How To Create Cool Cosplay Pictures

I’m far from a professional photographer but in my limited experience we can all produce fantastic cosplay pictures if you take a number of factors into consideration. A picture taken with a camera phone can looking significantly better than one taken using a DSLR camera if you follow the advice in this article.

Group of photographers getting cosplay pictures

Image Source: Flickr

With so many factors to consider I’ve decided to limit the topics to the following: the cosplay costume, lighting, a background, your model or cosplayer, post production and concepts.


Things to Consider to Make Fantastic Cosplay Pictures

You don’t need to spend loads of money on equipment and an expensive camera to take great pictures (though it helps). Read through the topics below and you’ll soon find that anyone can take striking cosplay pictures.



Girl in cosplay

Image Source: R&R Art Group

Is a perfect, accurate costume the most important thing when it comes to cool cosplay pictures? I don’t think so. It certainly helps, but it shouldn’t be the number one factor. It’s quite amazing what a good photographer can produce even when what’s put in front of them isn’t perfect. Angles, lighting and post production work using photoshop can all help, but making that extra effort with your costume will show through in a picture.

Accessorising properly also adds depth and realism, be it directly with your costume or with props used in a scene. They can also be practical. Holding an umbrella in the rain or wearing a pair of sunglasses in direct sunlight can finish off a look perfectly.



A studio light.

Image Source: Aradosman

For me this is a make or break factor when it comes to photography in general let alone cosplay photos. Having a few on or off camera speed lights on you can transform a flat shot into an eye popping masterpiece. If you’re not sporting a DSLR camera with extra flash devices there are plenty of things you can do to expose your cosplay pictures in different ways.

I think it’s fair to say that the lighting in most convention centres is average at best for photography. With plenty of people around to create harsh shadows over the cosplayer it’s a massive bonus if you can shoot in a quiet section or outdoors (weather permitting).

Lighting helps to set the mood of a shot. Doing something like taking your picture next to a well exposed window can add some strong shadows that adds depth to a shot. If you have friends or an assistant with you I’d also use a reflector to bounce some light back onto the person your photographing. If you don’t own one wrap a large piece of cardboard with tin foil.

Shooting at night? Having a cosplayer stand under a street light can produce dramatic effects. Using a torch or flash light that’s held in place can also add a nice effect.

Here are a few terrific examples of night lighting:


Girl under a light

Man looking into a street light

Girl in park looking into a light

Image Sources: VarukaBlue, xXFinkXx and Toima



The Alps

Image Source: Mutrus

It’s true that you can get spectacular pictures of a cosplayer in a controlled environment such as a studio. You have complete control over the lighting and setup but it’s not always the best place to shoot if you want to capture a really outstanding picture. For this we need to head out into the great outdoors.

Finding a scenic location to shoot at isn’t easy. If you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful city or picturesque country village please take advantage of it. Head out with your camera and do some location scouting. Capture a shot of all the locations you think would look good as a background. Upload them to your computer and make a folder of locations so you can browse through them in the future. Build a catalogue of photoshoot location options and use them to enhance your pictures.

One important thing to note is that some locations will require you to gain permission before you shoot there. I shot the catwoman costume pictures in a previous post underneath Leeds railway station. There are a number of fantastic tunnels that set a wonderful scene. I didn’t realise that these tunnels were privately owned and we had a visit mid-shoot from the onsite security. They were very polite about it and asked us to seek permission before shooting next time. Lesson learnt.

The final thing to consider is safety. Working in unsecured locations can be a real issue as you have no control over who is around while you shoot. Working at night brings it’s own issues. Here’s a checklist of things you need to think about and do:

  • Scout a location thoroughly before you work there. Take a walk down to the site a few times around the time you’ll be shooting to see if it’s safe to shoot.
  • Let people know where you’re going. It could be your parents, a friend or a work colleague.
  • Take someone with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a model or photographer having a friend, colleague or assistant with you can help to look after all of the people involved in the shoot.
  • Don’t brake the law!
  • Get insurance on your kit. If you’re going out with an expensive camera and equipment you’ll need so insurance in case of theft or damage. Piece of mind is a wonderful thing.


