Your Checklist to Prepare for Your Next Cosplay Photoshoot

Cosplay Photoshoot Checklist

There is so much to do when you are getting ready for a cosplay photoshoot that it’s easy to overlook something. You might not remember until it’s too late that you need to repair a ripped seam in your shirt or fix a broken prop. I love lists, so I find that the best way to avoid disaster before a cosplay photoshoot is to go through a checklist and make sure everything is taken care of.

Go through this list at least a few days before your next photoshoot. This will ensure that you have time to test out your makeup and costume and fix anything that needs to be repaired. It will keep you organized so that you can focus on modeling and performing instead of worrying about your costume so you can get great cosplay photos.

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1. Practice your makeup beforehand

The first items on your checklist are preparations that you’ll want to make a few days in advance of the photoshoot. If you’re doing any kind of unique makeup look, including special effects makeup, crossplay makeup, or any kind of product you don’t use on an everyday basis, take the time to practice putting it on.

This will give you the chance to ensure you have all the supplies you need to perfect your makeup. It will also give you the chance to practice and time your makeup application so that you know how much time it will take you to get ready. When you finish with your practice, be sure to snap a picture so that it’s easier for you to replicate on the day of the photoshoot.

2. Try your costume on ahead of time

The other thing that you’ll want to be sure you do before the day of the photoshoot is to try on your full costume. This includes everything from the undergarments you intend on wearing to the armor pieces and wig accessories. You want to know how your costume is going to behave when it comes time for the photoshoot.

This also gives you the opportunity to practice poses and make sure your costume won’t fall apart or rip at the seams if you squat down. If there’s any part of the costume that doesn’t work, you’ll have time to repair it or make necessary changes.

styled wig in a large bag
You can transport a styled wig in a large bag if it won’t be easily crushed by the flexible sides of the bag, but be sure to bring hair spray and touch-up supplies to use just before the photoshoot.

3. Clean up the flyaways on your wig

When it comes to the day of the photoshoot, you’ll want to make sure your wig is in tip-top condition. Take the time to comb through it and apply hairspray to put all the flyaways back in their place. Make sure to bring wig care supplies with you to your photoshoot location so that you can make any touch-ups as they become necessary.

If you are styling your own hair for the costume, this is another area that you’ll want to practice ahead of time. It will let you figure out exactly what you’re doing with your hair, what supplies you need, and how much time it will take to finish the look. Also, don’t shy away from using a lot of hairspray or product to keep the style in place. I know from experience how easily a perfect style can become messed up.

4. Iron and clean your costume

Before you put on your costume on the day of your photoshoot, take the time to look over and iron any parts of your costume that need it. Wrinkles will easily stand out in photographs, so this is not a step you want to skip. 

If you have any pets in your home, I also recommend investing in a lint brush. Use one on your costumes before you pack it up or put it on, and then take a lint brush with you as well. This way you can clean off any fur and dust that gets on your costume during travel.

Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon
Make sure to choose multiple poses that work for your character.

5. Bring a list of poses and photo ideas to give to your photographer

Not all photographers are going to be familiar with the character you are cosplaying. They may be able to help you find some good generic poses, but you’ll need to do the job of adding personality to your character. 

It’s really helpful if you can do a little research ahead of time to come up with poses and photo ideas that will help to bring your character to life. This can include finding screenshots of your character, finding photos of other people that give the right feeling, or even just a description based on what you are envisioning. Make a list of all the ideas you find so that you and your photographer can work together to get the best photos.

This is doubly important if you have multiple cosplayers in a photoshoot. It’s always a challenge to find poses that work for groups of cosplayers, so doing a little work to come up with photo ideas ahead of time will help you get better group pictures.

6. Make a list of all the parts of your costume

Whether you are wearing your costume to the photoshoot location or getting changed there, you want to take the time to ensure you have every piece of your cosplay. Go through your costume from head to toe and write down every part of the costume. This includes everything from wigs, to earrings and jewelry, to special effects makeup, and shoes and clothing elements. As you’re putting on or packing your costume, check off each piece on the list so you know you aren’t forgetting anything.

Before going to a convention I always include a written list with each costume going through every single piece of the cosplay. If any part is packed in a separate place, I make a note of that on the list as well. This way I can double-check everything as I’m packing it and know where to find all the parts.

7. Decide on a location that works for your costume

When working with a photographer, you want to think about the location of the photoshoot. What kind of scenery is your character typically a part of? Would they be in a forest area? A medieval setting? Or maybe a dystopian wasteland? Decide on a place with natural or structural elements that you can use to bring your cosplay to life.

Of course, you also want to practice basic safety rules. If you don’t know your photographer on a personal level, you should always stick to public places. You also want to stay away from areas that are off-limits and avoid any dangerous or precarious climbing.

face paint wit glasses
Remember, it takes a long time to put on body paint or any kind of complicated makeup. Plan your time accordingly.

8. Give yourself enough time to get ready before the photoshoot

As someone who is the photographer among my group of cosplay friends, I can say one of the best things you can do is be ready on time. This goes doubly so if you are working with a professional photographer since they may not have time to reschedule if you show up late. The photographer will also often try to scope out the area and set up so they’ll be ready to go when you get there.

In general, it’s best if you can arrive early on location and change there. This way you can avoid anything getting wrinkled or breaking on the way. Either way, you’ll want to have a pretty good idea of how long it takes you to get ready so that you can leave enough time for makeup application and costume touch-ups.

blotting paper
Use a sheet of blotting paper directly before a photoshoot to keep your face from looking greasy in pictures.

9. Keep blotting paper and touch-up makeup on hand

It’s always a good idea to keep some touch-up supplies with you at the photoshoot. Blotting paper is one of the most useful items to have, especially if you’re doing your photoshoot in the summer months. Use the paper to periodically blot up moisture from your skin so that you don’t look sweaty in photos. Other basic makeup and wig touch-up supplies are also useful if you accidentally rub your face or your wig gets tangled in a tree branch.

helping Static Shock with the cloak
If you bring a friend along, they can help with costume touch-ups during a photoshoot.

10. Bring someone to look for costume malfunctions

When going to a photoshoot, whether it’s during a convention or at another time and place, it’s always a good idea to bring a friend along with you. Not only is this a good safety precaution, but it also means there is an extra pair of eyes that can look for costume malfunctions or help you make touch-ups to your makeup and wig.

Don’t always rely on your photographer to help you catch costume malfunctions. The photographer is not always going to know exactly what the costume is supposed to look like. They might not even know when something is out of place. In addition, photographers are often focused on the overall composition of the photograph and getting good lighting. They’re not always going to notice when your wig got a little messed up or a small part of your makeup got smudged. Your friend can have the sole job of paying attention to these small details and making sure you look as good as possible.

The other thing a friend can do is help to get better images of the costume. For example, if your costume has a cape, your friend can toss it up and make it look windblown while you strike an epic pose. They could also hold light reflectors and shields for the photographer to help avoid random spots of sunlight on the photo.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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