If you ever wonder how to take epic cosplay photos while you are at a game expo or similar kind of conferences, then you are at the right spot! Back in the days I remember going to different kinds of game expo with one sole purpose: to try out the new video games. But as I began to like photography I discovered this massive opportunity to practice portrait photography, develop your portfolio and learn flash photography all the same time. To make things even better, those people who dressed up as different characters in the conferences are willingly let you take pictures for free and for an extended period of time. Where else can you find that! I can’t tell you enough that this is a FANTASTIC opportunity to learn photography and to build up your confident as a photographer. Without further introduction, let me share with my tips and experience on how to take epic cosplay photos while you are at the conference.
1) Get a zoom lens
There is no set rule of which lens is the best to take epic cosplay photos. However, if you have a zoom lens the best range I found is usually around 85mm to 105mm. This way will allow you can stand further away and won’t be pointing your camera straight at people’s face. Also, the zoom compression around 85mm will make people look great (and slimmer!) on the photograph. One thing to be cautioned of is that you are doing portrait photography but without the lighting and background setup that you could do in a studio. The light source usually from the ceiling light at the conference center or natural light if you are outdoor. That is why we need the next thing below.
2) Get an external flash
In this environment you’ll have no control of light whatsoever therefore the only light source that can help you is an external flash. I can guarantee you’ll encounter different lighting situation throughout the day. The person you want to take pictures with may be standing in a dark area or outdoor where the sun casts different shadows. That is why it is essential to bring an external flash to fill the light in appropriate areas. I highly suggest you get the flash off camera in anyway possible or even get another person to hold the flash for you so it can be fired at a different angle. Right now, we got the lens and light source covered. What happen if you’ve a group of photographers in front of you and you can’t take a clear shot? Here is what you need next.
3) Get a portable ladder
Yes, I know this sounds crazy but I have seen so many people doing that. Do you rather want to travel to the game expo, carry all your photography gears, chasing around cosplay for photographs but at the end of the day all you see are pictures of heads on your photos? I know don’t and I’d rather look silly for a few hours carrying a portable ladder. With the ladder you can climb higher up to nail the shot with your zoom lens (that’s why I want you to bring a zoom lens in the first place). You’re now almost half way to an epic cosplay photos. You may now wonder what aperture should you use for cosplay photography? This is a great question so please keep reading!
4) Get the right aperture
The best aperture I found to use is F11. Certainly this is not the case for every scenario but generally to give you enough depth of field and sharpness of your subject you need f11 together with flash. If you are in an indoor situation you may need to lower the f stop.
5) Get a great background
Now what about background? In order to avoid distractions you should find a place where you can give the cosplay a background consist of one color. I tend to like working with a black background and it basically works like a seamless background in a studio. But since you’re at the conference and not in a studio you’ll need to look for something similar to that. Last time at the conference I found a big board covered with black clothes and it worked perfectly. Remember to stand further back from the board (or whatever you can find) so the background can be pure black.
6) Get the correct focus point
In order to have the same level of sharpness thought the face of your subject, you NEED TO FOCUS ON THE EYES! Some people suggest aiming at the tip of the nose but sometimes if you aperture is low (say f1.8) the rest of the face will become blurry. I don’t want that to happen to you so the safest area to focus is the eyes with around f11 aperture.
7) Get the right camera position
This is subjective to many people but I recommend shooting at eye level. But if you are using a ladder or taking pictures on an uneven ground then use your creativity and composition skills to frame the shot. Stand around 8 feet away from your subject and you can’t really go wrong with this set up.
8) Get loud and shout
If you are the only photographer taking pictures with the cosplay model then this is not an issue. However, if there are 50 other photographers pointing the cameras at the cosplay model then you must let he/she know your existence. Don’t be shy and shout out ‘please look at this camera’ in order to get their attention. At first I feel this is rude but after a number of times I figure if I don’t speak up I’ll never get eye contact for a great photo. So don’t be afraid to get loud and only shoot upon eye contact with your camera.
9) Get the right head level
The best position is to place your subject’s head at the top 1/3 of the frame. This is one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen and this is often the easiest to fix. When you are taking a close up picture remember to NOT leave too much headroom for a more dramatic photo.
10) Have fun
If you read my other posts I always mention this. Photography is fun and we truly enjoy what we are doing. Remember to engage in conversation with people, talk about their favorite characters and how they made their costumes. I’m sure you have already won half the battle on taking epic cosplay photos if both you and your model are engaged with each other! Happy shooting photographers!
Do you have any cosplay photos that you want to share with the community? Any other tips you want to let us know? Please share in the comment section below!