How to Find the Best Cosplay Photoshoot Locations

8 tips to find the perfect photoshoot location

If you want to get excellent pictures of your cosplay, the best thing to do is plan a photoshoot. But before you go out and start taking photos, you should put some thought into the photoshoot location. A good background and lighting can take your cosplay photographs from good to amazing.

As a general rule, the most important aspects of a good photoshoot location are the lighting and the relevance to your character. You’ll also get better photos if you can avoid crowded areas with busy backgrounds.

Whether you are looking for a good location to set up a photoshoot during a convention or at a different time, there are ways to find locations that will work best for your character. You can also increase your chances of getting good photos by working directly with a photographer who understands the creativity of cosplay.

Finding photoshoot locations at a convention

Sometimes the only times you can arrange photoshoots for your costume are at conventions. Your options will be limited to the locations available around the event, but at every convention I’ve been to, there are plenty of great places for arranging a photoshoot and getting great pictures. It’s just a matter of investigating the area and finding the best spot.

1. Use natural lighting

The best locations at conventions are going to be places that have a lot of natural lighting. Some photographers will bring basic lighting equipment with them, but it’s not a very practical setting for an extensive setup. It’s best to rely on the light that’s available. In general, this means you want to gravitate toward rooms with large windows and outdoor spaces for photoshoots. 

You also want to think about the time of day when using natural light, since that will have a major effect on the photos. In the afternoon, when the sun is directly overhead, you get darker shadows. It will make your eyes look more sunken in, and usually not have the most flattering effect. Planning photoshoots for the morning will give you softer light and softer shadows.

Alternatively, you can find a location in the afternoon that is in the shadow of a building. You could also stay inside in a windowed room, but away from the direct sun. Cloudy days are excellent because you don’t have to worry about the bright sunlight at all, but you never know what the weather is going to do.

Vaporeon gijinka cosplay
During Otakon (when it was in Baltimore) a friend and I explored a block away and found this perfect hidden gem spot for a great photoshoot.

2. Avoid crowded areas

A crowd in the background is almost always going to detract from your photos. They may be strangers in bright shirts or cosplayers from a completely different show. Unfortunately, many conventions are quite crowded so you may need to do some creative angles to avoid getting background people in your photos. 

The first step to take is to try and explore to find lesser-known areas of the convention. Sometimes there is a small plaza a block away that no one is using, and sometimes there’s an upper floor at the convention that doesn’t get much traffic. As a photographer, I like to do some of this exploring ahead of time, so the cosplayer doesn’t have to do as much walking around, but there’s no reason you can’t take the initiative and find good locations in less crowded places.

After you’ve found a spot, make sure the camera is pointed away from the direction of any paths or sidewalks. This will make it that much less likely that someone will randomly come walking behind you.

edward elric from Fullmetal Alchemist
I took this photo right next to a stairwell. The reflective background immediately made it into a much more interesting picture.

3. Find interesting backgrounds

If you’re at a crowded convention with limited space for taking photos in well-lit areas, it might seem like the only option for a background is a plain white wall. Even in this scenario, you can make your photos more interesting by looking for a more interesting backdrop. 

Many of the hotels and convention centers that house anime and comic conventions have walls with unique textures and designs. For example, I’ve taken photos next to semi-reflective walls, textured brick walls, and huge windows to add more interest to the photos.

If you’re outside, you have even more options. You can find an assortment of plants, interesting architecture, and sometimes even sculptures that work as great backgrounds. Just be sure to stick to areas that are public or within the premises of the convention to avoid trespassing.

Finding photoshoot locations outside of a convention

There are many advantages to arranging a photoshoot outside of a convention. You’re usually not as tired and have more time to work with a photographer getting good pictures. You also won’t have to compete with other cosplayers for the best photoshoot locations.

Explore your neighborhood, nature setting, historical sites, and architecture in your area. If you see anything cool and think it would be perfect, make a note of it so you can visit the location for a future photoshoot.

Lord of the Rings original character
This is an OC dwarf created to be apart of Tolkein’s Middle Earth, so a nearby park was the perfect setting.

1. Take your character’s setting into account 

When you’re setting up your own photoshoot, there is so much more freedom in the type of location you choose. Does your character live on an island? In a castle? Do they travel through the forest? Are they a student? Think about areas nearby that would fit into your character’s setting so you can get the perfect background for an immersive picture.

Great places to start are parks and hiking trails for a natural setting. Historic sites and public museums might be a good fit for period-specific characters (make sure they allow photography), while college campuses might be great spots for students. You can bring your cosplay to a beach or lake for a water-based setting, and find interesting bridges and tunnels for a sci-fi look.

2. Find free public areas for your photoshoot

When looking for an area to take photos, you do need to ensure the location is public and allows photography. In most cases, especially outdoor settings, photography is perfectly acceptable and expected in public parks, historical sites, public colleges, and hiking trails. However, if your photographer plans on bringing any bulky camera equipment, you may want to double-check.

Ho-oh and Lugia ballet gijinka cosplayers
The textured curtains and the spotlight lighting from the chandelier turned this living room into an effective photoshoot location.

3. Use areas of your own home

You’d be surprised at how easily you can turn your own home into a cosplay photography studio. You can get some pretty interesting photos with all kinds of characters in a kitchen, living room, or on the steps outside of your home. If you have a backyard, you might be able to arrange something interesting with the architecture and greenery you have available. Get creative with what you have available.

This doesn’t have to just be an option for students and everyday human characters either. I did a photoshoot in a friend’s home once. We moved the furniture completely out of the way and closed the curtain and the lights to create an atmosphere with a spotlight on the characters (Ho-oh and Lugia gijinka cosplays). It created a really interesting effect that you would never know if just in someone’s living room.

4. Find interesting architecture

The world is full of buildings with weird and interesting architecture. From monuments to slick modern buildings, old museums, stairwells, and sculpture gardens, you can find all different kinds of backgrounds to interact with for interesting photos. 

Many of these places are public and easily accessible. However, it’s important to remember that you have to get permission to use non-public areas for your photoshoot. That doesn’t mean they are completely off-limits. It could be something as simple as running into an establishment and asking if it’s okay to snap a few pictures out in the courtyard. So don’t be afraid to ask if you found the perfect spot.

5. Ask in photographer and cosplayer groups

If you’re really struggling to find a location for your photoshoot, you can also find other cosplayers or photographers and ask if they know of any good spots. There are some location-based cosplay groups on Facebook and other social media platforms. Ask if anyone knows of good nature locations in your area or a place with columns or ruins of an old building. You may find some little gems that are not too far away.

I found this map that has some locations that have been recommended by photographers and cosplayers. It’s a place to start if you can find something in your area.

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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