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5 Tips: Preparing for a Cosplay Photo Shoot

Updated on July 28, 2014

As a photographer of both cosplay and non-cosplay photo shoots, I have seen my share of good and bad preparation. Through my experience, I have narrowed down a selection of key tips that will make for a fun and smooth photo shoot.

For outdoor photo shoots, make sure to pick a day with good weather to fully utilize natural light.
For outdoor photo shoots, make sure to pick a day with good weather to fully utilize natural light. | Source

#1: Communication!

So, you have finally scheduled yourself a photo shoot with a photographer, either through emails, phone calls, or texts. Here are a few points to make sure you and your photographer are on the same page.

  • Scheduling
    Keep in regular contact with your photographer. Depending on when you schedule the photo shoot, you may find that you need to change the date, the time, even the cosplay you planned on wearing. Make sure to keep your photographer informed if something has come up to give you and the photographer time to reschedule.
  • Timing
    I cannot stress enough about time. What time of day are you planning to meet? Did you pick 2 o'clock? Or was it 1 o'clock? Make sure you absolutely know what time you planned on meeting the photographer. Depending on the day, that photographer may have multiple appointments and need to stick to the schedule down to the minute. Being late to a photo shoot can put a rush on both participants depending on what you have planned.
  • What Cosplay?
    Let your photographer know which cosplay(s) you want to wear to the shoot. Depending on the cosplay, the location may change. For example, you plan to meet outdoors in a park, yet your cosplay is something out of Silent Hill. If that is what you wanted, then that's perfectly fine. Yet, if you were looking for something with a more eerie feel, talk to your photographer about relocating the shoot, possibly indoors with concrete as a background, instead of tulips. At the same time, see how many costumes you can bring to the shoot (I have photographed up to three in one shoot) - this will help determine how long the shoot will be.

Merida of Brave. Outdoors, like she would be.
Merida of Brave. Outdoors, like she would be. | Source
Outdoors was a great location for this Madoka cosplay - although the anime was chock full of artfully done, surreal, and somewhat creepy places, the character still fits in with a sunny, happy, day.
Outdoors was a great location for this Madoka cosplay - although the anime was chock full of artfully done, surreal, and somewhat creepy places, the character still fits in with a sunny, happy, day. | Source
Here is a perfect example of where woods would have been more likely than windows. At the time, this was the only place to shoot (at a convention); if we were to do this again, I would make sure we are located near a forest.
Here is a perfect example of where woods would have been more likely than windows. At the time, this was the only place to shoot (at a convention); if we were to do this again, I would make sure we are located near a forest. | Source

#2: Location, Location, Location!

There are multiple reasons for a good location to be picked ranging from the right backdrop for the cosplay, to safety.

  • Not-Too-Remote
    Make sure you are in a safe area, not too remote. In case anything happens (i.e. dehydration, trip & fall, whatever…) you want to be able to get back to civilization in a timely manner. At the same time, it will always be better if the location is somewhere both you and the photographer can easily locate. This will help you get there on time, and finding your way back home easier.
  • Restrooms!
    Having to go to the restroom will most likely happen at the most inconvenient times, like in the middle of a photo shoot. Be prepared and already be close to a restroom. Plus, it helps if there are multiple costume changes that need to take place.
  • Surroundings
    Without completely repeating what was previously stated in Tip 1, make sure you agree upon a location that suits the character you are cosplaying. If the location is not to your liking, let the photographer know, and see if you can change it.

With Lolita fashion, there are multiple stages in getting ready. From having the right make-up on, to the correct wig color and style, down to rings and necklaces, every little bit counts to creating a flawless outfit. Even contact lenses.
With Lolita fashion, there are multiple stages in getting ready. From having the right make-up on, to the correct wig color and style, down to rings and necklaces, every little bit counts to creating a flawless outfit. Even contact lenses. | Source
Although the grey-toned skin may look like make-up, this cosplayer's skin-tone was changed during post-processing.
Although the grey-toned skin may look like make-up, this cosplayer's skin-tone was changed during post-processing. | Source

#3: Make-Up and Accessories

No cosplay is complete without the proper make-up, hair piece, wig, prop, or accessory. Everything down to the eye color of the character can bring any cosplay to the next level.

For your photo shoot, you want everything to be as perfect as can be. Your photographer may or may not have Photoshop to add in special skin colors or make-up post-production. Even so, it is always better, and more natural looking, to have had the make-up on when the photo is being taken.

At the same time, the photographer may only include basic editing in your photo shoot package (i.e. color balance, exposure adjustment, small blemish removal, contrast; nothing extreme). Extra editing means extra time spent by the photographer post-production, and may lead to additional charges.

Extra details, including rings, necklaces, hair pieces (such as wigs, bows, crowns, bands), prosthetics (i.e. ears, horns) and even contact lenses to change your eye color, all help bring the cosplayed character to life.

Try creating a checklist of everything you need to bring to the shoot, that way you can see if you are missing anything and can have time to create or buy those items by the time of your photo shoot.

Have you ever forgotten a key piece to your cosplay come photo shoot day?

