Cosplay Photography: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

A few days ago, I was fortunate enough to participate in a cosplay and photography workshop right here in New York City. As a novice photographer, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the basics and practice shooting with friendly costumers. Here are some tips and tricks I picked up at the event, complete with photo examples!

I admittedly have a lot of trouble posing for pictures on the fly while in costume, so watching others work their magic was a great learning experience. Plus, I had the chance to fiddle with the (many, many) buttons on my camera and practice taking proper* photos for the first time. You can judge for yourself how well I did with the spread below. The whole album is available on my Facebook page.

Angles are your friend.

Angles are all about trial and error, which I found out firsthand as I sprawled out on the jagged rocks of Central Park, camera in hand. If something doesn’t work, try again from a different vantage point. Even if something does work, another perspective never hurts. Take these two shots of Speedy, for example:

Same model, same location, different angles. The left is a profile shot, the right is a more dynamic view that includes her whole face. Both interesting!

Angles are also tricky, if not impossible, to fix in post. When working with the Mockingjay below, my first few shots cut off her right sleeve; our more experienced organizer promptly instructed me to include the entire sleeve, since doing so framed the subject in a diagonal angle that’s flattering to the eye. I would never have been able to correct this in an editor; the only solution was to take more pictures. You can see the difference:

In that same vein…

Cropping can be your enemy.

I chopped up my photos as best I knew how. As it turns out, that isn’t very well at all! One of my favorite photos of the day was a shot of Wasp against an overexposed sky… but I cropped out parts of her fingers in Photoshop because I didn’t want to include the nearby buildings. This move, photographer friend Omar tells me, was a big boo-boo.

Thankfully, he pointed me to a handy cheat sheet that will prevent such disasters in the future. As the guide states, “don’t cut off at the joints.”

Lighting is your best friend and your worst enemy.

This is a bit of information I’d already become well aware of while recording videos, but the cosplay shoot drove it home. We were gifted with an open area on a fairly sunny day, and even that could have been improved! In order to avoid pesky shadows under models’ eyes, Omar advises the use of a reflector. I only had the vaguest idea of what a reflector even was, so I consulted the almighty Internet for answers.

Reflectors help bounce light back at your subject to dispel shadows and add brightness and/or warmth. They’re useful for outdoor scenes and indoor scenes where you might not have access to a fancy lighting rig. Reflectors are available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Your best bet as a beginner? Probably something like this. Not only is it dirt cheap, but it also includes plenty of color options and is small enough to be held in your off-hand as the photographer. Bonus: it collapses into an even handier travel size!


If you have no idea how to use one of these things once you have it, this guide by Digital Camera World might be just what you need.

Until next time!

I’m really looking forward to attending more workshops in the future and sharing what I learn. Feel free to add your own cosplay/photography tips in the comments section below, and don’t forget to “like” NYC Cosplayers Assemble on Facebook if you reside near the city. The next event is already planned! If you’re interested in seeing the rest of my photos from this particular workshop, they’re all up on Facebook, too.

* I’ve taken tons of photos in the past, at conventions or otherwise, but I had never worked one-on-one with models in such a “staged’ shoot. I’ve also never taken photography classes. I’m not an expert by any stretch!

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