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image via flickr

Headed to a convention soon? Will there be cosplayers? 

Cosplay photography can be daunting. Are you holding cosplayers up? Will they say no? Will a crowd of oblivious attendees walk between your model and your camera? But the average cosplay photograph for the roaming photographer takes all of 10 seconds to shoot, and most cosplayers are eager to participate and be photographed. These three tips will simply take things up to the next level. After all, these cosplayers worked like hell to prepare their beautiful cosplay, so you, the photographer, should make a little effort to take the best photos you can. 

1. Get permission

This first point is, at a basic level, about respect for your subject. But you'd be surprised by how many people are willing to pose for a photograph if you just ask them first. There is beauty to be found in candid photos, but many photographs that appear to be candid aren't necessarily so—and consent is essential. Besides, the cosplayer might have some poses planned, or otherwise might want to look a certain way for photographs, and it's important to respect that.

The simple act of making your purpose known is enough to make a big difference. You'll probably get a gorgeous smile out of it you wouldn't have before, and with permission comes the possibility of directing your model, which brings me to...

2. Have a quick chat with your subject

Being friendly could make the difference between capturing someone with a vague smile and shooting a portrait of them grinning ear-to-ear. When the feelings are genuine, it shows in the photo! You don't need to swap life stories, but it's important to make the person being photographed feel at ease. Strike up a conversation with them as you prepare for your shot, try to make them laugh or something. Why do you want to photograph them? Is it because they looked happy doing what stopped you in their tracks? Interesting eye color(s)? Talk about their costume and how rad you think it is, or briefly mention you're a fan of the character they're representing. Think positive and send out happy vibes—they're contagious. Take a selfie together. Whatever works. Just make a good connection. And hey, if you're in a crowd of 10 photographers trying to shoot a skittish-looking cosplayer, getting their attention nicely will help get them to look at the camera. Establish a relationship with that person—even briefly—and you'll get that gorgeous shot. 

3. Be accessible

Let the cosplayer know who you are, what your general intentions are with your photographs, and where they'll be able to see them later if you're going to post online. Alternatively, if you've got the time for it depending on the scale of your project, you can give people your contact email in case they're interested in a jpeg of their shot. If you're just sharing the URL of a page you'll be posting the photos at online, give them the name of your project that you'd file the gallery/collection under so they know where to look. Get some heavy stock paper, something that won't break easily, and just print (or write very clearly) where you can be contacted or where the cosplayer can go look for photos later.

Again, there's no need to swap life stories or become instant BFFs. The big thing here is to be transparent and, at the same time, offer the cosplayer access to the result. Knowing the thing they're helping you with is going to be "out there," or at the very least a possible future profile image on Facebook, they'll probably go the extra mile to help you get a really good shot.


They're small things, but any or all of these three tips can go a long way towards the best shot you can get out of a situation. Whether you want your photos to look serendipitous in their "candid" glory or simply want to draw out the perfect expression for the mood and look you're going for, it's important for the people on both sides of the lens to have a relationship with one another.


Kristina Pino's picture

Kristina Pino

Teacher, Avid Traveler, Life-long Reader, Beer Guzzler, Jigsaw Puzzle Lover, Disney Mega-fan, and other Fancy Titles can be used to describe Kristina. She spends her time blogging, tweeting, vlogging, podcasting, and making puzzles when she isn’t out having an adventure, cozied up with a book, or responding to the Bat Signal. She’s from sunny, tropical South Florida.