The Women of Cosplay

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Don't be afraid to try different things like digital backdrops

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Cloudscape by HermitCrabStock on Devianart CC BY 3.0
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The fascination with cosplay seems to go and come depending on the number of new games and movies that feature people playing the parts of these creative characters, you can seem to always find new characters and dedicated fans to play them.

Soon even a new TV reality show "Heroes of Cosplay" is about to hit the waves. Photographing these individuals as they dress in the respective costumes which are representational of their favorite characters is not only fun but can open the doors for an astute photographer to make this theme a specialty and since the world of cosplay comprises a huge market the opportunities for a lucrative return are present as there are quite a few publications that will use your images if they are done creatively, are technically flawless and represent a popular character.

Keep in mind that cosplay characters can have long "life spans" but this "new" factor can also be something fleeting and you need to take the images when the character/movie/game is rather fresh in the minds of the fans who follow the genre.

Worth saying is that the word cosplay is not a Japanese term nor did cosplaying find its origins there either. This appears to be the result of combining two English words into one and dreesing up as fictional characters has long been a common practice at many other events such as Worldcon.

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Being aware that you can usually get the best photographs free of charge, instead of having to hire professional models. If you find yourself in attendance at any of the many cosplay events that are regularly held throughout the year ask politely, offer to share copies and you may find how willing the participants can be.

The notable is the annual Comic-con event usually held in California. But there are events which are also held in other parts of the world like in Japan, where many cosplay characters originate from and where the vast majority of characters are created for use in video games and other productions.

Here you will have the opportunity of photographing to your heart's content. The good thing about taking pictures at these events is that the participants are willing and enthusiastic about having their pictures taken in the first place but you should nevertheless obtain a written model's release, just in case and especially if you intend on using the images commercially.

"Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), short for "costume play", is an activity in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from a work of fiction. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered on role play. A broader use of the term cosplay applies to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.

Favorite sources include manga, anime, comic books, video games, and films. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject.

Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to seegenders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa.

There is also a subset of cosplay culture centered on sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters that are known for their attractiveness and/or revealing costumes." Wikipedia

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It is worth saying that anyone can take a picture of someone dressed in a costume. The trick is to capture the essence of the character being played.

Many of the individuals who attend events such as Comic-con spend copious amounts of time designing and creating their respective costumes and many have grown to take on the persona of the character almost to a science.

Your focus should be on recording images in which the individual is acting as the character would be, not just simply posing and smiling for the camera.

Capturing the looks, the movements and the details of each will greatly help in allowing you to capture worthwhile images.

Pay attention to the details of each costume. Most are painstakingly done, very detailed and the large majority are also handmade.

These individuals compete for money prizes as well as other prizes and they are fiercely competitive when it comes to representing their particular character.

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You can concentrate on various themes or do any of the many variations such as human like characters, animal like characters, men of cosplay or ladies of cosplay, good, bad and everything in between.

I usually like to concentrate on the ladies since their costumes offer a mix of good girl gone bad with a touch of sensuality plus photographs of ladies dressed in sensual costumes are better sellers than most any other cosplay related photographs.

Your images can also be submitted to publications that cover the event, tourist boards for the city where these events take place, publications that focus on gaming, producers of some motivational, funny or de-motivational literature such as posters and greeting cards.

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Approach the photography as if doing a portrait, preferably a full body one.

Use at least one main flash unit but depending on how close you are to the subject you may need to set it at a lower intensity so as not to over power the scene.

If you can set up a studio like shot then use one reflector on one side and one main photo lamp on the opposite side, both should be angled in a 45 degree orientation.

If a studio set up is not feasible then consider taking the shots in other locations such as any open space, near interesting architecture and other similar structures.

Keep in mind to select a venue that complements the character; a fierce and menacing looking subject does not go well with a field of pretty flowers.

Use a short zoom lens so that you can come in close and retain the ability of cropping with the lens instead of having to do it in post production.

Pay attention to your subject's background. These events take place in halls full of attendees, windows, displays and other elements which may prove to be distractions.

If you cannot get the subject isolated against a simple background it is often better to take the shot and edit the photograph later with a digital program rather than not taking the shot at all.

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What do you think of events such as Comic-con?

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Remember that these events have a very specific audience and the resulting images may not appeal to many others outside of the fans of the genre but nevertheless good aesthetically images can still be appreciated by lovers of photography.

Make up enthusiasts, movie prosthetic enthusiasts as well as gamers in general will enjoy looking at cosplay photographs.

A book whether in print or in a e-book form may also be a good use for your images although your writing skills will come into play.

Even if your images do not seem like publication material , the project gives you a good opportunity to practice your skills and specially hones your portrait taking skills.

It also lends you some credibility as a diversified photographer and you can always secure future jobs from those interested in having a record of the event and in some cases for portfolio purposes.


Sometimes adding a digital background can make the scene more interesting

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Digitally edited by user. You can find the original by clicking on the source link. CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source
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I guess the following sums up best the loyal following and sometimes almost "mystical" mindset of this genre;

"QUOTE: The Comic-Con crowd is a powerful niche group, but still a niche. The tweets from Hall H help promote a TV show or movie, but the title must also have strong appeal to those who have never heard of Comic-Con to really take advantage of the buzz. In other words: Comic-Con is arguably most effective, oddly enough, when a project isn’t merely “perfect for Comic-Con.” Oh, and there’s one more Comic-Con benefit, and it’s only appropriate that this man points it out: “Yes, it matters,” writes Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof...And although they will occasionally grumble, these are the very same loyal folks that will save your show if it’s on the cancellation ropes ..."

Tessa Schlesinger

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© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 2 comments

aliasis profile image

aliasis 3 years ago from United States

Photographing cosplayers is awesome. Just be careful not to treat women in revealing outfits as sex objects when you photograph them. No pictures of breasts or upskirt photos, etc. Same with men, just don't take overly sexual pictures without permission. I wouldn't sell cosplay photographs without permission, too. But yeah, things like background and pose can make SO much difference in the photograph. It can be hard at a con to avoid other people in the background, but most places have nice locations where you can get pretty good shots.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

aliasis: Thank you. I always ask for permission and never take photographs with any other purpose besides photography.

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