We thought it was time for a change of focus, pun intended, and today we’re going to take a quick look and offer some sound advice for the hidden people of Cosplay, the people that hide on the other side of the camera.
Although they’re usually hidden behind fancy equipment or computer screens the army of photographers that capture the amazing art of Cosplayers make up a large parts of the cosplay community. There are always plenty of people at conventions taking photos of their favorite cosplays and cosplayers.
Here are Beyond Cosplay’s TOP TEN TIPS to help your photos stand out among the thousands of photos taken at a convention.
1) Shoot Anyone
If you are just starting out, you may not be ready to yet start asking cosplayers out to full private shoots. One of the great thing about conventions is that cameras are free game. Walk the convention halls, and ask anyone you please if you can take a photo. In my 3 years of doing cosplay photography, I am yet to be denied a photo by a cosplayer walking the convention. Shoot anything. Not just the people and Characters you personally like.
Having a nice variety of people, characters and fandoms will attract more people to your work.
Here is a photo of the very first convention I ever shot, just walking the floor asking everyone and anyone for photos of the cosplay they had put together.
2) Use Manual Mode While Indoors
It is always best to manually expose your shots. It’s all fine and well to use an auto exposure mode out doors in the nice bright sun, but indoors and other darker environments auto exposure won’t cut the mustard. In auto mode, your camera will do its best to keep a balance between ISO, Shutter Speed and aperture. This may cause motion blur if the shutter speed is set too low or noise if your ISO is set too high.
It may mean that you’ll need to spend some extra time to learn more about your camera and it’s settings, but isn’t that of why you picked up a camera in the first place? To Create?
Using auto mode, will rarely get the effect you want or will expose for the wrong part of your Image and that can result in a poor or unusable photo. Manual gives you full control allowing you to get the desired effect and expose your image for the subject, not the areas around or behind it.
Use An Appropriate Environment
So you have practiced, gained a little bit of a following and you are now ready to do some private shoots or you have been approached and been asked. This is where you now need to include some planning and one of the biggest things that will make or break a photo, is the environment.
Try and fit your environment into the theme of the characters you are taking photos of as well as making sure you have the desired lighting to get the image you want. This isn’t always the easiest at a convention, but a little planning beforehand will allow you to get something in theme or at least as close as you can.
Show in the image bellow is a Resident Evil Cosplay taken at Supanova 2015 at Sydney Olympic park. This was my attempt to recreate a scene from the game using the environment I had.
Use Character Props
When you really want to show a certain scene or give a picture some life, get creative with props and different angles. A character can hold a prop, and sure it looks nice but if you can get them to use it in a creative way, you can really give a photo some life and even the “WOW” factor you and your subject are looking for. In the photo below, I asked the cosplayer to throw cards at me to give the image just that little bit something more.
Get creative with Lighting Around You
This is something that can have an awesome effect on a photo. So before reaching for your flash straight away, look at the lights around you. Using things such as floor lights, street lamps or sun positioning can have a dramatic effect on the end result of your photo. You can set a mood, emulate a different time of day or use it to make your subject “pop” from the environment. In the image below, I used the sun and its position to give the photo a warm summer walk feeling.
Use different perspectives
Angles are a big thing. Looking from different perspectives can set moods, as well as give power to a subject or even remove power. Standing over a subject and shooting down, will remove any power from your subject, making them look little or weak. Shooting up, will make them look more powerful. The angle you use depends on the character you are shooting. The shot below is an example of giving the subject power in a photo. The cosplayer standing over me gives a feel of her being in control and having power.
Experiment with off camera Flashes
Flash photography is a whole different ball game and takes a lot of practice, however you can pull off some nice images having a subject lit in different ways. You can give a feeling of mystery by keeping certain things in shadow or you can completely light up an area behind to make a silhouette. You can remove shadow if you use a flash during the day as well. The possibilities are endless.
Set a mood
A mood can be set in many ways. From facial expression, to environment and color effects as well. Bright, Vibrant images will give off a happy feeling while dark images including Black and white can give off sad effects. Using these to make a person viewing your work feel emotion will add to the appeal of the shot you have taken. Fit a mood to the character you are shooting to have the best effect. This Image of the girl at a tomb stone uses both Black and white and the pose of the subject to set the mood of the Image.
Have Confidence and Be respectful when looking for Models
So a con is coming up and you are looking for cosplayers to shoot. If there is a certain cosplayer you are personally wanting to take photos of, don’t be afraid to contact them. Send them a nice, respectful message asking if they may be interested in a private shoot along with some sample work or a link to your page so they can see what you can produce. If they Decline, Respond with a polite “Thank you” and don’t continue to pester them. Try again another time.
If a cosplayer happens to message you asking for a shoot, respond accordingly. If you are booked and totally busy, tell them in a polite way and mention that you will do your best to fit them in if someone happens to pull out of a shoot. Remember it has taken a lot of confidence for them to message you and ask for a shoot, never belittle them and one personal rule you SHOULD have is no cosplay, or cosplayer is beneath your work.
They may not have the most stunning costume, but they worked just as hard to get their cosplay together as any other. Everyone gets a fair chance.
Don’t be afraid to mess around in Post production
This is another major thing. Post is where you emulate lighting, moods or add your own special effects to images. If you plan to do some heavy editing, I certainly recommend shooting RAW (.nef For Nikon and .tif for Canon) as there is a lot more editing you can do to a raw file over a .jpg file. Mess around in your personally preferred software, in my case is Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC.
Here is where you add or your nice special effects and touch up your image. If you shoot and it comes out wrong or poor exposure. You can turn a bad image into a fantastic image by touching up light, contrast, vibrancy, highlights and all the other sliders to reach a desired effect in your image. Here is a very rare side by side of a shot taken at Supanova 2015. As you can see, the image on the left that is unedited is pretty terrible. But after a Crop, and a few other effects I have turned a somewhat poor image into a nice late afternoon looking scene with Sinnon resting after a long day of fighting. So before you put a shot in the trash, see what you can do with it in post. Chances are you may be able to save it and turn it into an amazing image.
One extra thing, don’t over do it. I see to many good images over worked, over tweaked and over cooked. One good way to tell, walk away from a finished image and have a look at it a few hours later on. Forget about the 8 hours you’ve spent on it for a second and give your image an honest appraisal.