The best way to get good photos of your cosplay is to schedule a photoshoot with a photographer. You won’t rely on random people taking your photo at conventions and posting it online later. Planning a photoshoot will ensure that you get photos. But if you really want the best photographs possible, you’ll want to do a little pre-planning.
If you can find a good photographer to work with, they’ll help with finding good locations, lighting, and editing the photographs. However, no one will know your character the way you do. It’s your job to think about a setting that would be natural for your character and make sure that your costume is in excellent condition.
1. Finding a location
Finding the perfect photoshoot location can make a photo come to life. You don’t have to limit yourself to just convention settings. While you can find great places there too, the best photos usually come from off-site locations that you schedule separately from typical conventions.
When choosing a location, try to think about your character and their setting. Do they come from an area with a lot of nature? A dystopian world? A historical location? Use clues from your character’s background to decide on places for the optimal photoshoot.
Good places to start your search include:
- Public parks
- Hiking trails
- Public colleges
- Historical locations
- Your own backyard
- The beach or a lake
- Underneath a bridge
2. Get in contact with a photographer
Finding a good photographer can make a big difference in the quality of photos you receive. They’ll be able to help you with posing, lighting, and they’ll know how to use the environment. The good news is that there are many people who photograph cosplay as a hobby (like me!). If you get into contact with photographers online or at conventions, you’ll be able to find someone who will work with you.
Here are some ways you can find a photographer to work with for your costume:
- Ask for the contact info of a photographer you like at a convention. Ask a photographer you like for a business card or contact information. You can schedule a photoshoot with them at a future event.
- Join a group on social media. There are groups for cosplayers and con-goers on social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit. You can make a post asking for photographers willing to work with you (it helps to add a photo of your costume).
- Contact an Instagram photographer that you like. If you see a cosplay photographer on Instagram that goes to the same conventions as you, contact them to see if they’d be willing to schedule a photoshoot at the next convention.
- Some anime conventions have forums or listings. Larger anime and comic conventions have forums or message boards where you can try to contact other con-goers ahead of time. You may be able to find a photographer who’s trying to schedule photoshoots at the convention.
- Find a friend who enjoys photography. If you have a friend who loves taking photos of cosplay and wants to improve their skills, it can be great to work together for a photoshoot. Sometimes all you have to do is ask!
It is important to mention that sometimes photographers will charge for photoshoots. It’s perfectly reasonable since they do put a lot of work into the photos and editing. Some will be happy to work with you for free, but you can expect a rate of about $30-50 for a half-hour session.
3. Coordinate a group photoshoot
If you have friends who are interested in the same show or game, you can arrange a group photoshoot. Group photoshoots can be pretty difficult to plan since everyone involved has their own schedule you have to work with. For this to be successful, you’ll need a point person who can coordinate the photoshoot. Maybe that person is you!
In general, I recommend trying to get a group photoshoot together outside of a convention. It’s too easy for people to lose track of time in the dealer’s room or wake up late in the morning. It’s possible, but try to arrange a group photoshoot at a separate location. Make sure everyone involved knows when and where to show up, and give it an extra 15 minutes buffer time for anyone who runs late.
4. Practice posing ahead of time
Don’t wait until the photoshoot to decide on your poses. While it’s great to come up with some impromptu poses while working with the photographer, try to think of different ways to act as your character ahead of time.
Use your character for inspiration. How do they stand in the source material? What kind of facial expressions do they have? Are there any action poses you can copy? The more research you can do about your character, the more prepared you will be on the day of the shoot.
When practicing these poses, make sure to do them with your costume on. It’s not uncommon to find that a costume restricts some movement, making some poses impossible without ripping your pants.
5. Pay attention to lighting
Lighting is probably the most important aspect of photography. If you can get this right, then you can get good photos. A true photography master can use light to their advantage no matter what scenario they’re in. While you may not be a master, you can still learn the basics that you’ll need for a good photo.
