Cosplay Photoshoot Tips – The Complete Beginner’s Guide



Hello people, let me do some good ranting before we start. If you just want cosplay photography tips, feel free to skip this section of my randomness.

I know that there are already 999999 photoshoot tutorials out there… but surprisingly, only a few of them address cosplay photography.

I mean, cosplay has been around since like, the 1980s? Maybe the photography world doesn’t recognize cosplay photography as a “school” of it’s own yet.

To you who chose this less recognized path – well done!

This is one of the most fun photography to do. Forget those who says cosplay photography is for kids, they do not know the dark side of the force.

Cosplay photography may be a relatively new “field” in the world of photography, some might not even acknowledge it, but let us put some darkness light into it.

In this guide, I shall share my 2 cents worth of knowledge in cosplay photography – let us move Cosplay Photography forward a step at a time.



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Nah. These are just things to keep the blog going, and allows me to give more good stuff to you guys - for free. So thank you if you decide to pick up my recommendations!




Section A
Shoot Process

Section B
Planning & Preparation

Section C
Shooting Tips

Section D

Section E
Magic Cheap Props

Review and improve




I shall now introduce this “thing” called “photoshoot process”.

By this, I mean that photoshoots are a 3 stage process of pre-shoot (before the shoot), during the shoot, and post-shoot (after the shoot).

Most newbies should be lost at this point. What? Do you mean that photoshoots are not point, shoot and post on Facebook?

Well yes, you can do that.

But if you want to turn snapshots into epic shots, you have to do more that just “point-and-shoot”. You have to do homework before the shoot, and hard work after the shoot.

That said, I am not forcing anyone to join the dark side adopt my shoot process. You have to decide your own level of photography and what is “fun” to you.

If you think that Photoshop is not for you, and you want to keep your photos “pure” – go ahead. This guide ultimately shares my approach to shoots, and you can choose to adopt which processes you think are good.




Always do some homework before the shoot. Don’t walk into a shoot like a boss, but end up like a noob.

Don’t be lazy with the preparation work, they can be a pain, but it ensures that things don’t go wrong.


B1) Plan the theme for your shoot

Choose a theme, this one is “levitation”

Which series are you going to shoot? Which character or characters? A dark, evil character? Holy moly goodie character? Medieval, modern, fantasy or futuristic?

You need to have a theme or concept for your photoshoot. Don’t try to stick broken pieces together last minute during the shoot. That usually end up badly and reflect on your photos.


B2) Where will be the shoot location?

Do your research and find the perfect backdrop for your shoot.

Just don’t break the ultimate taboo of putting a medieval shoot on a modern street, or turn a Japanese theme into Austin Powers.

Here are a few considerations for choosing a location :

  • Indoor or outdoor?
  • Are shoots allowed on that location?
  • Do you need a permit?
  • Can that place fit your photoshoot group?
  • What facilities does that place have?
  • Does it have a place for the cosplayers to change?
Check with the authorities when unsure. Even if they are a*** about many things.


B3) Scout the shoot location

No harm scouting your chosen shoot location before hand. Take a few location reference photos for yourself, keep for future use or forward it to help some friends.

It is also good to scout ahead so you don’t get lost on shoot day, and to confirm if the area is open for shoots.


B4) Pick a date and time

Now pick a good date and time for the shoot. If you are shooting outdoors, it is always good to check the weather forecast first.

Remember to come up with a backup plan too, just-in-case things go wrong.


B5) Think of poses and shoot ideas

Look familiar? Source : DevianArt

Don’t wait for cosplayers to pose for you. As the photographer, you make your own photos. Convey your ideas to the cosplayers even before the shoot, and make sure they agree to it.

Need some random poses? Visit Senshi Stock.


B6) Download reference photos

Don’t go in unprepared.

Just download a bunch of reference photos and pictures that you find interesting into your phone. They always come in handy during shoots regardless.


B7) Prepare your props!

What props? Do photographers even need props?

Yes, and there are all sorts of props that you can use to spice up your image – flower petals, confetti, feathers, bubble gun, etc… You can buy all of these on eBay for just a few bucks, and they don’t take up much space. I have dedicated a whole section below on props that you can use.


B8) Prepare the emergency kit

My “emergency kit”

What now?! The photographer has to be a medic as well?

Well yes, a cosplay medic. My “emergency kit” consists of a few simple items :

  • Band aid
  • Anti-Mozzie spray
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Safety pins

Yep, these are not much as an “emergency kit”, but they did good for the past few years and they are permanently stuck inside the bag.


B9) Make sure you have all your gear

Pack your bags, make sure that you have all the gear you need.

Going into a shoot with a flat battery or missing lens is going to put your head on the chopping board.



Photo shoots are so much more than just pointing your camera and snapping away.

Lights, action, camera, and fun. They all go together.


C1) Talk, don’t be a wimp, don’t be a creep

Never go into a shoot without a word, shoot without a word and disappear like a shadow into the darkness.

That is just scary.

If you want to shoot cosplay photography, then don’t hide behind the wall… don’t stand in a corner, or start mumbling in some unknown language.

You have stood behind the camera, but have you ever tried standing in front of it? If you are aware, there is always this scary person with a big camera.

Getting to know your subject during the shoot will lighten up the mood, and shooting with friends are always much easier than with strangers.

P.S. I am a quiet person too, but I TALK AND SOCIALIZE. I love people in the cosplay circle who are also gamers, anime fans, and photographers.


C2) Set the mood

Happy series? Just have some fun and keep the mood light. Dark series? Play some dark songs… but keep the mood light.

Just by talking and setting the right mood will do a lot of magic to your photos, and most newbies don’t “make full use” of this.

Well, I admit. I tend not to talk a lot in group shoots or when time is limited.

