How do I start cosplay photography“?

If you’re looking to get started into cosplay photography, it might be intimidating at first. Because when you see all these beautiful cosplay photos online, you may be wondering, “How can I ever take photos that good?” Or when you see cosplay photographers using fancy and expensive camera equipment, you might be thinking you need to shell thousands of dollars to take part in this hobby.

Well I’m here to break things down for you! I’m going to show you how to break into cosplay photography, whether you’re brand new or curious about it.

How do I start cosplay photography?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need to have exceptional talent, a large budget or fancy camera equipment to start cosplay photography. In fact, you can even use your smartphone to begin with. By taking the right approach and following these simple steps, you can become a great cosplay photographer fairly quickly.

In this article, I’ll give you 10 simple steps on how to break into cosplay photography. Even if you don’t have money or any sort of background in taking photos, anyone can get started with this hobby.

Whether it’s learning to do photography through your passion cosplay, or already being a photographer and wanting to delve into cosplay photography, or wanting to meet new people in cosplay and giving value by taking photos, everyone has their own reasons for getting into it. Whatever your reason, this guide will help you get started.

Without further ado, let’s answer the question, “How do I start cosplay photography“?

1. Which camera do I need to get started in cosplay photography? (P.S. Your smartphone works :))

Someone took this photo of me using my old Canon t3i. Use whatever you got! The skills/technique matter far more.

70% of cosplay photography is skill and technique. The other 30% is about the actual equipment. That’s how one cosplay photographer describes it.

When you walk through an Anime or Comic Con convention, you have probably seen a bunch of photographers pulling out their expensive cameras and changing it with their even more expensive camera lens. You might be thinking that you need to spend a TON of money in order to get started into cosplay photography.

The truth is, you actually don’t! As a matter of fact, you can even use your smartphone to get started. Yes, I’m serious!

Here’s the thing; when it comes to cosplay photography, your own skills and techniques is FAR more important than the equipment you’re using. So if you’ve never done any photography in your life, a $10,000 camera won’t help you take better photos. On the flip side, you can get some great photos by just using your smartphone, at least to start with. After all, when you’re just starting out, as long as you have something that takes photos, then it doesn’t matter how powerful or how high the pixel quality is. The whole point is to learn how to get good with the camera and using techniques to take great photos.

The best analogy I can say is my own journey learning how to play the piano. I never spent the money to buy a fancy Steinway or even an upright piano; I learned piano on an electronic keyboard (with weighted keys). For me, learning things like how to read music notes and playing the actual instrument was more important than the equipment itself.

So to sum it up: Your own skills/techniques are more important, use what you got, upgrade only when you need to.

2. What is cosplay photography?

In terms of cosplay photography, it’s open to your imagination! Photo by ooc_photography.

Whether you’re completely new to cosplay, a regular photographer looking to get into cosplay, or an experienced cosplayer looking to see how to do cosplay photography, you should definitely know the similarities and differences. You could argue cosplay photography is basically glorified fashion photography. After all, you’re basically taking fancy and somewhat exotic clothing which happens to be called cosplay. There is some truth to that, but also a lot of notable differences.

Let’s break down the similarities and differences between “regular” photography and cosplay photography:

Similarities of cosplay photographyDifferences of cosplay photography
A lot of the time with cosplayers, you’re doing portrait photography. Up close and personalSince the costume can be exotic and eccentric, you’ll have to adjust your photography settings accordingly (e.g. bright costume colors, large wigs)
You’re taking photos of people, much like regular photographyCosplay usually involves fictional characters in fictional worlds, so the photo editing can vary greatly
Basic principles such as lighting, facial expressions and posing still apply in cosplay photographyThere are a huge variety of cosplayers with different attributes and skills
“How do I start cosplay photography”? By knowing the differences!

As you can see, cosplay photography has some distinctive features. Taking a photo of a cosplayer can feel familiar, but it’s also unique in its own way!

3. How do I practice cosplay photography?

Shield Hero cosplay
Your smartphone can be a great tool to practice some cosplay photography.

Assuming you’ve practiced at home with photography first, it’s time to take the next step and take photos of real cosplayers!

The easiest way to practice cosplay photography without any commitments is by attending Anime or Comic Con conventions and taking hallway shots of cosplayers. While attending a convention, if you see someone wearing an awesome cosplay, ask if you can take their photo and give them your business card so they can find you online. Not only is this a great way to network, but you also get some practice taking photos of cosplayers. I know a lot of cosplay photographers who got started this way; they simply attended a convention, took a bunch of pictures of cosplayers, and the rest is history!

You can also offer to give you free cosplay photoshoots. In photography, they call that Time-For-Pay. Cosplayers LOVE free photoshoots, no matter how beginner or inexperienced you are. It’s really a win-win for everyone; you get experience, the cosplayer(s) get their photos.

4. How do I prepare for my first cosplay shoot?

I recommend researching the character that the model is going to cosplay. That way, you can come with photo ideas. Cosplayer: luckyelie3173.

So if you’re ready to do your first cosplay photoshoot, congratulations! You’re moving on up in the world. You should have no issues finding a cosplayer that’s willing to shoot with you because they are always looking for photographers, especially if your price is low or free.

Here a few tips for your cosplay photoshoot:

  • Do research on the character. Do a quick Google search online and look up the character that your model cosplayer is going to dress up as. See the type of gestures and facial expressions they do. What’s their personality? These type of things will help you think of poses you can do with the cosplayer.
  • Decide on a location. Will you be doing the photoshoot indoors at a convention or private studio? Or will you be taking photos outdoors? The settings of your cosplay photoshoot will make a huge difference in how you set things up. For example, the lighting inside a building will be completely than the lighting outside.
  • Don’t be afraid to communicate with the cosplayer. You definitely want to talk to the cosplayer and ask them questions. What type of photos are they looking? Do they have any accessibility issues that they need help with? And collaborating photo ideas with them.

