By Emeka Ikechi, Director, Vanity Studios

Fuelled by the rise of superhero movies and game franchises, the global cosplay costumes market has grown to be worth over $4.6Bn as of 2020 (1). The great thing about cosplay is the feeling of being someone else: usually, but not exclusively, your favourite superhero or game character. Since both video games and superhero movies became big in the mid-nineties, it’s no surprise that millennials would choose to spend their disposable income indulging their inner child by becoming their favourite characters.

Exhibitions like Comic Con also provide a playground where these costumes can be admired by other fans. Comic Con and other exhibitions can also provide an income for those who get really into cosplay, with many serious cosplayers charging fees for photos or appearances.

Whether you cosplay for fun or for gig work, a photoshoot can be the perfect way to capture the moment and share it with friends and fans. After all, you’ve put time, money and effort into making your costume look amazing, so why not show it off?

But how do you ensure that your photoshoot looks as good as your costume? Here are a few top tips…

Be clear about your aims

Taking photos for fun is very different to taking them for a work portfolio. Maybe you just want to get together with some friends and capture a few fun memories. This can be pretty relaxed, silly and involve getting people into humorous poses.

Putting together a portfolio for your website or other gig work requires a bit more thought and preparation. You need to show your costume from all angles and in the best lighting to demonstrate its quality and accuracy. You might also need to consider some iconic poses, such as the “hero’s landing” or Spiderman’s upside-down hang.

Ensure you have all the finishing touches

What is Captain America with his shield, or Cloud Strife without his Buster Sword?

Getting everything right for a photo shoot means having both the costume and accessories look perfect. While small issues can always be covered up with some editing, it’s hard to add authentic-looking accessories.

If you are looking for paid work from your cosplay, it’s even more important that you have all the accessories and that your costume looks as authentic as possible. It’s the authenticity and quality of the costumes and accessories that will either make or break your cosplay career.

Give your makeup a touch-up

As well as authentic costumes and accessories, make-up is often essential to look the part. Dr Strange just wouldn’t look the same without his iconic beard, Thanos needs that chin, and you’ll need a lot of blue face paint to look like Halo’s Cortana.

A good studio will be able to help touch up your make-up, so it looks just right, capturing the essence of the character without becoming too much. Of course, you might need to think about lighting as well: blue face paint would look wrong under a red light, for example.

Work with a professional who understands cosplay

Speaking of studios, working with a professional photographer who really understands cosplay and the characters you are portraying can definitely help. Professionals know not only how to capture the right angles and poses but will also come up with ideas of how to enhance the photo shoot.

Instead of having Lara Croft simply standing in front of the camera, you could try jumping through the air shooting some bats, for example. Or what about having your Superman fly over the Metropolis skyline rather than simply sitting on a chair?

These effects take a bit of thought and some extras to make look right ─ just the kind of thing that a professional can prepare!

Backgrounds create a scene

While the attention should be squarely on you and your amazing cosplay, the background you choose can really help enhance your photos by turning a shot into a scene. Add some action with some aliens attacking New York (when are they not?) or set the scene with a background from Mario World.

As with props and poses, backgrounds need some preparation in order to look right. They will need to be big and detailed enough to work for the photo but not so busy and colourful that they detract from your costume. It is what you want to show off, after all.

Take a variety of shots

It doesn’t matter how skilled or experienced the photographer is, it is always hard to know exactly what will and won’t work in a photo. What seems like a great idea on paper can look cheesy or clichéd in reality. But that’s okay ─ the idea is to play around and have fun.

The easiest way to ensure you get the best from your photo shoot is to take lots of varied pictures in different poses and styles, with different backgrounds and accessories, giving you plenty of options.

If you are looking for gig work, a variety of photos can also stimulate your client’s imaginations, giving them lots of ideas for potential photos or scenes for you to act out.

Whatever you decide to do for your photoshoot, make sure you have fun and use a photographer who can capture some high-quality shots.


Emeka Ikechi is Director of Vanity Studios, a contemporary studio for photoshoots in the centre of Shoreditch in London. Since 2009 Vanity Studios has been providing clients with high quality professional photos and an excellent photoshoot experience. The team of photographers and make-up artists ensure each client receives bespoke photography that meets their requirements.


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