Using military photos in research

 Not sure what regiment your ancestor was in but you have a photo of him in uniform.

Firstly look at Cap, Helmet, Shoulder and Collar badges.

Rank or attribute

Look for badges of Rank or attribute eg bandsman to see if they match that of your ancestor.


Many posed photographs will have soldiers wearing the full medal and many informal with have just the medal ribbon.

Once again this can point to or eliminate a pictured soldier being your ancestor and help date the photograph.


If the soldier is wearing a distinctive uniform compare this with pictures of soldiers from that period to identify the Regiment.


Scan the photo at the highest resolution possible - at least 600dpi and then crop a soldier.

Crop Cap badge and enlarge

This should bring the badge up large enough to recognise.

Identify cap badges

Then Crop rank badge from sleeve

Identify as Staff Sergeant - probably company Sgt Major

Continue with any other badges to identify medals , skills etc.

Be prepared to check all soldiers in photo for the clearest badge to identify.

There are many specialist books or websites which have pictures of military badges to compare and identify your badge.


 Many soldiers went to photographers to have their photographs taken at the start of their service to send home to their loved ones.

 Camp Photos

Mostly these photographs were taken in studios but some photographers specialised in visiting Army or Navy Camps to take photographs of individuals or groups, both formally and informally, in the camp.

Look carefully at the background scenery to see if there is anything unusual that you can match with photographs of known army camps.

Look at equipment carefully to see if the Regiment name/number or any other identification marks are shown for example on a tent or bullet box.

 Posed Photos

Most photos are posed in a photographers shop.

Check carefully to see if there is the name of a photographer which may help you with a location for the studio.

If this is not the case check for other similar army photos on the internet showing the same background or prop used in the photograph. Most photographers has one or two prepared background that show up in many different photos.

When you know where the photo was taken, if it is not close to their home town, then you can check that against the list of bases which may well help identify the unit in which the soldier served.

As an example-The  2/1st Essex Yeomanry served at Hounslow from 1915 to 1916 and none of the other Essex Yeomanry Units did so. In that case it is fair to surmise that a photo of a soldier in Essex Yeomanry Uniform by a Photographer in Hounslow in December 1915 would relate to a member of the 2/1st Essex and thus narrowing down any searches.