The Basics of Shooting Better Cosplay Photography

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer NYCC New York Comic Con 2013 exports (67 of 84)ISO 1001-60 sec at f - 5.0

Cosplay photography is something that should be done right–it should be more than a snapshot of the costume that someone worked hours and hours on to get right. Conversely, it should also be something that you’ll be able to take pride in at the end of the quick session.

This guide is designed for convention goers–like those at Comic Con or Dragon Con. But some of the methods spoken about can be applied to different situations. If followed, you’ll produce images that are very portfolio worthy.

Start a Short Conversation

Model: Mad Mel Madigan

Model: Mad Mel Madigan as Hipster Ariel

Chances are that you’re meeting the person for the first time. So we really just have to say it: don’t be a creep. You’re most likely not going to be in public and it is really creepy to just take a photo without interacting with the subject–unless it’s street photography.

So for starters, get things going with a simple “Hi there, I love your costume. Do you mind if we step off to the side to take a quick photo or two?”

Using this method, you’d be amazed at how many folks will say yes. You just need to remember that they’re just human beings and them saying no is really no big deal at all.

During the walk over to the spot, shake their hand and introduce yourself. Be sure to also ask them for their name and if you aren’t aware of what or what character they’re trying to be, simply ask.

Get Them in the Right Mental State

In order to really capture the subject at their best, you need to realize that most of these folks aren’t professional models to begin with. To that end, they won’t know what to do and will need direction.

So in order to pose them correctly (which is the next step) we recommend that you ask them a couple of questions about their character and to tell you about them. This process makes them recall everything that they know about the character that they’re trying to portray.

As they’re speaking, listen to them very carefully and get a sense of the character that they’re trying to cosplay as.

The Posing Begins

Model: Lulu Geng

Model: Lulu Geng as the Witch

Now that you’ve had the conversation with the cosplayer, you can begin the posing. Ask them to give you a specific pose that their character is famous for–and if you’re familiar with the character then try to add your own input.

On rare occasions though, you’ll encounter a character that doesn’t really have a major pose. This is why you paid attention to what they said before, so you’ll need to create some sort of pose that works with their body type and that personifies the character.

Shooting and Lighting

Model: Nicci Fett

Model: Nicci Fett as Zombie Catwoman

Considering that now that you have all of the practices down, you’ll need to worry about something totally different and incredibly important while shooting: lighting. We ALWAYS recommend that you carry a lighting kit (your hot shoe flash won’t cut it) to a convention, even if you and the cosplayer choose to do a location shoot.

Things that really recommend when shooting a cosplay portrait is not having a distracting background–unless you have one that goes with their character.

One method that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years is setting up an area on the sidelines and pulling cosplayers as they walk by. And for this reason, you’ll really need to select to prime location that doesn’t have a busy background and is in a spot where you’ll be able to fish for cosplayers.

The Edit

Finally, you should edit your images to make the person look better but still true to their uniform. These edits don’t have to be superb retouches, they can be just basic fills and lighting adjustments if you’d like. Keep in mind though that this person was putting on their best face for you, and you’ll need to deliver something that really appreciates that.