Three lighting tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid backlight. Backlight is when the brightest light in the photo comes from behind you. This will cause you to appear as a shadow or silhouette in the picture. If your photographer is experienced, they’ll still be able to turn this into a lovely photo, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re working with a friend who is new to photography.
- Use shaded areas. Natural light is excellent to work with, but if you are directly under the sun, you’ll end up with harsh shadows that are unappealing. Stick to shaded areas with more diffused light.
- Schedule morning photoshoots. The light in the morning is softer and easier to work with than in the afternoon. If at all possible, try to schedule your photoshoot before 11 am. Cloudy days are great all day long, but it’s hard to depend on the weather to cooperate.
6. Bring a friend to help with costume touchups
Bringing a friend along for the photoshoot can really help a lot. A lot of times, the photographer is focused on the lighting and composition of the photograph, so they may miss details that are amiss in your costume. A friend can easily keep an eye out to make sure your makeup doesn’t smudge, and your costume is staying intact, and your wig doesn’t have any flyaways.
A friend can also help get some good photos. For example, if you want to get a wind-blown-cloak look, your friend can lift it for you. They can also help to hold light diffuser panels to keep the light from shining directly onto your face.
7. Be ready on time
Whether you are meeting your photographer at a convention, or a separate photoshoot location, it’s important to be on time. There was one time I worked with a cosplayer who showed up more than an hour late. By the time she showed up, my planned photoshoot spot was taken and the light was now bright overhead sun, instead of the soft morning light.
We still had a small photoshoot together, but I’m certain the photos would have come out nicer if she was on time. Not only was the location and lighting sub-optimal, but I was in a bad mood too. Respect your photographer and be ready on time! The two of you can work together to get better photos.
If you’re running late for some reason, make sure to notify the photographer. Not only is that the courteous thing to do, but if you don’t the photographer might assume you are a no-show. They may move on to the next photoshoot or just leave.
8. Make sure everything is ironed and neat
Unfortunately, most costumes are made of materials that crumple pretty easily. Even if you had it folded nicely in your closet, there will be visible creases that need to be ironed. You’ll also want to make sure there are no rips that need to be sewn up or props that need a little repair.
The day before the photoshoot, go through all the elements of your costume. Mend anything that’s ripped and fix anything that’s broken with a little glue. You should also take the time to iron everything and hang it up so it will be in good condition for the following day.
9. Make sure you have all parts of your costume
Before you leave your home to go to the photoshoot location or convention, check to make sure you have all parts of your costume. The last thing you want is to get there and realize you’re missing your mask or wig.
I recommend making a checklist of all your costume parts before you pack. List every little detail, including the shoes, socks, wig, dress, wings, and whatever other pieces your costume has. When it comes time to pack or transport your costume, you can easily consult your list and check everything off as it enters your suitcase or car.
10. Use your environment to your advantage
The best photographs come when you interact with your environment. Use the rocks, trees, stairwells, benches, etc. that are around you to create dynamic photos. Instead of looking like you were placed in a random background scene, this interaction will make the background just as much a part of the picture, bringing your cosplay to life.
Use these ideas to help you take more creative photos in your environment:
- Lean against something. If there’s a tree, wall, column, or banister, or anything in the vicinity you can lean on, that’s an easy way to interact with your surroundings.
- Climb or hang on something. You don’t need to actually climb, but you can create the appearance of hanging from an object by cropping your feet out of the photo. Climbing or descending a stairway can also add some realism to the environment.
- Add some movement. Try kicking a stone or moving a cape or skirt so it looks like it’s flowing in the wind.
- Sitting or crouching. If there is a rock or bench nearby, you can easily sit. Even crouching or sitting down on the ground can make you feel more like a part of the setting.
- Pick up an object. You can pick a flower or stick from the ground and use it as a prop.
- Look out of a window. In an indoor setting, you can use windows, doors, porches, etc. as ways to use your environment to your advantage.
- Hide behind objects. Hide behind bushes, doors, walls, etc. if your character is timid or the type to hide in the shadows.