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How to Plan A Cosplayer Photo Shoot

Cosplayers Make The Best Models

Most people who see a portrait done of their favorite cosplayer or model, just see the finished version of a the photo. However, there was a lot of thought and setup that had gone into that. I have shared the few shots I had done for the 3 cosplayers at Dragoncon this year.  But what a lot of people don’t seem to know, is how to take a shot from, “A picture I took with my camera” to “A professional portrait of a model”.

My sentiment really is that Cosplayers make the Best Models. Because they are the models I get along with, we’re all gaming, anime, movie, book, etc nerds.

This is more to showcase the behind the scenes of a portrait. I won’t go into specifics, but you can then see the subtle changes from start to finish on a photo. We’ll break down some basics of what I saw, what I shot, and how I came to the end product.

Jill Valentine

Let’s start with Bunnie.

This shot, I loved the backaground and odd setting, not ever portrait needs to be tight and cropped, and most importantly, I was planning ahead.  Bunnie was cosplaying Jill Valentine of Resident Evil fame.  I wanted to give her this feeling of being stuck in a place where things are going wrong, it’s gloomy and feels like a dire place to be.

After Cropping it down, bringing out the model, making it grittier, and then adding after effects like the seemingly blood soaked walls, gives it the feeling of what I had in mind when I took the shot initially.

Next up from Bunnie we have what may be one of my favorite shots.  By itself, is a decent portrait, however, it’s easy to elevate it to a new level.

Tonally, I brought more warmth back into Bunnie, while getting some darker tones into the background, adding shadows and eventually staining the walls red to give it the true Resident Evil vibe. Making sure not to take away any of the integrity of the model, I made sure to leave her unchanged from the initial adjustments, this gives her a, “pop”, over the grungy background. It forces you to look at the model and not get distracted by the setting.


Up next we have Audrey and her amazing Cortana.

I approached this completely different than Bunnie.  Having knowledge of the character is helpful, knowing that Cortana is an AI, but can manifest in a holographic form was something I had in my head, but also how she was human like and would fit in well with sharper angles and some nature elements, we took to the spot I had scouted.  We quickly found a perfect spot and captured one of my favorite shots of the series.

While i really like how this came out, I wanted her to be more vibrant in a harsher world. So I made sure to sharpen the rocks and bring in more saturation and lighting to her. Finally adding the faint blue glows around her to show she is a being of energy and light and not a physical being.  I really love the finished product.

For the next shot I showcase here, I loved how light bounced off the area we were in, however, the background was giving me so much of an issue that I had to plan ahead.  Audrey was such a great model, giving these ethereal poses and these amazing looks to the camera.

Now, we ended up cropping tighter on her, because the background was becoming too much.  I became unsatisfied with it and went with, “Cortana in a haze of Blue Smoke”. Sure this might be “The Easy Way” out, but in this case, it worked perfectly.  Now, one part of cosplayers and the south, any body paint is going to start to run, so I made sure to fix the spots by the collar to be consistent across her neck. Let me see you try to keep any paint on when it was just raining, 90% humidity and 90 degrees out, she did an amazing job.


Joshua Morse blew me away with his amazing Link cosplay. It was worn, aged, and felt like the adult link we never got to see in any game. This made for, hands down, my favorite shots of the day.

We’re going to start with what seems like a simple shot but turned into something far more. You’ll notice this shot is just off center, not level, and has all the weird background stuff going on.  But that’s not what I saw. I saw Joshua commanding the water from across a 30 foot fountain.

Naturally, we cropped and leveled off the photo. I killed the business glass doors behind him. Then created a smoke effect coming from the water, as if he had extinguished a flame around him. I loved this shot so much.

It was this shot of him that turned out to be the favorite shot of the entire day.  We joked how Link loves to smash pots. So, we saw a giant “pot” and was going to have him go lift it up.  We had a few different shots of it, but this is the one I loved and we had settled on.  In itself, it’s funny yet serious, shows great intention of Link being Link, all while showcasing the accessories of Link clearly.  It was a good shot.

I cropped it down to give it a tighter feel. Then went with a higher contrast pass to make sure to feel like the grown up harder link. Then I had to get rid of the cars and buildings to get us set into the Hyrule setting. Finishing off by adding accent smoke and shadows of colors from his clothing and shield.

That is just a small and short glimpse into what goes into a portrait.  If you want to know more or have any questions, feel free to contact me, leave a comment or two below or head over to Facebook and leave me a message there!

Stefan Glazer
Stefan Glazer

Author, Photographer, Artist, Pug Dad, Podcast Host, Teacher, Friend

Articles: 210

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