Photographing Cosplay – At Any Skill Level, With Any Camera! (Part 1)

Hi there! I’m Marc, Wendy’s husband and co-conspirator here at Sew Your Cosplay! She thought it would be helpful if we had information on how to photograph cosplay. I mean, you went to all that work, why not get some nice pictures? Whether you’re photographing your own or someone else’s cosplay, this article will help you get the most out of your pictures.

Here are the elements I’m going to cover:

  1. Respect
  2. Lighting
  3. Environment
  4. Angle and Perspective
  5. Equipment

As you can see equipment is the last thing on the list, because it’s the least important, and I don’t want anybody to think for a second they can’t make cool photographs without an expensive camera. The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, pioneer of “decisive moment” photography, once said, “The best photographer in the world is not as good as the worst camera.” As usual when it came to photography, he was right. If you know what you’re doing and are mindful, you will get better pictures out of your iPhone than someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing and isn’t mindful will get out of a multi-thousand-dollar DSLR with all the latest whizbangs. So don’t be afraid, grab your camera and let’s make some photographs!

1) Respect

The first thing to be mindful of in cosplay photography, like all photography and all other parts of life, is Respect. Do not act as if you were entitled to take photographs of other people’s cosplay. After you take a picture, do not act as if you were entitled to use it for whatever you wish. Taking pictures of people in a public place, politely and from a distance, is usually fine unless there are clear rules forbidding it. However, walking right up to someone and snapping a flash in their faces without asking, or standing in their way so they’ll stop and you can photograph them, is rude. As usual, if you want to know if something is respectful, turn it around. How would you feel if someone did what you just did to you? If you don’t think you’d like it, then why are you doing it to them?

Here is an example of what respect will get you:

_MG_2771That’s a cosplay of “Dot,” a character from the video game We Love Katamari, at Geek Girl Con ’14*. It happens to be my daughter’s favorite video game. So when I saw her, I had to have a picture. She was standing in line, so I could have just taken a snapshot. But I very politely said to her, “My daughter loves Katamari. Could I take a picture for her?” And boom, I got this nice pose and a big smile. (My daughter loved the picture.)

Furthermore, I hope it goes without saying that commenting on someone’s cosplay in a rude or insensitive way, whether you are photographing them or not, is right out. Yes, that woman in the Black Widow outfit may be extremely attractive. Or you may find her un-attractive and think that the costume was a poor choice for her.

Your opinion is irrelevant.

She’s not wearing it for you, she’s wearing it for her. If she asks you for a critique, fine. Otherwise, compliment the costume, if you like, on its technical and artistic merits. Leave her appearance out if it. Either way, she knows what she looks like.

Similarly, don’t post photographs of cosplayers with unkind comments about body-appropriateness, nor with sexual comments about them. Just don’t do it. Everybody knows what sexy women and hot guys look like: everybody likewise knows what unattractive people look like. You are not being helpful, clever or funny. Please just concentrate on the cosplay.

Finally, use cosplay photographs appropriately. Don’t use them to advertise your goods or services without permission. Don’t, of course, claim that you are the person pictured, or that you had anything to do with the costume, if you aren’t or didn’t. And don’t sell them, either as prints or in association with products. It’s disrespectful, and it might even get you in some fairly serious legal trouble. If you want to use pictures of people for business-related purposes, you need a likeness release, like this:


To get one that will be good for your jurisdiction, contact an attorney familiar with such matters. (Disclaimer: I am an attorney. This is not legal advice, nor am I soliciting for clients, although I welcome inquiries about this topic. Consult a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction before making legal decisions.)

Okay, lecture over. Let’s move on to the fun stuff! (Part 2 coming soon!)

I hope you enjoyed this article and that you find it useful in future. Please check out the other parts of this series and the rest of our articles here on Sew Your Cosplay!

You are welcome to ask questions in the comments and/or by emailing me at any time. Thanks for reading!


*She won the Judge’s Choice for individual adult cosplay with her costume.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *