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Unread 07-25-2013, 07:21 PM   #1
can u not
Princess♥Aimee's Avatar
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 174
How to get started in cosplay photography?

I am a 17 year old slightly-above-amateur photographer. I've been shooting for years now with a Nikon D50 and D80 and I'd like to start cosplay photography.

However, there are some setbacks:
1. I live in Rhode Island.
2. I can't go to a con until April of next year.
3. I have no idea what I'm doing.

How does one begin cosplay photography, or even pictures of people in general? I'm used to landscape and nature/macro photography. How do you take pictures of people at cons and whatnot? Can I cosplay and also be a photographer at the same time?

As you can see I could really use some help. I've also never been to a con before (I'm really new at this). I hope someone can give me some guidance!
Goal: February 1, 2014
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Unread 07-26-2013, 08:58 AM   #2
now behind the lens
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If you don't already know cosplayers, start practicing with anyone at hand - family or friends are better than complete strangers, because you want to concentrate on the technical aspect for now. Learn how different types of light work, which angles work, what camera settings to use, this kind of thing (you already know photography, but faces are tricky to shoot properly). Start with spontaneous portraits ; a family reunion is a good moment to snap pictures while people do something else.
Once you got the hang of it, you can move on to directing models. Still do it with your friends, especially if they don't know how to pose. A lot of cosplayers aren't very good at it, so having to direct someone who's not used to posing is actually good training.
Cons (and other cosplay-related events) are when you can meet cosplayers, take a few pictures, give them your card... If you live in the same area, you can arrange photoshoots later. Con pictures are an opportunity to test your skills, because of the challenging conditions (crowded place, poor lighting, people you don't know).
At cons, don't hesitate to ask cosplayers to pose for you, if they're not in a hurry they're generally very willing to. Asking them to move a few meters to get a better light or background is also okay. After you're done, show the result (they may not like something and ask to retake the photo) and thank them for their time.
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Unread 07-26-2013, 09:57 AM   #3
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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.

MetroCon - CONjure - Dragon Con - MegaCon

Last edited by nathancarter : 07-26-2013 at 10:00 AM.
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Unread 12-27-2013, 12:33 AM   #4
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Another really good tip that so many people forget is to shoot from a lower angle than you are used to. Aka. Shoot from being in line with their solar plexus. This will mean that you will be able to get their whole costume in with out distorting the costume
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Unread 02-28-2014, 08:29 AM   #5
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A tip to remember when shooting with people you don't know that well, or that maybe aren't used to it or aren't in front of the camera a lot, make sure to be really assuring and positive; at first a lot of people will be really stiff, but after you take shots and quickly glance at them before taking more, make sure to offer some compliments, like 'This is really nice lighting on you!' or 'You're doing really well' they will end up loosening up and being more natural and you'll get a lot more good shots (note: complimenting people a lot or too heavily can sometimes be taken to be creepy sounding and make people uncomfortable so just go easy)

Also letting them see the pictures you've taken during the shoot can be helpful as they might be put at ease by seeing them and thinking 'hey, I do actually look good' or they'll realise that the pictures aren't exactly what they want and will work to change their posing or expression
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Unread 04-09-2014, 11:30 PM   #6
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I think nathancarter nailed most of the great advice when it comes to photography. I would say start with photographing people in your everyday life, friends, family, etc. Research fashion photos and fashion lighting and posing, a lot of what works in fashion works for cosplay. A lot of what it comes down to, as I've learned, is communication between you and the subject, ask them what they want for shots and tell them what you have in mind, from there the creative process really picks up. Say someone wants moody lighting, or a blurred background, that gives you the opportunity to research and practice how to do different things and what you need to do it.
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Unread 06-12-2014, 04:17 AM   #7
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Some advice that I found for myself -

1. Choose a character you know and love.
2. Do your research and Google images of the character you want to portray.
3. Select which variant you want to cosplay.
4. If you are not making the costume yourself, shop around for a ready made version or hire a commissioner via eBay or cosplay.com (check feedback first).
5. Be as accurate as you possibly can. Pay attention to every detail (not just clothing) such as hair, jewelry, footwear and weapons.
6. If you are serious about this hobby, make sure you are doing this for yourself. Although there is nothing wrong with dressing up for your partner, that fire will burn out soon enough. You should be doing this because this is what you want to do.
7. Have fun with it.
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Unread 07-23-2014, 02:54 PM   #8
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All the tips above are great. I became interested in cosplay photography because I love doing portrait work and I love anime. And it happens that a few of my friends are huge cosplay enthusiasts. I haven't taken photos at a con yet, though, so I'm kind of in a similar position!

I would search on Google for a convention that's happening in your state and preorder a ticket right away. This will keep you motivated and looking forward to the con, since you've already spent your money. Then for the months/weeks while you wait, practice your photography skills. There are a ton of articles and videos online.

Here are a couple of videos that I found recently that are VERY informative:


And yes, remember to have fun! If you get discouraged, try remembering why you were interested in undertaking this in the first place. It's easy to get caught in the minutiae.

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