Don’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.
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.
If 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.
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.
We 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.
We 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.
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.