But whenever time permits, you should always take some time to chat with the cosplayer and share some reference photos.

Talk about a particular scene in the anime / movie and set the mood on the right track.


C3) Be the role model

Be a sakura wolverine

Show your ideas, demonstrate by posing them yourself. Go into the “shall we try this” mode. Lead, not slave drive.


C4) Over expose your photos (a little)

I know, many people preach about “perfect exposure” and how an over-exposed photo is bad.

But over the years, I find that over exposing portraits a little does it’s own good in hiding some flaws.

Plus, this is a pretty common technique used everywhere to produce that clean and simple look.


C5) Mind the sun (while you are outdoors)

When shooting outdoors, always mind the direction of the sun.

You don’t want cosplayers to directly face the sun on a clear day, and have them start squinting.

It will be a smart move to use the sun as a backlight instead… or bring a super huge soft box and use the sun as an over-sized flash.


C6) Chimp your photos

Chimp thy photos

The days of film have passed. You have a digital camera? You can view the photo after each shot? Then chimp on it.

Make sure you have the shot right, and zoom in to check if your photo is sharp.

Get the shot right on the spot, and not regret later at home.


C7) Show your shots

Are you done with the chimping? Now go show the photo to your cosplayer.

Showing your shots to the cosplayer puts him/her at ease that you are not some perverted uncle/auntie.

If it is a bad shot, just show it and think of ways to improve on the shot. If it is a good shot, compliment!


C8) Don’t get too intimate

Some people like to shoot portraits with a wide angle lens. No problem.

Some people like to shoot really up close and personal with the wide angle. Uncomfortable, but no problem.

Have an entire shoot with your camera in the cosplayer’s face? That’s just freaky.


C9) Use the correct metering mode

If you are shooting close up and don’t mind the background, use the spot metering mode.

Otherwise, the partial metering mode should work just fine. If you are into environmental portraits, use the evaluative mode.

Here is a cheat sheet you can use from Digital Camera World.


C10) Don’t always shoot straight

Straight works, but is just plain boring. Learn the Dutch way, do the Dutch Tilt. Top down and bottom up works too. (But don’t be a pervert to shoot up-skirts)


C11) Use the right aperture

Bokeh whoring is good, but not always correct. When you are shooting full body or a group, make sure you have sufficient depth of field to capture those details.


C12) Frame the cosplayer correctly

Frame it right – 3/4 body

If you want to frame someone, learn to do it correctly. It is just unbearable to watch whenever the framing goes wrong.

  • Full body, 3/4 body, 1/2 body or close up?
  • If it is a 3/4 body shot, frame to about the knees… and not “full body minus the feet”
  • If it is a 1/2 body shot, frame to about the hips, and not “1/2 body, inclusive of some legs”
  • Make sure that the head is not “chopped off”
  • Make sure that hands and legs are not “chopped off” in an awkward way
  • If the framing looks strange to you, move and recompose

That said, these are only guidelines for composition. Nothing is set in stone for creativity. The only rule is that, if you have to break the rules for a good shot, break it.


C13) Compose and focus, not the other way

Newbies might be confused with this one. Just know that there is an advanced technique – compose, focus, lock, recompose then shoot. Not going to teach that here.

When you are just started out, keep things simple and remember these steps – compose, focus, shoot. 


C14) Learn to flash

Camera flash, not that kind of “flash”… Some newbies think they can take amazing pictures with that tiny built-in pop up flash.

No, that is horrible. Use it as your last resort.

Go buy yourself a cheap $10 CY-20 Universal Flash and foldable flash diffuser for just $2. Shipping included. Just stay away from the tiny popup.

If you have a bit more to spare, go get a decent YongNuo – Nikon, Canon, Sony.



So after the shoot, you just pack and the end?

Nope. One does not simply eat raw eggs, nor post raw photos.

Learn to edit your photos, even if it is just a simple touch up.


D1) Edit your photos, purists included

For the Photoshop lovers, I have another tutorial for you guys (click on the link below).

For you purists who hate Photoshop so much, you can burn it into ash, drink it and flush it down the toilet.

No. Not really.

At least learn how to adjust the white balance, colors, contrast and remove a few dust spots in your camera. That will not hurt your “purist pride” now, aye?

How to edit epic cosplay photos


D2) No Photoshop?

If you do not already have a copy of Photoshop or Lightroom, click on the banner below to check out an offer.


D3) Free tools for editing

No money for Photoshop? Check out GIMP, the free Photoshop alternative. Also, there are a whole list of free apps these days.

Cosplay Photo Editor Apps – Which is the best?



Have a few bucks to spare?

Get yourself some very affordable props, and add magic to your photos. Yep, cosplayers are not the only ones who need props.


E1) Fake flower petals – [Get from eBay]

Grab a whole pack of petals, and throw them into the air. Instant magic.



E2) Feathers – [Get from eBay]

Want more epic? Throw in some feathers.

White Day Umi


E3) Confetti – [Get from eBay]

As above… just throw and add to the magic.


E4) Artificial flowers, vines and branches – [Sakura] [Maple] [Flowers]

When you can’t get the real thing, get a fake one. It looks just about as nice, and it does not expire.

Touken Ranbu


E5) Bubble Gun – [Get from eBay]

I don’t think I need to explain how to use this one… Run free and relive your childhood dreams.


E6) Nerf Super Soaker [Get from eBay]

No rain? Create one yourself with a Super Soaker. Just note that you will need some strong lights behind.



So we have come to the end of this long guide, and I hope this has been some help to you.

No one becomes an expert overnight. So what happens after every shoot? Review what is good and what went wrong – That is what I have been doing for years.

Keep shooting, have fun, and you will become better at it naturally!


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