Do you want to write better battle reports? Are your adventure logs lacking  narrative flair?

Maybe you’ve played a memorable tabletop game like Warhammer 40k or Warmachine/Hordes, or are simply keeping a campaign record for your Dungeon and Dragons group. Either way, you’re looking for ways to spruce up your writing with some pictures.

This article describes the 5 important camera shots you should consider for your next write-up.

Three Items You Will Need 

Lights for better battle report photos
Portable constant LED lights can be versatile for all types of photography or video work  ($35 on Amazon)
  • Tripod – I’ve dabbled with using different setups. Generally, the tripod is great for when you need it, but it’s not really necessary unless you’re doing video work, or don’t have the extra hand. A tripod may provide more stability for a few of the more creative camera angles (read below for more). The one we recommend is the Gorillapod by Joby, especially the smaller one that can hold your smart phone (see it on Amazon). 

Overview of the 5 Camera Shots

We show you five important camera angles. But, they aren’t all necessary for every situation, and you’ll find with time whether or not they work for you.

You may have already discovered that you like certain images better than others from your write-ups. We’d love to see them (please leave a comment with a link to your reports). 

For those interested in video, the camera shots in this article could become part of your shot list

Shot #1 – The Scene Setter

Where are you playing this game or campaign? What kind of building are you in, a house or a local club? Your players are traveling to this location, that that might have been a part of the overall experience. Show it. 

Photographs for better battle reports
Players traveling through bad weather is an adventure, too.

Place your audience in the action of your entire day.  

Take a photo that captures the feel of where everyone is playing.

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
What is it like at the game table? Here, you might be playing a role playing game. This photo captures the chaos of a typical Pathfinder RPG campaign, before it actually starts.
Write better battle reports with five essential camera shot
Tabletop miniatures often get played on tables filled with terrain features. This urban-style setup is ready to host a battle.
Write better battle reports with five essential camera shot
Table-based gaming scenes created by Games Workshop are the best in the business. 
Advertisements

Shot #2 – The Medium Shot/Overview

This is the most common type of camera angle for most battle reports. Here you start to hone in on the action.

For the tactical minded-gamer, this is the overview shot is the one you can’t miss. It will provide you and your viewer with all the information of the game during each round or turn. 

There are models on the table and they are all jiving for board control.

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Two armies clash in Warmachine/Hordes (Privateer Press)

Or, you’re in the midst of your role playing game, and there’s about to be an encounter. When the dungeon master (DM) cries “roll for initiative”, that’s your cue to switch on your camera.

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
To the random viewer, this could be chaotic. In a battle report, you could provide some written insight into what is happening. 

In general, you are looking to provide your reviewer with a closer view of where you subjects are (in this case the miniatures).

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Fun tip: A wide-angle lens could add additional interest. This is a game of Warhammer 40k played in a local club.

The medium/overview shot narrows your story’s viewpoint and brings everyone closer in. 

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Painted miniatures deserve attention. Get closer. 

Shot #3 – The Portrait

In many games, the miniatures are personalities that express themselves through play. They are the avatars and characters that drive the action and story.  This is the portrait.

These photos could be close-up headshots, half-body views, or full-length photos of a miniature in game. A wider-shot will show the model’s surroundings. 

In each case, the purpose of a portrait is clear: one photo, one subject

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Look at that face!
Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Dry skin. Is that why you’re so angry?

It’s always best to take a variety of portrait shots, as photos of your subject will probably be used more than once in a good audio/visual presentation.

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Wider portrait shot
Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
A vehicle can be a portrait, too!
Advertisements

Shot #4 – Capture Detail

This is the camera angle that everyone forgets.

Don’t ignore the details!

Detail shots work extremely well for transitions between other photos, especially in narrative write-ups. These detail images also have powerful story-telling impact as well. 

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Cheese and chili dips – details!

What color are the dice player’s are throwing? Are the tokens well-made , or crappy pieces of scrap paper? What does the terrain look like up-close? Is there food lying about, like pizza and soda or Chinese take-out?

All of these bits of information tell us more about our game, the individuals involved, and the overall experience of playing.

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Battle damage on an Imperial Knight (Games Workshop)

Details are great elements to have in a photo essay or multimedia presentation.

Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
A looming danger in the distance?
Write better battle reports with five essential camera shots
Details can capture vignettes of the overall game. Here, the heroes have finally defeated the centaur villain (after 5 turns of quaffing restoration potions, failed wisdom checks, and a final coup de grace from the portly dwarf).

Shot #5 – Capture Action

The action shots show your miniatures doing something. In this case, this also probably means the players are doing something, too.  

Action photos are important for more impactful battle reports because they  convey an atmosphere of interaction by real humans.

This is the shot that is probably the most difficult to get right. You have things happening spontaneously, and you have no control unless you ask your players to hold-still while you take a photo. 

You might take a dozen or more images of dice being thrown or tape measures being extended, and still not be happy with them.

5 Essential Camera Shots For Writing Amazing Battle Reports
A player is pushing miniature spaces ships around in Dropfleet Commander 

The key here I think is to anticipate where you might get a good shot. When it doubt, fill your frame with your subject. Get close and wait for the action to happen.

Anticipate, then take the shot. 

5 Essential Camera Shots For Writing Amazing Battle Reports
Players using tape measures are some of the easiest action shots to capture.

The good news is that if you get the other four shots, and fail to get the action shot, you still have a powerful photo essay-like battle report. 

5 Essential Camera Shots For Writing Amazing Battle Reports
Get creative with action shots. Get low and try and see how a hand entering your field of view might change the way an image looks.
5 Essential Camera Shots For Writing Amazing Battle Reports
“The Hand Shake” – One of my favorite action shots.

More Quick Tips for Better Photos

  • Watch your background – keep your background free of distracting elements, e.g., an open bathroom door, a flickering television, other stuff
  • Check your corners – you’d be surprised how much extra stuff gets into your photos that don’t need to be there. Look around the entire frame.
  • If it doesn’t belong, crop it out – if in doubt, crop until you show only what you want to show. 
  • Try black and white – If you don’t like the colors, or models aren’t painted well or at all, try converting to black and white. Color can be distracting and may not always communicate what you want. 
Advertisements

Summary

Overall, I find that 4-10 pictures is enough for a really good battle report write-up. Focus on getting the first 4 shots at the very least, then work on getting the action photograph. This way you have a solid foundation for your battle report, and if you get the action shot, then it’s just a bonus.

With a bit of planning, some skill with a camera, and some luck, you’ll have an amazing photo gallery to go along with your battle report.


LIKE IT? SHARE IT!

If you found this article helpful or would like share your feedback, please leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

To stay up to date with articles about the miniature hobby and photography, you can subscribe through email and follow us on Facebook or Instagram.

Advertisements

2 Comments »

  1. Really cool read! I like the portrait shot especially. I think that is one I could add to my battle reports to mix things up. I tend to do wide shots and smaller groupings of models, but there really is something to be said for letting one model shine in the photo.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you found it useful 🙂 Yah, I think battle reports tend to be boring when they are comprised of just the overhead/overview shot. You need to get into the action!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.