All great advice above.
Many of my favorite cosplay shots weren't taken at a con; if you arrange a private shoot, you have much more flexibility with location and timing. Ways to find subjects:
1. Use the "photoshoot scheduling" forum here to post your availability.
2. Join Meetup to find local photography clubs; many of them have themed shoots with models in costume or period garb.
3. Join Model Mayhem and put out a casting call(I personally haven't had much luck with this, though some people do)
4. See if you can find a local Steampunk organization, and offer to take portraits at one of their events.
5. Remember that you've got Halloween coming up, and I'm sure you have at least one or two friends, or friends-of-friends, who put a ton of effort into their Halloween costume, and will want some decent photos of it.
6. Good ol' Facebook. Post a casting call, or a looking-for-models call. Make an event and invite people to it.
On making a good cosplay photo:
At its core, cosplay portraits aren't that much different than "normal" portraits. The main goal is to show off the personality of the model or character, and you accomplish that with interesting posing and facial expressions, coupled with skilled use of lighting (whether it's available light or your flash[es])
So you've got three primary challenges:
1) First, basic camera control and image creation skill. Choosing the right settings, getting the right exposure (not always chasing the needle!), making sure it's focused properly, and appropriate culling/selection/post-processing. Based on your first post, I'll assume you don't need much advice here.
2) Lighting. In portraits, lighting (available or strobes) is more important than lens or camera body. This doesn't necessarily mean you need thousands of dollars of lighting equipment; it means you need to learn to look for good light, and put your subject in it. The golden hour (last hour before sunset) is the perfect time for warm, flattering portraits of just about any person; and, you need no special equipment, just camera and lens. Otherwise, learn to direct and shape the light made by your flash(es) to put it where you want it. Even simple bounce flash can change a forgettable snapshot into an interesting portrait. If you have a Speedlight, investing a few bucks into a cable/triggers, and a light stand or clamp, can open up a whole new world of lighting and portrait opportunities.
3. Posing. If you're a people person, this may come easy. If you're a techy person who occasionally struggles with people skills (hey, that's me) then this can be way more difficult. But you can do it! It's just another skill that comes with practice and experience. Fortunately, cosplay photography can make this easy - if you know the character, you can look up reference artwork, screenshots, etc, and have your subject follow those poses. And don't forget facial expression is a vital component of posing. Different expressions work better or worse for different people's faces.
4. A secondary challenge is location. A great location helps to make a great portrait, BUT with interesting lighting and posing, you can overcome the challenge of a less-than-desirable location. However, in any sort of portraiture, it's extremely important to look past the subject and make sure there's nothing distracting in the background. If the background competes with the subject, or distracts from the subject, then the portrait is not successful.
You certainly CAN cosplay and take pictures at the same time - depending on your costume. If you have a full-face helmet and gloves (a few of my costumes do), that's going to make it difficult to manipulate the camera. If you have face paint and a giant prosthetic nose, that's going to make it difficult too. However, if you have a costume that doesn't restrict movement or sight, then there's no reason you can't wear your costume while taking photos.
I even went so far as to build a Steampunk costume around my photography. I've got a backpack with two flashes on tall stands, for on-the-go off-camera lighting. It has storage for an umbrella and additional gear, so if I find a good location, I can take off the backpack and set up the stands for better or more interesting portraits.
Last edited by nathancarter : 07-26-2013 at 11:00 AM.