A Cosplayer or Model

Girl in supergirl costume

Image Source: Ani-Mia

You might think that employing a professional model to act as your cosplayer might produce higher quality pictures and on many occasions you’re probably right. They know how to pose, are generally time efficient, have experience doing their own makeup to a high standard and you can be very selective about who you pick to match the look you’re aiming for.

On the other hand, working with a cosplayer or group who’ve developed their chosen characters over a period of time and have an intimate knowledge of them can’t be matched. They’ve probably studied the character extensively and know what you’re looking for with little direction. This is a huge advantage when it comes to picking who you shoot with.


Post Production Work

Two pictures of a cosplay girl side by side

Image Source: Kassandra Leigh

This first piece of advice I heard in relation to post production is this. If you can setup a shot and nail it straight out of the camera do so. Post production should be a last resort.

Touching up a shot that you’ve taken in Photoshop isn’t always necessary but adding some photo editing software to your arsenal is massive plus. Photoshop made by Adobe is an expensive piece of software to buy if you’re a hobbyist photographer. For anyone wanting some free photo editing software check out GIMP, which you can download here.

I shoot in the RAW format with my camera working in full manual and (at the time of writing this) use both Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4.1 for all of my post production editing. I start off putting it into Lightroom and adjusting the settings on offer. I then save the initial edit and open it in Photoshop to finish to off. Everyone has their own way of editing so try the different software you have access to and see what works best for you.

Youtube is your friend. There are thousands of excellent tutorials looking at all types of photography for you to watch and pick up valuable skills. Watch plenty of videos and bookmark your favourites for future reference. Practise those new found skills and the quality of your shots should improve.

I was recommended this site by a friend not so long ago and it blew my mind. If you hold your mouse over each of the pictures it shows you the before and after post production pictures. The editor is a professional and it’s an extreme example of post production but it just goes to show what can be created from a simple shot.


Come up With an Original Concept

Now for something completely different. If you’re not able to work in an exotic location or one that matches up well with a chosen character you might want to try a different approach.

Concept based photo sets are a lot of fun and usually well received if the concept is a good one. Brainstorm some ideas taking into account what you have access to and try them out. Some will work while others won’t.

Here’s an example of a fantastic cosplay concept group:

Zombie version of 3 Disney princesses.

Image Source: Blasteh

In this shot the cosplayers created zombie versions of three Disney princesses. This concept has now been replicated by various cosplay groups around the world and has generally been done very well. Your backdrop could be pretty much anything with the focus firmly set on the cosplayers.


Other Resources To Check Out

I’ve mentioned a few topics above that’ll help to improve the quality of your cosplay pictures. The following resources offer some tutorials, tips and advice that I’ve found invaluable over the last year. Bookmark these sites and visit them regularly for new information.

  • The Strobist – Packed full of fantastic posts about off camera flash photography. You’ll find a brilliant beginners guide that provided me with valuable tips and hundreds of posts from professionals.
  • YouTube – Everyones favourite video website is full to the brim of photography and post production tutorials. Bookmark your favourites and come back to them when you need some tips.
  • Deviant Art – Stuck for ideas or just want to see some awesome cosplay pictures? This site is jam packed with them and new shots are added everyday. A prior warning though. Expect to get lost in this site for days.


My Final Words on Cosplay Pictures and Photography

Many of you reading this article will have significantly more experience than myself and I encourage you to share some tips, resources or advice to others. If you disagree with the advice mentioned in this article please let us all know in the comments section below. Please be constructive with your comments so that we can all learn and develop our photography together.

If you liked this article and want to share it with your friends or other professionals you can do so via the social links below.

Related Posts

About the Author: David Hayler

The owner of Otley Run Fancy Dress and a fancy dress guru. He's also an amateur photographer who has experience with cosplay and costume photography.

Leave a comment