Any cosplayers out there?
I have always been interested in photography, even as a kid. It was one of the only things I would continually whine about to my mom. I always wanted to take the pictures, see the camera, hold the camera etc. instead of just being in the picture. The love for it has stuck with me and just recently I have begun improving my skills by taking more and more pictures in different settings of different people in different poses etc. One of the things I found most difficult to photograph was cosplay, however, thanks to my best friend Emily, I’m getting in some practice. It took a lot of preparation, some failures, and extreme heat to complete my first photo shoots.
So what is cosplay? I just assume most people have heard of it since there is a large internet community that everyone is bound to stumble upon at one time or another, but I will explain it anyway to provide some context in case your time to find it on your own hasn’t come yet. Cosplay is basically a hobby (an expensive one at that) that involves making accurately detailed costumes or reimagined costumes of characters in global pop culture. Many people enjoy cosplay because it helps them feel comfortable in their own skin and allows them an escape from reality when they can pretend to be someone else for a little while. Most often cosplay is seen at conventions, but you can find a fair share of it in other places too. Movie premieres, Disney World, sometimes even just out and around to name a few.
Emily (ladyemrys.com) has been interested in cosplay for a long time now, and it getting better and better with every costume. Knowing that I enjoyed photography, she asked if I would be willing to take some pictures of her more recent costumes. Of course, I was quick to say yes without even knowing what I had gotten myself into. Thankfully, I’m getting the hang of it now, but I wanted to give you guys some things I learned along the way in case you are ever needed to take cosplay pictures, or have someone take your cosplay pictures.
1. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT CHARACTER THEY CHOOSE. Okay, I cannot stress this enough. Unlike regular photo shoots where you can just take the same pictures with the same poses with different people, the character they choose impacts all of that. For my first photo shoot, I made the mistake of not paying much attention to the character she had chosen (Miku) beforehand, resulting in me not knowing much about how to pose her, set up the backdrop, or select props to use. Thankfully, Emily was more than happy to use her background knowledge of the character to help me with all these things, but ideally, they should be done by the photographer in advance.
2. CHOOSE A SETTING THAT FITS THEIR CHARACTER. Or at least modify it to fit their character. For example, while shooting pictures for Haikyuu cosplay we didn’t have access to a gym, so we went to a park near our house and used the brick walls and bleachers to give a bit of a sports vibe to the pictures even if it wasn’t the right sport. Sometimes, however, all it takes is some modification to a backyard to get some nice shots. While photographing Miku, Emily found a nice pink canopy that we propped up on her fence as a girly frilly backdrop for her character.
3. BRING NOT ONLY WHAT WILL BE IN THE PICTURES, BUT WHAT IS NEEDED BEHIND THE SCENES. I know this may sound stupid, but it was something I didn’t give much thought too during my first shoot with her. I had just brought my camera and my phone. Needless to say, we needed a lot more than that. We ended up bringing out fans, water, tripods, extra makeup, chargers, more costume elements etc. I speak from experience, try and make a list of what you will need at each photo shoot before going so that everyone is prepared and there’s no need for trips in and out of the house every couple shots.
4. BRING PROPS. While the costume is obviously the main point of the photos, there are only so many pictures you can take just with just one person (or two in the case of my haikyuu pictures). Props add more detail to the shots and make the pictures a little more convincing. They also give you a plethora of more shots to take. This is another point where you are gonna have to do some research on their character because you can’t just use the standard props for a cosplay shoot. Flowers don’t always work for girls, but a teacup might. It’s really just a game of guess and check until you figure something out that shows up good in pictures.
5. DONT BE AFRAID TO GET REFERENCE POSES. Posing is hard, I wouldn’t lie to you guys. However, it is again something that the photographer is mainly responsible for. So in order to look like you know what you’re doing, your best bet is going online and literally searching up poses for the specific characters or similar characters. For example, in my Haikyuu photo shoot, I could not only look up their specific characters, but also the whole anime in general and even regular volleyball player poses. Be creative with it! No one wants the same few poses in different locations! Come up with a lot though just in case some don’t show up well on camera or how you imagined them to because trust me that happens more than you might think.
6. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR SUBJECTS. If it’s hot while you’re taking pictures, which is awful already, there may be a chance that their wig or makeup will begin to be affected by the heat resulting in shiny faces and fly-aways. No subject wants to put all the effort into their costume and photoshoot just to see in the end that their makeup was ruined in the pictures by the weather. Let them know if you notice something wrong! They will be happy you let them know so they can fix it before continuing on with the shoot!
7. DONT BE AFRAID TO GO A DIFFERENT DIRECTION THAN YOU IMAGINED. As much as you can plan in advance, you never know what direction your shoot will go in while it is happening. Sometimes this is a great thing! For example, during my Miku shoot, it originally started as being a solely Miku shoot. However, as we added props we began giving it a bit of an Alice in Wonderland vibe. Hence us naming the photo shoot Miku in Wonderland at the end! Sometimes taking the path you never thought of makes for some great pictures!
8. EDITING IS ALMOST ALWAYS PART OF THE JOB. Cosplay pictures aren’t supposed to be realistic. Editing should be used to give the pictures a vibe that their character emits, whether a cute one or a serious one etc. You can use it to fix lighting, blemishes, and even just to crop out unwanted attention-grabbing aspects of the background. In my case, I usually get a lot of creative license on these pictures while editing, which makes it even more fun for me. Editing doesn’t have to be a chore! Experiment with different aspects of the photographs and just have some fun with it!
9. TAKE ALL THE PICTURES. While a lot of the photographs are in character for your subject, you should be sure to take some candids as well while the shoot is going on, trust me your subjects will be more than happy you did. It’s always fun to have some fun pictures amidst all the work that goes into having a photoshoot. Plus these can be used as behind the scenes pictures that can be released before the rest of them! An example from one of our shoots was during out Haikyuu shoot. We wanted to get some pictures inside the baseball field at the park we were at except the gates were locked so we had to climb the fence! While Em and I climbed the fence with no difficulty, Lauren was another story and her struggle resulted in some hilarious pictures for us! If you’re the photographer get all the pictures you can, they will be happy you did!
If anyone has any more suggestions for me, or even any questions feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re on Instagram, check out Lauren and Emily’s accounts which I have tagged beneath their pictures! See you guys next Wednesday hopefully with some catch-up book reviews!