I wrote an entire guide on how to do a cosplay photoshoot! Click here if you want to read it.

5. Cosplay photography etiquette

Someone taking a photo of us at YetiCon! Be sure to ask cosplayers if you can take their photo first.

If you’re new to the cosplay community, you may not know all the rules regarding photography. While some things are fairly common sense (e.g. asking for permissions), there are some that are unwritten and not well-known (e.g. when approaching a cosplay group, excluding the non-pretty cosplayer). I wrote an entire article about cosplay photoshoot etiquette; click here if you want to read.

But by far the most important cosplay photography etiquette rule; always ask for permission first. Whether it’s touching a cosplayer, holding their cosplay props or wanting a photo, be sure to ask permission first. You don’t want to startle or surprise anyone.

6. How do I get better at cosplay photography?

Photo of me taking a photo of the photo!
Watching other cosplay photographers do their thing is a great way to learn and get better! That’s how I learned a few tricks. 🙂

Much like with any other hobby, you can easily get better with cosplay photography over a period of time. By keeping an open mind and trying new things, you’ll find it easier to improve your photography skills.

Here are some notable ways to get better:

  • Practice makes perfect
  • Keep a portfolio of cosplay photos online that inspire you
  • Read about lighting
  • Learning how to edit photos
  • Watching and learning from other cosplay photographers

7. When should you upgrade your cosplay photography camera?

You’ll know when you’ll want a camera upgrade. For example, maybe you want a new lens to take better portrait shots!

You should upgrade your cosplay photography camera when you feel it’s necessary to. So if you’re just starting out and still practicing how to take photos with your Smartphone, then stick with your phone for now! You’ll know when you’re ready to take the next step; when you feel your smartphone is limiting the possibilities of what you can do with photos, that’s when it’s time to upgrade to something better.

For example, if you love to take wide backgrounds with a cosplayer but you’re finding your smartphone camera just isn’t cutting it, then it’s time to upgrade! Either you can buy a DSLR with a regular 50mm lens. Or you can buy a mirrorless camera that can take wide angle shots really well.

Going back to my example playing the piano using an electric keyboard, I wanted to add some emphasis while playing. So I decided to upgrade my keyboard by buying a sustain pedal. As mentioned earlier, upgrade only when it’s natural for you and when you feel it’s necessary!

8. How much do cosplay photographers make?

This one is a tough question to answer because every cosplay photographer is different. Some don’t even charge money, while others can command a decent amount of money (e.g. $100 for 30 minutes). Assuming you do several photoshoots at a convention, you can make hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars during one convention weekend! Keep in mind however, the time and labor needed to do this. Not only does it require several hours of shooting, but also many more hours of post-photo editing.

I personally don’t know any cosplay photographers who make a full-time income from just doing cosplay photography alone. Just like how very few cosplayers make a living off the hobby (if you want to learn more about making money as a cosplayer, click here to read my guide on that), it’s hard to imagine doing this for a living. While cosplay photographers make good money off this fun hobby as a side hustle, it’s probably not enough to pay your mortgage or on lavish trips.

I can see a more realistic approach being a full-time photographer not just for cosplaying, but for other things as well such as weddings and events. Many of my cosplay photographer friends take photos outside of cosplay, and apply their skills for “normie” life as well!

9. Can I sell cosplay photos?

The short answer is that you probably don’t want to sell cosplay photos due to the legal stuff you need to clear first in order to get permission.

The long answer is that it depends. If you just want to share your cosplay photos online and use it in your portfolio, you’ll probably be fine. But if you want to sell your actual photos online or to the public, then it gets more complex. Not only do you have to get a model release form from the cosplayer, but there’s also the issue of the costume itself being intellectual property. I wrote an article once about cosplay being illegal or not!

Photography laws are complex and I’m certainly no lawyer, so please seek legal advice if you want to find out more.

10. When can I start charging for cosplay photoshoots?

Here’s a sample of one of my cosplay photographer friends, Neffy Avese Creative, offering photoshoots at a convention, with his rates and the amount of photos you’ll get.

Last but not least on how to get started with cosplay photography, it’s about when can you start charging for cosplay photoshoots.

Assuming you’ve already got some experience and practice under your belt (after doing Steps 1-3), you can honestly start charging for cosplay photoshoots right away. You can always test the market out by posting on Facebook, trying out a price and seeing if any potential cosplayers would be interested in your rate. The more photoshoots you do, the bigger your portfolio will be and the more positive experience you will get!

I’ve personally seen some of my friends start out charging only $10-$20 for a cosplay photoshoot for 30 minutes. And as they got more experience and exposure, they slowly increased their prices to $50-$70. So this is a pretty natural way to get more experience and gradually increase your prices.

Summary

To summarize, here are the 10 steps you need on how to get started with cosplay photography:

  1. Which camera do I need to get started in cosplay photography?
  2. What is cosplay photography?
  3. How do I practice cosplay photography?
  4. How do I prepare for my first cosplay shoot?
  5. Cosplay photography etiquette
  6. How do I get better at cosplay photography?
  7. When should you upgrade your cosplay photography camera?
  8. How much do cosplay photographers make?
  9. Can I sell cosplay photos?
  10. When can I start charging for cosplay photoshoots?

And there you have it; a step-by-step on when you ask, “How do I start cosplay photography”!

I hope you found this guide useful! Cosplay photography is a wonderful hobby to get into and there is so much more to it. But this will definitely help you get started and get your foot in the door.

If you have any other questions in terms of “How do I start cosplay photography“, feel free to leave them in the comments below.