Now that you’ve taken the time to create a truly impressive cosplay, you’re ready to show it off to the world. The problem? You have no idea how to pose! It’s happened to me before. I get asked for a photo at the convention and suddenly I’m at a loss for where to put my hands and how to position my body.
Pick a great pose for your cosplay by researching your character and paying attention to how they stand and behave. In general, you also want to make your poses bigger by moving your props and elbows away from your body instead of keeping your arms stuck to the sides of your body.
I also recommend looking at other cosplayers. Find photos that you love and figure out how the cosplayer is posing and why the pose works. Then get in front of a mirror and practice. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your modeling skills can improve when you’ve taken the time to observe yourself. Posing for cosplay is a skill that requires practice, you’ll improve with time, but these tips will help you get started.
1. Think about your silhouette
In character design, the goal is to create characters that are recognizable by their silhouettes. If you got rid of all the details and saw the character as just a shadow, you should theoretically be able to recognize who the character is. The characters, arms, legs, clothing, and accessories all combine to create the unique shape of the character.
The same concept applies to your poses in cosplay. You want to use your body and costume in a way that creates a unique silhouette that shows some personality. In general, this means you’ll want to avoid keeping your arms and props directly in front of your body. Instead, you can create more exaggerated shapes by moving your arms to the side of your body, and keeping some space between you and your props.
2. Learn to stand up straight
Good posture will automatically make your poses look ten times better (unless your character is known for having bad posture, of course). This will prevent your costume from wrinkling and you’ll give the appearance of having more confidence.
When practicing good posture, stand sideways next to a mirror to see how you look. As someone who used to have pretty bad posture, I found that even when I thought I was standing up straight, my shoulders and neck still drooped forward. I had to practice standing straight before I was naturally able to have good posture in cosplay.
It can even be helpful to exaggerate your posture a little bit when posing. Instead of just standing straight, bring your shoulders back farther than you normally would, and raise your chin a little to give the appearance of a longer neck.
3. Find poses that work in crowded spaces
When people ask for your photo at a convention, you’ll usually need to back up into a small gap in a crowded area. There won’t be very much room to maneuver when choosing a position to stand in. Come to the convention with a few poses prepared that use less space. Think about what you can do with your upper body, or with your hands and props next to you and above your head.
Of course, if you are working with a photographer in a separate location or away from the crowd, you have a lot more freedom in the poses you choose. Save your full-body dynamic poses for these occasions, but make sure to plan some simpler poses for hall cosplay pictures.
4. Practice at home
It may feel silly, but one of the best things you can do to improve your posing for cosplay is by practicing in front of a mirror. Posing for photography is not always going to feel natural. Instead, you will need to exaggerate your body position to make it look better in photographs.
By practicing your poses ahead of time, you can check to see what the pose would look like in a natural body position. Then look at how far you need to change the pose to make it look right. Practice until you have a good idea of how the pose feels in your muscles so that you can replicate it without a mirror during a photoshoot.
It also helps to look at photos of other cosplayers that you like. What kind of poses are they in? Why does that pose work for the character and make the photo better? You can practice poses that other people have done and figure out how to contort your body into the shape you’re going for. Sometimes you’ll wonder how the uncomfortable pose you’re in could possibly look good, even when your photos come out looking great.
5. Use diagonals
In photography, diagonal lines help to create the illusion of movement. It helps to create more dynamic and interesting poses. You can create diagonal lines with your body by leaning against a wall or a railing, crouching down on the ground, or taking an action pose. You can also use your props in angles around your body when posing.
There is also the 3-dimensional space you can use going toward the camera to create those diagonal lines. You can angle your body sideways or lunge forward. You can also point a sword or other prop toward the camera (aim the tip of the sword below the camera lens so the blade doesn’t disappear).
This is something that your photographer can help with as well, depending on their style. By tilting the angle of the camera, you can create diagonal lines within the composition that make it a completely different experience to look at.
6. Use your source material as a reference
If you’re struggling to find poses that are natural for your character, the best thing to do is go back to your source material. Watch an episode or two of your show or look through the comic book. Watch your character closely to see how they walk and stand, and pause occasionally to try to mimic what the character is doing.
You can do this with action poses or with casual standing and sitting positions. Try to determine how their actions help show their personality. Are they poised and elegant? Are they constantly leaning on things? Do they crouch on the ground? Study the character to figure out how you can implement their personality into your poses.
7. Think about hand positions
Hands are easy to forget about, but they can play a big role in creating expressive poses. Tightly gripping a sword hilt has a completely different feeling than a hand that’s loosely placed there, just like a fist on your hips is different than a casual hand in a pocket.
If you’re struggling to decide on hand positions for your pose, try one of these to start:
- One of both of your hands on your hips
- Hands in your pockets (try only putting your thumbs in your pockets, since this usually look better)
- Hands in a fighting stance (use your source material as a reference)
- Hand gestures near your face
- Holding your props
- Hands behind your head or playing with your hair
- Holding your skirt or cape out
- Pretending to do magic with your hands
8. Use your props
Don’t forget to include your props when you’re coming up with poses. You worked hard to make it, so you want to show it off in your photos and make sure it adds to your character. You can use the props in action poses, leaning on a staff, rest it on your shoulders, and so on. Try to keep in mind the ideas of creating a silhouette and using your diagonals when you come up with your poses.
If you’re in a crowded area, make sure to keep an eye on the size of your props. You don’t want to end up hitting passersby when posing for a photo, so plan some ways to use your props close to your body as well. When working with a photographer, try doing some poses with and some without your prop. This will give you more variety in the finished photos you get back.
