I AM COSPLAY PHOTOGRAPHER
Welcome to a guide on how to become a cosplay photographer. Yeah. It’s kind of a weird guide for me to be writing. But as I was researching for some cosplay photography stuff, Google actually suggested this search phrase – Which means that enough people are actually interested in cosplay photography. It’s a good sign, that I am not alone in this. So here, let senpai share some thoughts, memes and experience in this session.
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
GETTING INTO COSPLAY PHOTOGRAPHY
So how do we get started with cosplay photography? Go take some cosplay photos. That’s it. There are plenty of anime and gaming conventions worldwide these days – that is the best place to get started. Hint : Do a search of “cosplay events” or “anime events” on Google. But if you want to dive in deeper, here’s how.
THE HEART OF COSPLAY PHOTOGRAPHY
Cosplay photography, is not just about “taking photos of people in costume”. You need to understand that the root of cosplay comes from gaming, anime and movies. In cosplay photography, it is all about bringing out the story and characters.
So if you do not know the series or character, you will be an alien walking among cosplayers. So if you are not an avid gaming or anime fan, things are going to be difficult for you. But it is not too late to get started – No time to play the game or watch the entire series? There are always reviews and previews on YouTube. Welcome to the dark side.
The number one golden rule in cosplay photography – no body shaming or racism. OH this character is supposed to be white, why is she black? He is too fat to cosplay that character. The props are a joke. She is too ugly for a goddess.
I have seen people cosplay in wheelchairs. I have seen an XL sized team of Sailor Moon, and Vocaloid in hijab. That is what makes cosplay interesting, and there is no shame in it. The mission of a good cosplay photographer is to bring out the best from cosplayers, not to shame them.
In many years of my journey, I have seen many people following the “wall of photographers” during events. I was one of those. No, it is not wrong in a sense, but after a couple of years of doing the same thing, getting the same shots as everyone else – It feels like I am one of those zombies in an apocalypse.
In cosplay photography, you are after all, dealing with people. If you see a cosplayer that you like, be bold, and (ask nicely) for a shot. Maybe even for a short 5 minutes private shoot session. You will be surprised how different things are after you strike up a simple conversation.
DO YOU NEED BIG GUNS AND ROSES?
Do you need to be a skilled photographer to be a cosplay photographer? No. Anyone who knows how to handle a camera well enough can become a casual photographer.
Do you need expensive cameras and gear to be a cosplay photographer? No… But it sure is nice to have those on hand.
There are unwritten rules in conventions, and it kind of differs from country-to-country.
In Japan, you queue up to take photos of cosplayers. Cosplayers will also have their Twitter handle written on a card, so you can credit them properly.
In Taiwan, the cosplayer will pose for a couple minutes, then there is this “countdown”. Once the countdown is over, you let the cosplayer rest.
In Singapore and Malaysia, it’s kind of “open”. But if you see a cosplayer engaged with a shoot in a photographer’s “mini studio”, you probably don’t want to cut in without asking.
In any case, just don’t “sneak up” on a cosplayer, and take photos when they do not want to.
Finally, what is the point of forcing yourself to do something you don’t like? In cosplay photography, it is about having fun together with like-minded people who loves games and anime. It is about challenging yourself to bring fiction into reality… In crazy ways if you must.
If you looking to move on as a serious cosplay photographer, you will have to work with cosplayers in private shoots. But when it comes to asking, some photographers start to hyper-ventilate, pass out on the floor, and foam in their mouth. Yes, it is not easy at first. Especially when you start looking at all the pros dealing 9999 damage, and yours only dealt 1 damage.
EVERYONE HAS TO START SOMEWHERE
Yes, I was one of those “zombies” before. I started with not even a single flash, and just a simple camera. What do you think? Everyone starts from somewhere.
That somewhere is as simple as asking a cosplayer “can I take a photo”. Put in some guts, it then turns into “it’s too busy here, mind if we shoot against a clean background such as a wall?”. Finally, turn that into “your cosplay is very nice, mind if we exchange Facebook contact”.
HONOR THY TIME AND PHOTOS
Private shoots also mean that you have to release photos to the cosplayer. In one way or another. I have seen way too many “dishonorable” photographers not releasing a single photo, and get flamed for it. The best part is, the cosplay circle remembers. Once black listed, it will be hard for you to find more willing cosplayers.
COLLABORATING WITH OTHERS
I do think it is important to not be a lone wolf within the cosplay circle. It will be difficult to truly enjoy photography or cosplay that way. If you have friends who are already into cosplay photography, stick with them. Working with the more experienced folks will kick-start your journey in cosplay photography.
But beware with who you work with though… The chemistry between each and every person is different. Just don’t end up in the “getting used as free helper” corner.
Now for the million dollar question. Paid shoots. Yes you can, if you have the skills to boot. So far, I have only seen a few “professional” cosplay photographers, and they are not making a living out of it. So yeah. Cosplay photography is still in the infant stage, and don’t depend on it too much.
To do cosplay photography, you will need to have a camera, which I assume you already have. But wait, if you intend to go deep into cosplay photography, be prepared to spend some money. Here are some good recommendations for you to consider.
You should at least have some decent lighting with you, since you will be dealing in portrait photography. If you are on a DSLR or mirrorless camera that allows you to mount a flash, please go get yourself a decent flash unit.
I will recommend a cheap-and-good YongNuo YN-685, which has a built-in wireless receiver – For Nikon | For Canon. Also, get yourself one of these 9 inch mini softbox while doing so. If you are really serious, go get yourself a light stand, softbox, YongNuo Wireless Transmitter, and not forgetting the holder. If you need some help with flash photography, do check out my other guide.
For you guys who are on a simpler camera, you can still get yourself a led panel – A YongNuo YN-300 Pro Video Light will do nicely. If not, even a pocket sized Godox LED Video Light is way better than the smartphone’s tiny LED.
So ends this simple guide, but the beginning of a long journey. The important point? Pick up your camera, and start shooting. It’s really that simple. Don’t overthink too much, and cosplay photography is something meant to be enjoyed. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on becoming better.
If you have questions, feel free to comments below, and feel free to poke around my cosplay gallery for inspirations