Top 5 Cosplayer complaints about cosplay photos!

Dont be trashyDon’t be trashy, leave that to the fandoms! – Cosplayer JeanWanWan

I’m planning on writing a bunch of articles for beginner cosplay photographers so for research I asked a bunch of cosplayers what their complaints were about photographers and the photos they get back so that I could have an idea of what to talk about. There were tons of points worth bringing up so I’ll be writing a lot about all of them in the future but for now here’s a quick overview of the top 5 issues that repeatedly came up.

5. Creeper Photographers

I actually wrote an entire post on this. TL;DR is basically a cosplay photographer’s role is to take photos and that’s pretty much it. Photoshoots aren’t invitations for photographers to be close friends with cosplayers, try to hook up with them, or get them naked so if that’s your goal you should promptly put down the camera until its about the photos.
Here’s the post on creepy photographers. As an addendum to that post because a few people were asking about candid photos or trying to bring the concept of street photography into the mix, do you legally need permission to take a photo of someone in a public area? No. Does a cosplayer feel better about the lack of consent because it’s “street photography” or “candid”? No. It doesn’t matter what a photographer wants to call themselves or their photography the action itself is the same. If you’re regularly taking photos of cosplayers without asking they’re probably not going to like it unless they already trusted you before hand or your photos are hot fire.

Dont be a creeper!Don’t be a creeper, the cosplay community is so small everyone knows who the creeps are. – Cosplayers JeanWanWan and Danisaurz

4. Sloppy Shots

Photographers need to keep an eye on the state of their cosplayers during a shoot. It’s difficult to juggle general composition while managing details but it’s a necessary evil. To make things easier the photographer or the cosplayer can bring an assistant with them that can also watch the shoot and look for problems. It’s important to be attentive for out of place wigs, exposed underwear, and props or costumes falling apart. It’ll save photographers time in when editing and make for much more polished photos in the end. No matter how hard everyone tries during the shoot a few things will always slip by so in the shot selection phase of editing photographers should again be on the look out for these kinds of problems. If a photo has gross issues with the cosplayer or their costume that can’t be fixed with editing it should be tossed out. The same goes for photos that have major technical issues such as being blurry or severely over/under exposed. It’s better to get rid of a bad photo instead of delivering something that’s just outright awful.

No one wants to look like crapIf a prop or a costume is messed up it’s best to take the time to fix it before taking the photo. Cosplayer – JeanWanWan

3. Poor Direction/Posing

Most cosplayers are relatively new to being in front of the camera and even seasoned cosplayers need a little assistance from time to time. Inexperienced cosplayers should practice the poses and expressions of their character in front of a mirror in advance if they want to get the most out of their photoshoot time. Photographers also need to be able to help cosplayers come up with additional poses during a shoot or at least tell them when they’re doing something unflattering. Mirroring, which is when the photographer acts out the pose for the model, is the best way to show a cosplayer how to pose. If they can’t copy the pose through mirroring a photographer can reposition the cosplayer but they should ask for permission before touching them. Direction and posing are skills that comes with practice and experience of course but it’s something that both cosplayers and photographers have to actively practice doing in order to get better.

The yaoi is strong.Grab him by the neck and stare at him with the force of all your pent up yaoi sexual frustration. Cosplayers – Akr Cosplay and Rae Wolfe

2. Bad Lighting

Lighting is a huge facet of photography. A lot of new photographers don’t really understand it and whole books are written on the subject. Photographers should use the back of their camera to review the shots during the shoot and make adjustments. If the photographer is using natural light and the light sucks then they should move somewhere else or direct the cosplayers to pose in such a way that the light in that area works for them. Many experienced cosplayers are actually very skilled at finding decent natural light whether they know it or not because they do it all the time to take selfie’s so photographers can watch how good cosplayers photograph themselves as a way to learn about natural light. If shooting with flashes and the lighting isn’t good then reposition it to a better angle or adjust the power. As a cosplayer please listen to the advice of the photographer. I personally have directed cosplayers to face certain ways for the best lighting only for them to turn the opposite way right after. As a quick pointer the most important area to pay attention to with lighting in cosplay photos is the cosplayer’s face. Harsh shadows or splotchy highlights on the face can easily destroy a photo if done without specific intent.