9. Pay attention to your environment
Your surroundings can do a lot to add to your photo. Not only can it provide a setting that works for your character, but you can also use your environment when choosing poses for your character. You can put your leg up on a rock, hide behind a tree, or sit on a bench. By interacting with your environment, you make the setting a part of the photograph. You’ll end up with a photo that feels more immersive and creative.
Of course, this isn’t always possible in a convention setting. If you’re in a crowded area, it won’t be easy to find ways to use the surroundings, but if you’re in a photoshoot setting, this can add quite a bit of realism to your photos.
10. Practice facial expressions
Cosplay photography isn’t just about the poses you make. You also need to think about your facial expressions and head position. This is something that you will want to practice in the mirror because you want to exaggerate your expressions without going so far that you look ridiculous.
This is another place you can use your character’s source material as a reference point. See what expressions they make and try to recreate them on your face. The more you practice, the easier it will be to hit the exact expression you’re going for when you are posing for the camera.
As a general rule, a head tilt to the side tends to look awkward on camera because it creates a bend in your posture. It’s okay to have a very slight tilt to your neck but think about lengthening your neck and raising your chin at the same time. This way you’ll have more of an arched neck, rather than a bent one. It will create a more elegant pose that looks better on camera.
11. Choose multiple poses
When thinking about how you will pose in your costume, never settle for just one pose. It’s best if you come up with a handful of poses (or more) that you can rotate between. This works twofold.
One, it will be easier to choose your position based on your situation. If you’re in a crowded space, you can have a pose or two ready. Second, it means you’ll be able to get multiple different images of your costume. Whether you’re working with a photographer or getting hall photos, you’ll be able to see how you and your costume look from different perspectives.
12. You don’t always need to look at the camera
It’s normal to want to make eye contact with the camera, and this can look great in some photos (especially for hall cosplay). However, looking at the camera will make it look like you are posing. If you want a more natural photo, try looking away from the camera sometimes.
Maybe you’ll be looking at something in your hand, or looking off into the distance. You could also look behind you while drawing your sword, as if ready for a fight, or looking at a partner cosplayer as if you’re talking to them.
There’s nothing wrong with looking into the camera lens, but by experimenting with a different gaze during a photoshoot, you can get some pretty interesting photos.
13. Practice in your costume
Remember when I told you to practice your poses in front of a mirror? Now I’ll challenge you to go one step further. Put your costume on and try your poses again. See how they feel with your costume one.
This way you can:
- See if you have a full range of motion in your costume. Sometimes pauldrons or tight pants can limit your movement. You might not be able to lift your arms over your head or squat down as far as you’d like without ripping the seam of your pants. You’ll need to adjust the poses so they work with the cosplay, or remake the costume pieces to give you a better range of motion.
- Make sure the pose looks okay while wearing your cosplay. You might also find that your chosen positions look okay with your normal hair, for example, but when you put your wig on your eyes are completely hidden. Capes, coat collars, armor, and any other part of a costume can completely change the way a pose looks, so you’ll want to check with the costume on so that you can adjust as needed.
14. Use motion to your advantage
Some of the best pictures are taken when you add motion to your poses. By motion, I mean the toss of a cape, swish of a skirt, or the wind in your hair. Things like this can add a lot more interest to your cosplay photos.
The easiest way to add motion to your photo is by tossing or swirling part of the clothing right as the photographer is taking the photo. It might work better if a friend helps by tossing the garment, so you can maintain your pose. A windy day can also be beneficial because it creates a windblown look to your entire costume.
Another way to add motion into a cosplay pose is by slowly walking toward or away from the camera. It can be difficult to get a good picture if you walk too fast, but even slow movement will give your clothes the appearance of motion, making your pose look more natural.
You probably don’t want to use this tip when you’re asked for a hall photo. It can take several tries before you get a good picture of your cosplay in motion, but they are well worth the effort once you finally get that perfect photo.
15. Think about negative space
In addition to the position that you put your arms in, it’s also beneficial to pay attention to the negative space around you when posing. Negative space is the shapes in the air around you when you are posing. If you put your hand on your hip, the triangle of space that your arm makes is the negative space.
You want to try to make this space as interesting as possible. It will help you to create that character silhouette that I talked about earlier. A good rule of thumb that I’ve heard many cosplayers talk about is to try to create triangles with this negative space. Creating these shapes around you will help to make sure you have space in your posing. It will be more dynamic and interesting to look at in photos.
If you hold your hand above your head, bend your elbow to create a triangle-like shape. If you’re leaning against the wall, bend one knee to create a triangle against the other leg. You can also use your props to create these shapes around your body.
16. Group cosplays
Group cosplays can be a little bit tricky because you need to coordinate with other people. The bigger the group the more difficult it will be to get a good photo. You definitely want to pick at least one or two poses you can do if you’ll be traveling around the con together.
If you are doing cosplay with a partner or a group, always stand closer together than you think you need to. This is especially true in a crowded hallway, but even during a photoshoot, you will look awkwardly far away in photos if you’re standing a normal distance away from each other. Plan poses with props so that you won’t be getting in each other’s way.
17. Don’t be afraid to try something different
The more experiences you get cosplaying, the more comfortable you’ll feel in costume. At this point, you don’t have to stick to the ‘rules’ of posing. Those are only there to help you get started. The best way to learn and improve your modeling skills is by trying something new.
Next time you’re working with a photographer to get just try something different. The pose might not end up looking great, but you can always choose to toss those pictures. At best you’ll have some excellent and unique pictures, and at worst you’ll have learned something for next time.