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Expressions can change from character to character! Make sure to talk to your photographer to get all the images you want!
Expressions can change from character to character! Make sure to talk to your photographer to get all the images you want! | Source
Outfit 1: This Lolita outfit is more Victorian in nature than the one shown below. For that, two separate sets of poses are used to bring out the outfits characteristics.
Outfit 1: This Lolita outfit is more Victorian in nature than the one shown below. For that, two separate sets of poses are used to bring out the outfits characteristics. | Source

#4: Poses

Depending on the photographer, you may know more about your cosplay character than your photographer. This is perfectly okay. Here is how to utilize your knowledge alongside the photographer's skill.

If you have been communicating with the photographer beforehand (which you should be!) the photographer may ask if there are specific poses you know of that the character may do in the series. Perhaps it is the way they hold the sword before an attack - or while they're hanging out. This may even go as far as particular expressions besides the standard smile or frown. Don't be afraid to let the photographer know about these poses.

With more poses and expressions comes more variety in the images you will get back. Discuss ahead of time with your photographer about anything you are looking for in particular so the photographer can plan for it.

Outfit 2: As this Lolita outfit signifies a more "cute" aspect in life, the poses become different than that of the outfit above.
Outfit 2: As this Lolita outfit signifies a more "cute" aspect in life, the poses become different than that of the outfit above. | Source
Have fun with the posing! You never know what could happen.
Have fun with the posing! You never know what could happen. | Source

Posing 101

Standing
Sitting
Miscellaneous
Basic: Turn slightly to one side to create an angled shot.
Use your surroundings: Lean back on a tree or wall, legs bent in front of body.
Jumping!: May take a couple shots to nail down, but fun to do, and great to look at.
Action shot: stand as though you are lunging towards the camera, props in hand.
Portraits: Sitting creates a great angle for portraits and close-ups.
Lying Down: creates an easy-going feel. Could either be on your back or side.
Over-the-shoulder: Stand with back towards camera, turn neck and head to look at the camera.
Crouching: Create a feel of action, use prop in hand if you have one.
Expressions: let your character, and your cosplay, shine through with more than one type of expression.
These are just a couple of simple poses you may use during your shoot. Anything from standing, to sitting, and even lying down, can create great, unique shots.
Posing under a tree allows you to bring in aspects of your surroundings into the foreground.
Posing under a tree allows you to bring in aspects of your surroundings into the foreground. | Source

Drinks to Avoid

  • Coffee
  • Teas (with caffeine)
    Even if the tea is decaffeinated, it still has the potential to dehydrate you.
  • Any type of soda (soft drink)
    This includes anything with a high sugar content, or high caffeine. And instead of diet, caffeine-free soda, just stick to water.


#5: Hydration!!

You have everything planned - you've kept in contact with your photographer, you know the date, time, location, and cosplay, and on top of that, you have all the right make-up, wigs, and extras you need to make for a great photo shoot. The very last key point to creating a successful photo shoot is something very basic.

Hydration.

With outdoor shoots being popular in the summertime, it is extremely important to stay hydrated. Temperatures in the 80's and 90's are tough enough in a tank top and shorts. A full, multi-layered cosplay is a completely different story. Photo shoots with multiple outfits may take an hour or more (depending on what you have planned), and can take a lot out of both you and the photographer.

Make sure to check the weather that day - if it is going to be too hot during the time you are outside, consider rescheduling for a different day, or an earlier time. If you do have a shoot in hot weather, be sure to bring water (coconut water is also extremely hydrating, but you don't want to drink to much, or else there may be a bathroom trip). Stay away from coffee or sugary drinks - the caffeine content naturally dehydrates the body.

Not doing the shoot outdoors? Or in the summertime? It's still necessary to stay hydrated to keep up your energy.

Been on a photo shoot before? Multiple times?

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Secret Tip #6: Have Fun!

The most important thing to keep in mind for the photo shoot is to go have some fun!! Try a goofy face or some crazy pose that you can look back on and enjoy.

Deadpool trying his hand at modelling.
Deadpool trying his hand at modelling. | Source

Do you have any tips and tricks of your own for a photo shoot? Let me, and everyone else, know!

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    • cosplaycentric profile image
      Author

      cosplaycentric 3 years ago from Boston, MA

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for reading! To answer your question, I feel the need to separate "cosplay" and "fashion" into two catagories.

      Cosplay in itself typically means that you are putting on a costume of a specific character (i.e. from a show, movie, video game, band...) and possibly acting like said character in a group or gathering. People like to show their craft and hard work that they put into their costume, and there are many cosplayers that do this professionally. Now, I'm not ruling out that people are wearing their cosplays after work, but what I think that is happening more, is that they are wearing fashion pieces.

      What I mean by this, is that there is a massive fashion culture within Japan that includes more than just the current trends from around the world. For one, there is Lolita Fashion (shown by the woman in the first image of the article) that includes elaborate dresses, wigs, and accessories. Places such as Harajuku (a district in Tokyo) encompasses the fashion culture of Japan where people may dress in Lolita, '50s fashion, latest trends, and possibly even cosplay.

      It's a really huge topic, honestly, and with more research, may create a new article just on that. I hope this was informative! Thanks again for reading.

    • Michael Kismet profile image

      Michael Kismet 3 years ago from Northern California

      Wow, nice article! I hear about "cosplay" all the time, but didn't really understand too much of what was entailed. I hear that people in Japan, especially women will walk around in cosplay after their day jobs.

      Interesting culture they have there, what are your thoughts?