You can use cosplay photography to experiment with fantasy themes, take vibrant photos, and give your imagination a chance to roam freely.
Take Screenshots of Scenes You’d Like to Re-Create
Even if you’re familiar with the character your model is cosplaying, it’s important to do some research. In addition to having a conversation with your model (more on this later), you can watch the fictional character in action.
Cinematography is the perfect source of inspiration. It’s great for photographers who want to improve their knowledge of lighting, depth, and framing.
If it’s a TV or movie character, watch parts of a film or an episode. Take screenshots of scenes that stand out to you. You can use these as posing or lighting references throughout your photo shoot.
If the character is from a comic book or another source, you might still find inspiration by reading the material. Or you can look at other photographers’ approach to the character.
Investing even a little bit of time in cosplay research will make your model feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera.
Understand Why Your Subject Loves a Character to Take Impactful Cosplay Photos
The most important part of any photography session is communication. Before the photo shoot, find out what your model wants to express and what cosplaying means to them.
Why do they love that character? If there were different costume options, why did they choose that specific outfit? What kind of atmosphere do they want to see in the finished product?
Also be aware of your model’s personality and openness. This will make it easier for you to befriend them and give them the right kind of instructions as you shoot.
Use a Posing Guide to Make Your Model Look as Flattering as Possible
There are hundreds of posing guides made exclusively for cosplayers. A few general rules to remember are:
- don’t place your arm flat against your body as it will make it look bigger,
- keep your back straight if you’re taking a casual portrait, and
- slightly lift your chin to avoid making a double chin and to emphasize your jawline.
Catberry Photography, a professional cosplay photographer, made an extensive posing guide that you might find very useful.
Ask Your Model to Interact With Other Cosplayers so You Can Take Candid Photos
Many cosplayers are very active in their community. There are meet-ups happening all over the world as you’re reading this!
This is the perfect opportunity to meet new people and improve your candid photography. It’s also a great way to distract your model from the camera and take beautiful photos of genuine reactions.
If your model finds people cosplaying characters from the same universe, you can take epic group photos of them.
For this to be as natural as possible, use a zoom lens. This will allow you to take a few steps back and take stunning photos from a distance.
Choose the Right Location to Enhance the Character’s Story
Sometimes, an empty studio is exactly what you don’t need for a shoot. The right kind of surroundings will deepen the story and give you more elements to work with.
For example, there’s a very popular game called The Legend of Zelda. Its main setting is the outdoors, particularly green pastures and forests.
To make a Zelda cosplay look as authentic as possible, the best thing you could do is shoot in one of the aforementioned locations.
To make a location in the background stand out, use a small aperture like f/11. Don’t use the smallest aperture possible or else you’ll end up with photos that blend into each other unnaturally.
Use Interesting Props and Effects to Make Your Photos Atmospheric
Once you’ve chosen a location, you can enhance it even more using props and effects. You can use props like fake butterflies or snow to make your compositions stand out. If you make these details subtle, your photos won’t look too busy.
You can also add subtle effects in an editing program or during your photo shoot. Examples of this are additional bokeh and colorful smoke from smoke bombs.
If you want to make your photos stand out even more, use creative photography techniques. Double exposures, heart-shaped bokeh, and panning can all make your cosplay photos more interesting.
Use Natural Light to Take Striking Photos
Artificial light in buildings isn’t made for professional photography. Try to avoid it as much as possible, especially if you’re at an event.
Since cosplay photography is often based on fantasy, you can experiment with different lighting tricks that might not be appropriate in other styles. Examples of this are light flares, overexposure for a dreamy effect, and harsh direct light to bring out textures.
Unless you have a specific look in mind, always make sure that an even amount of light is hitting your model. This will bring out their best features and make their eyes sparkle.
Shoot From Different Angles to Make Your Photos More Interesting
Shooting from different angles is useful for a number of reasons.
Your model probably has a favorite angle that makes them feel confident about themselves. If they don’t know what it is, shooting from different angles might help them find their best poses.
Different angles also make for unique results. The more creative and diverse your shots, the easier it will be to choose great photos for your cosplay photography portfolio.
If you have two or three points of view, you won’t challenge your imagination or take photos that truly stand out. So feel free to get creative with all kinds of angles.
Take Photos of Costume Details to Make the Shooting Process More Fun
Once you’re comfortable with shooting from different angles, zoom in. You don’t necessarily need a macro lens for this. You can photograph the costume’s fabric, patterns, and logo with any lens you have.
Details are just as important as expressive portraits. A photo of a hand holding Spiderman’s mask tells a deeper story than a simple cosplay photo of Spiderman.
It brings out the subject’s humanity and, when used with the right light, creates a moving atmosphere.
If You’re Taking Photos in a Crowded Place, Use a Large Aperture and a Fast Shutter Speed to Avoid Shaky Pictures
It’s easy to feel lost and stressed while taking photos in busy places, especially if you have a specific vision in mind.
Use a large aperture to make your model stand out from their surroundings. The right amount of blur will get rid of distractions and might actually create interesting abstract textures.
Lenses with large apertures such as f/1.2 are considered fast, which means that they’re better at capturing quick movements.
Use a fast shutter speed to ensure that none of your subject’s movements end up looking like a bunch of shaky lines. Most photographers go by this rule: use a number that’s slightly higher than your focal length.
For instance, if you’re using a 50mm 1.4 lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/60 seconds.
If You’re Photographing Strangers at an Event, Ask for Permission to Avoid Uncomfortable Situations
Photographing multiple models in different costumes is a great way to grow your cosplay photography portfolio. It can also lead to new photography opportunities.
If you want to photograph a variety of people at an event, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Every country has different rules when it comes to photographing strangers. The best way to avoid trouble is to simply ask for permission.
- Not everyone will be open to modeling for you, and that’s okay. Be open to rejections, because there will be at least a handful of people who won’t mind collaborating with you.
- Have a physical copy of your portfolio that you can share with anyone who’s interested. If you already have examples of past cosplay photography work, you’ll find it easier to gain people’s trust.
Color Correct Your Results Appropriately to Complement the Theme
Once your photos are ready, you can enhance them further by using color correction.
Colour correcting doesn’t have to be a long and tedious process. You can simply use a tool like Curves to add contrast or change the entire mood of your photo. Even small adjustments like that will make a big difference.
Cosplay photography might seem more challenging than anything else. But it’s actually vibrant, fun, and inspiring.
You’re taking photos of imaginative people and their stories. This will help you embrace your inner storyteller and learn how to take awesome cosplay photos in the process.