15 Cosplay Photography Tips

Whether you’re a professional photographer or just a hobbyist looking to take good pictures at Comic-Con, certain cosplay photography tips can help your efforts turn out much better than usual. Use these ideas to bring your favorite wizards, warlords and wildlings to life!

1. Familiarize Yourself With the Character

This is one of those cosplay photography tips that can’t be emphasized enough. The more you know about the character, the more you can bring out their looks, traits and personality in your photo shoots. Rick Grimes should be dirtied before the photo shoot to make it look like he’s been fighting zombies. Spider-Man doesn’t belong in a jungle; he’ll look best when posed in front of the metropolis that he’s sworn to protect.

women cosplaying as vikings
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2. Know Your Lenses

Wide-angle lenses are needed for group shots of the Buffy gang. Macro lens are better for close, detailed looks at Sasuke’s ANBU uniform. You can even find ultra wide-angle lenses if you want to shoot massive portraits of the entire convention floor. It’s all about figuring out what kinds of shots you’d like to take and knowing which lens is right for the job.

3. Use the Character’s Regular Colors

Captain America can be put in a room with red, white and blue props. The Joker can be posed on wide expanses of green grass. You don’t have to match colors down to the exact shade, but in terms of cosplay photography tips, it’s very much recommended to embrace your character’s natural color scheme. It will make them instantly recognizable to your audience.

4. Strike a Pose

Speaking of poses, they can add a lot of visual interest to your cosplay photos. Instead of having Elsa sit by a frozen lake, get her on her feet with her arms outstretched like she’s ready to perform some ice magic. Instead of having Alice aimlessly explore a garden, have her peeking around a stone wall or reaching out for a butterfly. If you need inspiration, flip through a magazine or browse a stock photography website and imagine those poses on your favorite character.

awesome catwoman cosplay
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5. Emphasize Their Special Features

Put Chun Li in a fighting pose so that you can show off the detailed stitching of her outfit. Smear some black smudges around the golden-eyed werewolves of Teen Wolf so that their contacts will be bright and vivid. You’ll hear this repeated a lot in cosplay photography tips, but it’s true: Work around the character’s assets and don’t make the character work around yours.

6. Have a Theme

If you’d like your Harry Potter to stand out from the rest, give your photo shoot a theme that no one else has done. For example, you might photograph “evil Harry” where he’s embracing his Slytherin side and posing with bloody arms, silver snakes and a silky green background. Not only will it get people talking, but it will also give you a starting point for things like colors and props.

7. Play With Angles, Perspectives, and Viewpoints

Put this high on your list of cosplay photography tips if your character has any kind of rod, staff, sword or other long-handled props. You can do amazing things with Dutch angles if you make their prop the centerpiece of the photo. For example, you can have them pointing their sword directly at the camera while their face and body are tilted sideways.

katniss everdeen cosplay
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8. Invest in Color Gels

Color gels are special filters that can be placed over your camera lens to adjust the color balance of your photos. You can buy them in individual hues or as part of a “rainbow collection” box set. They’re invaluable for creating the exact mood or atmosphere that you’re going for in your cosplay photos, so spend a little money and buy a good set with varied color options.

9. Have Fun with Silhouettes

If your character has a distinctive silhouette, you can create gorgeously moody black-and-white photos where the only thing visible is their figure. For example, Sailor Moon’s trademark hair buns will make her instantly recognizable when posed in front of a waxing gibbous. The Hulk doesn’t need props when it’s clear from his black, shadowy muscles that he’s about to smash whatever is in front of him.

10. Change Your Shutter Speed

High shutter speeds will capture each individual raindrop like a freeze-frame portrait. Slow shutter speeds will create “trails” of raindrops that give the illusion of movement. If your character is an otherworldly sorceress who can control the weather, the former might look cool; if she’s a regular girl stuck in a thunderstorm, the latter is what you want for a realistic photo.

cosplay photography in woods
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11. Frame Your Subjects

There are four major ways of framing your cosplayers:

– Full body
– 3/4 body
– 1/2 body
– Close-up

Choose your length in advance so that you never have hands or feet cut off in awkward ways. For example, if you’re committed to a 3/4 body shot above the knees, don’t travel down to the calves just because the light catches their socks in an interesting way. It won’t look deliberate; it will look like you forgot to frame your subject properly.

12. Use a Fill Flash

“Fill” flash is designed to fill in the dark areas of a photo where your normal flash would create deep shadows. It’s very useful when combined with other cosplay photography tips because it keeps you from losing any makeup or costume details in bright light. It’s also helpful if a character’s iconic pose is creating shadows; if you can’t change Iron Man’s blaster stance, you can at least change your flash.

13. Embrace Photoshop

This is something that you’ll hear repeated in cosplay photography tips until the end of time. Photoshop is your friend! It can help you hide flaws, crop out mistakes and add cool special effects to everyday photos. Anyone can photograph a winged character standing on the sidewalk, but how many can make him look like he’s actually flying?

woman warrior cosplay
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14. Get Permissions

If you’re shooting in a public park or garden, make sure that all of your lights, props and camera equipment won’t cause a disturbance for other visitors. Some tourist attractions ban things like fake weapons no matter how harmless they are, so even if your sword is made of brightly-colored foam, it might get you escorted off the premises.

15. Pack an Emergency Kit

You never know when a costume will rip, so it pays to be ready. Create an on-the-go emergency kit that includes things like scissors, safety pins, and fabric glue. Pack a needle and thread if you can be crafty under pressure. This is one of those cosplay photoshoot tips that can save the entire day from disaster, so it’s better to be overcautious than under-prepared.

If you’re wondering how to take cosplay photos, these tips should help you get started. But what do you think, readers? Have we missed any essential cosplay photography tips? Open up the comment box and tell us about it.

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