I understand that not everyone has digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, tripods, flashes, or other expensive photography equipment.  With that in mind, here are some basic tips for any non-professionals who wants to take good cosplay photos:

1. Understand How Your Camera Works

The key to getting better photos could be as simple as reading up about how your camera works.  Your camera could simply be on the wrong setting, or you could not be understand how the settings work.  When I first switched from a SLR camera to a digital SLR (also called DSLR), I understood how to control exposure with shutter speed and aperture, but I had never heard of ISO settings. ISO refers to how sensitive the film is to light, so I didn’t think ISO would be a factor on a digital camera. As a result, my first batches of photos were all too dark, and I had no clue why until I  looked it up online and found out that the image sensor works like film and is affected by the ISO.  So, trust me, make sure first of all that you understand the particulars of how your camera works.

2. Take More than One!

Taking photos of people is not sightseeing.  You don’t snap one photo and hope it comes out exactly way you envisioned it.  When cosplayers are your subject, they typically don’t mind taking the time to pose for a bunch of photos.  So don’t rush yourself. Additionally, people are not perfect.  They may sneeze, cough, blink, fall over, get distracted, etc. If you take one portrait-esque photo of someone and it’s mid sneeze, you’ll kick yourself later for not taking more. So take as many photos as you can. You’re more likely to get the perfect shot that way.

3. Light is Your Best Friend

In every photography class I’ve taken, the instructor has said overexposing an image is better than underexposing.  Exposure is all about how light your image is; too much light is overexposing, while underexposing makes your image too dark.  Nowadays, on SLR and DSLR cameras, you can control exposure, but even then it is hard to get perfect exposure.

When my instructors gave that advice, they were speaking from an editing standpoint:  It is much easier to darken a light image than lighten a dark image with Photoshop.  I understand that not everyone has access to editing software or DSLR camera, but the same rules apply.  If you take advantage of the light around you and your subject, and even adding more light if necessary, your pictures will look much better without fancy equipment or editing.

4. Change Perspectives

You see the world from more places than just eye level.  So why would you only take photos from one position? Spend some time changing your perspective with a camera in your hand.  Lay on the floor and look up, or look out from ground level.  Stand on a chair and look at the ground, or out over everyone’s head.  Turn your camera upside down.  Get a close up on you subject. Try any and every perspective that comes to your mind.  You’ll be surprised at how much more you have to work with.

5. Build a Relationship with Your Subject

Essentially this means “Have fun!” Communicate with the cosplayer you are photographing by exchanging ideas on what could make a good shot.  Where would the cosplayer’s character hang out? How would that character pose? You and the cosplayer can generate some great ideas that will make everyone happy.  You can also can help your subject get into character by pretending to joke with or annoy their character.