6 Common Mistakes Made When Photographing Cosplayers

Note: This is not drawn from experiences with any of the wonderful professional photographers I’ve worked with. This for beginners and the “cell phone photographers” out there, to help you get professional looking shots.

1: Not asking permission
Too many times I’ve spotted someone trying to take a picture of me or my friends while we’re simply talking or 
checking out a vendor. If this is done because you think the cosplayer doesn’t want to do photos, it’s wrong on two levels. If they don’t want their photo taken, you shouldn’t be taking one against their wishes.
But, most cosplayers seriously love being asked for pics. We just want to know it’s happening so we can help you get a much better shot.
2: Not giving prep time
Now, you’ve asked for a photo and the cosplayer happily agrees, so you should immediately start snapping, right?
Not so fast. Lots of us still need to put our bags down, put on costume pieces like gloves or a mask, or simply get into our favorite pose. We all want to present our best selves, and you want us looking our best and most in-character. Give us a moment, or expect us to look quite confused and unprepared… 

3: Too much headspace
So now everyone is ready and posed epically- and you’ve got your subject’s head in the middle of the shot, with two feet of empty space above them. Center us in the shot, by all means, but the less unnecessary headroom you have, the more you can show of that costume you wanted to capture in the first place. Basically, the subject’s head should be near the top of the photo, not the middle. 
4: Bad lighting
The other thing you definitely want in the right place is your light source. Having the light behind someone is not going to look great unless you’re going for some very specific looks, such as silhouettes.  
Find a well-lit area where the (preferably natural) light is in front of them, or try using your flash.  
5: No way to find the photos
Hopefully, you’ve now taken a great picture that your subject wants to keep and post everywhere. But…you didn’t give them a way to find it or contact you, and now it’s sadly lost to them.
I’m not saying you should purchase a bunch of business cards for your hobby, but even having a few slips of paper with your Facebook page or email address written down will give them an easy way to get in touch. Or ask if they have a card and message them about sending it.
And if the cosplayer offers you a card but you have no intention of posting or sharing their photos with them, just take it anyway.
I once offered a card to a guy after he took my photo and he turned it down, stating the photo was “just for personal use”.
I could have lived without knowing that.
6: Posting all the photos
Say you did all of that right, and are about to post and share all of the photos. Maybe not ALL of them though. If the cosplayer had their eyes closed or looked awkward in a picture, we’d generally prefer you don’t put those out on the internet.
Or if you took multiple shots just to be safe, (an awesome idea as in my experience, one of them usually ends up blurry) there’s no need to post nearly identical photos. Maybe someone has their chest puffed out to look heroic in one shot, and it’s deflated in another, so pick the ones where they look their best and leave the rest.
Are there any tips and tricks you have for getting great photos? And cosplayers- what are some things you wish photographers did or didn’t do?

About Mae Vanders

Mae, known on the internet as Maeden, is a cosplayer, writer, editor, photographer, videographer, and whatever else she needs to be. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as @MaedenArt

View all posts by Mae Vanders

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