Bad lightingWe went out in the morning and the light was so bad that even with the flashes I had on max power I couldn’t save it.
Good LightingWe went back later in the evening and got this instead. – Cosplayer JeanWanWan

1. No Skin Smoothing or Retouching

This is the biggest complaint I heard from cosplayers, pretty much all of them cried out that they wanted some kind of skin smoothing in their photos. I personally spend the majority of my editing time on skin retouching because I feel that it’s that important, your mileage may vary. The type of photograph and shooting style makes a big difference on how necessary it is as well. Full body shots may not need much editing but a close up on someone’s face compounded with flashes and high resolution DSLR’s with sharp lenses has a bad way of emphasizing every little imperfection. The amount and type of skin smoothing is up to the photographer’s style but from experience I’ll tell you that the better a photographer is at skin smoothing the more often cosplayers will want to work with them. My personal technique of choice is a combination of frequency separation and dodging and burning. Those are two of the more advanced techniques but I’ve seen other photographers just use the clone stamp and healing brush to remove blemishes and wrinkles, plugins like Portraiture, and filters like smart blur. YouTube is your best friend when it comes to learning these techniques. I’ll be sure to make a post in the future going into more detail about how I do it.

Smooth that skin!Identity hidden to protect the unretouched. To be fair though I could have done something to fill in the shadows so the before could go under the bad lighting category.


A lot of photographers like to talk about how much hard work and money goes into being a cosplay photographer, but it’s important to remember that working hard and buying a lot of equipment doesn’t instantly equal good photos. Photography is an art and just like face rolling a grand piano doesn’t make good music, and randomly splashing paint on a canvas doesn’t necessarily make a good painting, indiscriminately pushing the shutter button probably isn’t going to make amazing photos. At the end of the day the higher quality work a photographer puts out will increase the amount and quality of cosplayers that want to work with them. Don’t be trash, git gud.

497 Replies to “Top 5 Cosplayer complaints about cosplay photos!”

    1. Well if they’re paying then they should expect the typical level of work you put out. If they’re not paying they don’t really have the right to demand much. Either way the choice is up to the photographer how much work they want to put into the photo. The way I see it why bother even take a photo if you’re not going to put your heart into it?

  1. Hi, I’m a professional, not from your industry. I am also an active participant in the pacific northwest cosplay community. I wiuld like you to mnow that much of how you present the relationship between photographer and model is misguided and comes off as grosly misinformed and is frankly unprofessional and misleading.
    I implore you to reflect on the industry as a whole and how that relates to cosplay and amend some if your thinking.
    What you did well, is sell clickbait that you can use to convince uninformed people that you posess something other members of your sector of your industry do not.

    1. Thanks for your input Greg. I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say but I appreciate the time and effort you put in.

  2. skin retouch? Honestly? that´s why as cosplayers we use so much makeup, to get whitenend and imperfections taken off by photoshop and give a faake image of us?

    1. I’m glad that you have such confidence in your makeup! I think it would be great if more cosplayers had your level of confidence.

  3. the way this was poorly written has left me with the impression that photographers should worship the ground you walk on and bend over backwards and BEG for cosplayers to shoot with them.
    which is odd since you’re the Photographer… the hell man!?
    you missed so many fantastic and REALISTIC reasons to complain about a photographer.

    next time maybe spend your time on helping people find photographers that are LEGIT (like a varied of person and body types portfolio) (ability to use a simple REFLECTOR) that get photos BACK TO THEIR MODELS.

    Really photography is about the PARTNERSHIP and the equal reciprocity (photographer joke) between model who knows the character and the photographer who knows their trade.
    not EVERYTHING should EVER lie in the responsibility of the photographer. if it does, you better be PAYING them professional pricing which is about $200 an hour for most model photographers.

    1. Thanks for your input! Since this is aptly titled “Top 5 Cosplayer complaints about cosplay photos” it is definitely skewed against photographers. I’ll take your input into consideration for whenever I do complaints vs cosplayers. I was actually asked to do an article on vetting photographers as well which seems to be an issue you have so stay tuned for that one!

  4. Tone of this article = “I am better than everyone else, I can’t afford good gear, everyone else sucks.. look at me!” – News flash, person I’ve never heard of before…

    No one cares.

    1. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read it and caring just enough to let me know that no one cares <3.

  5. Great post! Very helpful for anyone just starting out and even some good reminders for seasoned photogs. I am looking forward to more of your posts!

    Photoshoots in the cosplay “industry” are almost always collaborative and it’s good for people to know they can, and should, work together to make the best magic happen. If you’re a cosplayer and uncertain or uncomfortable about something tell your photographer. And photographers, it’s your responsibility to ease any concerns a model may have prior to, or during, a shoot. The more you can have open communication the more smoothly everything will go and the happier both parties will be in the end.

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