, and more curvaceous silhouettes; “tight lacing was used on women's clothes to create a form fitting shape which, girdled at the hips, created a long-waisted appearance”.[1] Clothing was over-lapped and tightly bound; “The female chest was frequently exposed, yet the true structure of the female body was visually distorted…”.[2] The corset became a staple in a woman’s wardrobe, and the open surcoat, a garment with an open bodice and a skirt that trailed to the ground, became “one of the most elegant inventions of the Middle Ages…”.[3] In fact, by the end of the 14th century, the gownhad replaced all garment items aside from the surcoat.

The basic garments for women consisted of the smock, hose, kirtle, gown, surcoat, girdle, cape, hood, and bonnet.[4] Each piece had designated colours and fabrics, for example “Materials used in the middle ages were woolen cloth, fur, linen, cambric, silk, and the cloth of silver or gold…the richer Middle Age women would wear more expensive materials such as silk, or linen”.[5] The development of the skirt was significant for women’s medieval clothing, “The more fashionable would wear very large or wide skirts”.[5] The petticoat made way for the skirt, which quickly became a popular garment because it “wraps rather than enclosing, touches without grasping, brushes without clasping, coasts, caresses, skims, strokes”.Wikipedia

The outdoors work really well when the budget is modest

CC BY 3.0
CC BY 3.0 | Source

A photographic medieval event theme

There are many themes to photograph an event, but a seldom used one is using a medieval theme. Yes it is a costume party of sorts but consider this for a moment; most brides really not only want to have a joyous moment when they marry but they really want their wedding to stand out.

The same can be said for most any event when the hosts want their occasion to be talked about. Also consider that the vast majority of portraits done by any photographer at the studio really have one thing in common; they most always feature the models dressed in nice attire and not much else changes except for the occasional digital backdrop.

I have been doing some portraits and some weddings lately where the hosts have asked for something different. I came across a friend of mine that was an excellent tailor and she suggested to offer weddings, portraits and other events to be done with a medieval tone to them.

In a way this is a practice which is growing exponentially in many parts of the world called Medievalism;

"In the second half of the 20th century interest in the medieval was increasingly expressed through form of re-enactment, including combat reenactment, re-creating historical conflict, armour, arms and skill, as well as living history which re-creates the social and cultural life of the past, in areas such as clothing, food and crafts. The movement has led to the creation of medieval markets and Renaissance fairs, from the late 1980s, particularly in Germany and the United States of America" Wikipedia

When I suggested this to some clients they largely accepted it and quite honestly, were very excited by the prospects. Think about it, to do a dress from scratch can run you about $200 or even less if you only rent it or you get them in bulk.

This may not seem like too much money but the dresses are for a one time use only (in most cases) and they do not need to be made of expensive fabric for the same reason either.

With about a yard of cloth going for about $5 to $10 dollars about four to six yards is often enough so the expensive part is finding someone to bring it all together and most seamstress can be very reasonable with their fees.

My friend charged about $235.00 per dress/costume and most clients were satisfied with the work and comfortable with the price.

Keep in mind that this did not include other extra accessories like head bands, arm bands, crowns, belts, shoes, swords and so on and the clients were more than happy to get those on their own.

The best styles are those that are solid colors with reds, dark blues and dark greens working best. There were not that many choices in color back then nor were there many choices in cloth with the vast majority being made of cotton. You should aim to be as realistic as possible and sheer, glossy or patterned styles will detract from the overall theme and seem out of place.

So far as the accessories go, many good ones made from plastic will suffice and they should be gold or silver color. For swords and similar props metal is the choice as plastic has not gotten close to looking realists yet.

Think this may be fun to try?

See results

Some shots may benefit from a digital backdrop

CC BY 3.0
CC BY 3.0 | Source

Medieval clothing ideas

Backdrops and other details to be aware of

Once the costumes are in hand then to make the effect that much more "realistic" it is best to use backdrops that can blend in and seem as if they belong.

Ruins, gardens, farmsteads, large wooden structures, ocean side, open green areas, forests and generally many outdoor venues work best.

If you can find a location similar to Vizcaya, which is a villa made to resemble an old Italian one like from the middle ages then even better.

You should avoid using backgrounds that feature modern items like electrical cables, power lines, vehicles and so on. A simple solution is to rent or make a long wooden and very rustic table and set it outdoor.

Complete the set by adding some old style candelabras, perhaps a wood pit and tin looking plates, cups and silver ware. You can go the extra mile a feature and entire roasted pig in the center of the table for more effect.

Just be careful with your backgrounds even if they are some distance away. If you cannot eliminate modern elements form entering the plane of view then get close to the model and use a wide aperture as this will render all elements behind the model as out of focus highlights which will be hardly distinguishable.

All in all this is better suited for events like weddings unless you want to do some recreations of old styles.

This does not mean that if the clients want to do the event in a rented hall that everything will come out wrong. Again focus close to the models, crop in thigh, and use a wide aperture.

If you have a hand in designing the set up then rely mostly on having plenty of candles as the main illumination sources and some regular light bulbs but these should be used to add some illumination to key parts and not be seen by the naked eye.

You will have to also rely on a fast lens, a high ISO and keep in mind that many shots will show a slight "yellowish" cast but this adds "flavor" to the general setting and helps with setting the mood. Everything depends on how realistic you and the clients want the photos to appear.

Medieval clothing styles fun video

Accessories add the final touches

Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 | Source

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Ericdierker: thank you very much

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I always get something helpful from your photography hubs and this one did not disappoint. Thank you


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)