One of the best compliments as a cosplayer is someone asking to take your photo. If you’re not a natural in front of a camera though (I’m certainly not!) it can be a bit awkward knowing what to do with yourself. Whether it’s hall shots or a full photoshoot, here’s some tips to help you relax and enjoy it.
Get on Google images and get searching. Does your character have an iconic pose, or an element of their character you can portray with a pose? For example, for hall shots, for Lara Croft I pose holding up the guns like she does in the games when you have the auto-focus on, like this:
For Poison Ivy, I blow kisses. If you need lots of poses, for example for a shoot, really crank up the research. Look at stills, fan-art, the original comic art (whatever’s relevant). Save images of poses you like. Take them with you to the shoot, and share them with the photographer. I find looking at other cosplay photos really helpful for getting ideas of things I could do. For Silk Spectre, I ended up looking at loads of classic pin-up art, as that vibe fitted the character. Google is your friend!
You’ve done your research and now someone is pointing a camera at you. Gulp. Now what? Basic tips: over exaggerate whatever it is you’re doing. Facial expressions and poses look ‘smaller’ in a photo, so go big. It’ll feel weird, but look much better. Be aware of your hands and feet. People tend to clench their hands when they’re not comfortable, and it looks so odd in pictures. Try and hold them as naturally as possible. Practise at home in the mirror. You’ll feel like a berk, I’m sure, but you’ll know what the poses look like. You can work out what angles show off your costume best and are most flattering for your figure. Better to learn at home that a certain angle makes you look weird than when you get your pictures back. Practice faces and get used to what your muscles feel like when you do it, so you can recreate the face at a convention without the mirror. There are a lot of great guides out there for cosplay posing. This one from Tux Team is great. Elite Cosplay‘s series of videos on posing for photoshoots are also fantastic.
Remember, you can say no if someone asks you for a picture. If you’re not convinced about someone’s motives, say no and move on. If someone asks you to move to a quieter area, think sensibly. Take a friend along with you. If you’re working with a photographer for a shoot, have a look at their previous work to get an idea of whether you like their style. Choose someone you like and trust. It makes so much difference to the pictures you get out of it. Shoots with photographers I know vaguely are never as good as when I work with friends. My favourite pictures of me are by either Sandy Smith Photography or Gonzography. What do they have in common? They’re both friends of mine.
Whether it’s moving away from the convention hall, or a separately organised shoot, shooting on location has some unique challenges. Think about where you’re going and what sort of attention you’ll attract and if you’re comfortable with that. For example, David and I used a graffiti wall in a children’s play area for shots of Rogue and Gambit. I was fine in Rogue, but wouldn’t have taken Poison Ivy or Silk Spectre to a location like this. I have to think carefully about where to take Lara Croft, due to both the outfit and the props. I have shot Lara outside of a hotel we were staying in and wouldn’t do so again. We attracted a lot of attention from the road and gathered a bit of an audience of men, and caused some upset working with the guns.
Can you travel in costume? Where can you change if you need to? Think about how much of your costume you can get on in advance. Trust me, it’s a lot easier than trying to change in the car! Take something to change into afterwards, or at least have something to slip over the top. If you’re outside in cold weather, take something warm to put on between shots. What’s the terrain like where you’re shooting? I’ve shot Poison Ivy in an abandoned brewery. There was a lot of rubble underfoot, and a fair bit of climbing involved to get in. I couldn’t have done it in the shoes I use for Ivy, so packed flats for navigating and changed my shoes for photos.
Take someone with you. Not only is it safer if you’re working with a photographer you don’t know, it’s actually really useful to have someone there. Whatever I’m shooting, you can guarantee David is there. Whether or not we’re working together, he comes along. He usually has all the pose inspiration saved on his phone so he can show me and the photographer. He holds lights, keeps an eye on my stuff, is ready to answer questions if we attract an audience and generally makes the experience more fun and laid back. In my Silk Spectre shots, if I’m looking off camera, I’m usually making eye contact with David. My facial expressions are a hell of a lot more natural if I’m genuinely smiling at him, rather than faking it.
You’ve got your beautiful photos back from your shoot, and you can’t wait to share them. If you’re sharing them anywhere, make sure you credit your photographer. Even though it’s you in the photo, because they took it, they own it. Include their name and if you’re on Facebook, tag their page. It’s a requirement, and good manners, to credit and give them some traffic. They should do the same for you. Check if your photographer has specific rules about what is allowed with their pictures. Most will watermark their pictures and some specify that you cannot crop images (apart from for profile pictures) in such a way that the mark is lost. Others prefer you not to submit images for print. If you’re ever not sure, ask. I am yet to meet a photographer who’s been awkward or unreasonable about using their pictures.
What’s your top tip for getting amazing pictures?