Cosplay 101 – Advice from a Photographer

face the judge

Hi there.

So you’re into cosplaying, yeah?

That’s cool. I’m into photography.

We read/hear a lot of advice from cosplayers for cosplayers, so today I thought I would break it up and give some advice of my own. You see, after the con gets over, I get to comb through thousands of photographs that I’ve taken of every cool cosplay I could find. I also get to go through photos from cosplay contests. I get to see a lot of amazing photos of amazing costumes. I also get to see a lot of not so amazing photos of… well, I can’t really tell sometimes.

There are some things that I think you need to know.. because they’re not obvious.

Let’s start with Costume Contests:

  1. Slow it down.

    I get it, you’re nervous. It’s scary standing in front of a ton of people. You know what is more scary?
    It’s mortifying for you, and frankly it’s mortifying for the audience. Nobody in that room wants you to fall down, even your competitors.
  2. If you fall
    We care about you even more. Now we really want to see your costume, but you are mortified.. we get it. Your wig might now be out of place, we’re fine with that. Try your hardest to take a deep breath and show us your costume before you flee.
  3. Pause in the middle
    Believe it or not, all those people in that room came to see YOUR costume. I can’t tell you how many photos I have of cosplayers who DO NOT stop.
    Please pause long enough for me to get a clean shot. I want you to remember your experience for forever.
  4. Turn around
    You don’t have to 360 it, but we totally want to see the front, sides and if possible the back of your costume.
    You did a lot of work to get it ready, let us enjoy it with you!
  5. Pose for the judges AND photographers
    On the floor or front row and clearly they’re photographing everyone, pose for them when you get close.
    You’ll be able to find more of your photos after because they’ll be epic.
  6. Slow it down more.
    Yep, I mentioned this before.
    This time it’s not about tripping.
    It’s about the fact that we’re all in a dark-ish room and if you don’t slow down, my photos will have major motion blur to them. It’s cool if your character moves quickly and that’s how they act a lot. But strike a few poses in between so we have a reasonable chance to capture the moment.
  7. Don’t run away.
    Your runway walk is done, but we’re still trying to photograph you. Maybe a clear shot will only present itself at the end. We’ll only get it if you are calm and NOT running.
  8. Pose as a group.
    If you’re cosplaying as a group, pose as a group. If you don’t, our chances of getting an epic photo are almost none.


What about General Cosplay 

  1. For the love of Pete, please don’t ask me who you are dressed as.
    This may just cause heartbreak. If I can tell, I’ll do my best to let you know that. If you ask me, even if I recognize the character, I might go blank if put on the spot. I might also not be able to put a finger on your particular variant. If I don’t know, it doesn’t mean your costume is bad. I asked you if I could take your photo, that means your costume is good.
  2. DON’T setup your hero pose sideways.
    I’ve never heard this tip from anywhere else, but I’m taking your picture to see your costume. If your hero pose is partially or wholly turned sideways, I can’t see MOST of your costume. I doubt you designed your costume from the side, and I certainly didn’t stop you for your photograph because the side was awesome.
  3. Wait
    A photographer will almost always look down at the photograph they just took (if there’s time) to verify that what they got was magical. If it wasn’t and you’re still ready, I can try again. If you’ve moved on, that chance passed. I’ll thank you when I’m finished. You might be in a hurry, so I’ll forgive you if you don’t actually wait for me though.
  4. Check to make sure your privacy is in tact.
    If you’re a dude especially and wearing a bodysuit, I want you to try and keep a few secrets from me. Wear a cup if it’s really tight. I may avoid taking your photo so I don’t have to post a photo of your stuff all over our site.
  5. Give me your business card.
    If you have one, I’m more than happy to tag you. I want you to find my photo of you later on. I’ll immediately take a photo of your card so I know whose costume it belongs with.



Trevor Nielson
Writer & Photographer at
Trevor began his forray into nerdom as a kid peddling his bike all the way to the local bookstore to purchase comic books. The boring superhero comics weren’t good enough for Trevor, he wanted the real ones. The ones with ducks. Now who's laughing while he’s on his way to cash in all those valuable Ducktales comics. Soon he’ll have his own money bin full to the brim. These days, to fill the time before the money bin construction completes (and begins), Trevor fills his time with photography, movies, television and comic book conventions. You can find his cosplay Meet & Greet mini-shoot and articles on this site as well as prints of his photographs being sold by cosplayers throughout the land.

P.S. Trevor converted to Marvel & DC comics and movies later on, so no heartburn on that one, right?