Dr.Fifer1863, officially Dr. Jim Beeghley, shared a wonderful posting on technology and primary source photographs. Any teacher who wants to learn more about using technology and primary sources to teach the American Civil War or any other educational topic, should read and learn from his blog. I also would like to direct you to another colleague who teaches using primary sources, Nancy Bosch. Her work in CSI is one of my favorites among her many project ideas.
Many of us are interested in using primary sources in our work and the work of students. I am especially reminded of our friend Nancy Bosch and her excellent work with students as shared with us in A Very Old Place. Many of us would like to use primary sources in teaching our students. We may need a bit of guidance, so I would refer you to Nancy's blog and the efforts of Dr. Jim Beeghley.
Primary sources can be more interesting, and are usually without bias, but not all. Dr. Jim Beeghley explains in his Teaching the Civil War with Technology blog post,Using Photographs from the LOC, that sometimes even primary sources can be flawed when the author inflates or changes the story in some small way.
Some authors of Civil War photographs, including famous ones such as Alexander Gardner, manipulated the scenes to make the photographs more graphic or exceptional. Their view of the "scene" may have been different than we think of today.
Dr. Beeghley provides several excellent ways that you and your students can use modern, available technology to lead "...our students to some analysis of these photos..." He explains how to access the wonderful resources of the Library of Congress photographs and their activities.
These lessons and related activities are ready to roll. I don't think you need to know much about photography or technology to achieve good results in the classroom. Just follow the directions, practice before and then use the tools and guidelines with your students.
Photographed by: Barnard, George N. Compiled by:Hirst D. Milhollen and Donald H. Mugridge. Atlanta, Ga. View on Decatur Street, showing Trout House and Masonic Hall. 1864. Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865. 1977. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. No. 0698. March 29, 2009 Electronic address.