Article and photos by Pugoffka-sama
Hello, my name is Elena, I am better known by my nickname, Pugoffka. I started out as a cosplay photographer about five years ago. I also cosplay on my own, but I enjoy photography more. I’d like to share with you all the experience that I’ve gained throughout these years. I hope you’ll find it interesting and useful. In the work-shop we’ll deal with these topics:
1. How to start the preparations for the photo shoot.
2. Main rules of posing (what is and isn’t allowed when modeling).
3. I’ll try to give many useful advises on everything related to photo shoots for models.
Let’s begin with the photo shoot preparations. The first step is to choose the place for the shoot. You have to decide where you want to work – indoors, on the street or in a studio with the equipment. If you prefer an outdoors shoot, you have to determine the time of day when you’ll start and finish the shoot. The photographer will choose the additional light depending on that, so it is necessary to talk through.
The locations for the photo shoots don’t necessarily have to be nearby. Many times I’ve had to go to the countryside and even to other cities to find a perfect location, close to the original source’s style (canon). If you can’t figure out where to shoot your cosplay, try searching for some ideas on the Internet. There are many themed web-sites that could help you find some abandoned buildings, historical places, beautiful landscapes. Make sure that your chosen location’s style fits to your fandom’s backgrounds. Everything in the shot needs to look logical. For example, let’s take a look at my recent photographs of the now-popular fandom “Attack on Titan”. We did the shoot at various locations. Our main task was to find a wall. What you see on the picture is a ruined theater (pictures 1-2). We also wanted to add something special, so we went to a horse club and shot the half of the shoot with horses pictures 3-4. When working with another guys, we went to an old hospital. picture 5. And then finished the shoot in a forest with special effects picture 6. But we’ll get to this last part later.
If you don’t have any similar locations in view, try to be creative. You can use a normal old brick wall. And, in my opinion, the older and dirtier the wall is, the better it will look.
Same goes for futuristic sites. Many fandoms push us to find locations that would look like spaceships, futuristic buildings, etc. The major advantage of big cities is that these sites can be found with no problem at all. Glassed buildings, aluminum tubes and crossbars, endless stairs – all of this would fit perfectly for such fandoms as Final Fantasy, Evangelion, etc. (pictures 7-9)
Place your character in an environment common for them, for example: picture 10 – a map of sand in a desert, picture 11 – Merida on a bow-shooting training, picture 12 – a vampire at night, picture 13 – Inuyasha in a Japanese garden, picture 14 – an elf in a forest, picture 15 – a swimmer in a pool, picture 16 – a northern princess in winter.
Basing yourself on the chosen location, choose the style of your photo shoot. Decide if it will be funny or sad, if it is a love story. Maybe you want it to have its own plot – in that case you have to prepare a storyboard, to leave no place for holdbacks or thoughts on “what to shoot next”. Though following a strict plan isn’t always such a good thing. Many times we managed to create a much more interesting material by improvising and not sticking to our plans.
Now let’s deal with my favorite topic about which I can talk for hours. That is what makes your shoot so special, interesting and helps it to stand out in the crowd. I’m talking about special effects and dynamics. Of course, most of it – let’s be frank, practically everything – can be added in Photoshop. But I find more interesting adding the effect in real life, specifically for our photograph, and not artificially. In reality, here you can use anything you want – our possibilities are only limited by our imagination. The first thing that comes to our mind is the use of the smoke. Everyone is used to renting a smoke machine in a studio for a little extra-pay. But what should we do if there are no power plugs on the street for it? The solution is easy. You can use many utility objects like smoke pellets, or make a campfire (you can also throw wet leaves into the fire, to add a texture to the smoke).
Most commonly I use smoke, water, flour, fire, sparkles, petals, artificial webs and other things. The most important thing to have in mind is that at a shoot like this you’ll need an assistant, and maybe more than one. Of course it has all been invented before us, and maybe somewhere someone has already used similar ideas, but everyone has their own ways and style, so the result is always different. Here are some of our examples of using special effects.
(pictures 17-18) Here we’ve used Bengal light for sparks, and cherry-juice instead of blood. Tasty and beautiful.
Pictures 19-20 – here we were throwing flour from the back of the model. More examples of throwing, picture 21 – we threw stars cut out from cardboard, picture 22 – we threw feathers, picture 23 – petals, picture 24 – flying pieces of paper.
I also often use animals when shooting. Here are some examples: (pictures 25-29) pictures with animals attract a lot more attention and always look very striking.
Now I’ll give you some advice on how to avoid unpleasant situations at a photo shoot. First of all, always specify the time and place of your meeting with the photographer. Have in mind that you’ll take more time at getting ready for a photo shoot than ever. And of course it’s better to arrive early than to be late. You have to make a list of things to do or take with you and follow it strictly. If there is more than one model, you have to control the others. Travel to the chosen location before the shoot and ask if you’re allowed to shoot there – you might need a special pass. Look at the weather forecast the day before, and pay attention to the time when the sun goes down and it starts getting darker. Decide on how many assistants you’ll need. Check with the map to get to the location.
It is very important to bring to the shoot some pictures of your character’s characteristic poses. It might be a different character – what matters here is the personality. Of course it’s better to use your own imagination and leave the pictures for the time you’re out of ideas. Now let’s slip to the topic of modeling. Let’s go from top to the bottom. First we’ll look at the position of your head and emotions.
Your face has to be turned towards the source of light. It might be the sun, a bulb, the deflector or the flash (picture 30). The only exception is the case when you have to transmit a tragic feeling and atmosphere with the shadows on your face (picture 31).
Don’t roll your eyes too much. If you need to look to the side, shift your glance at about 45 degrees from the objective. If you shift your gaze too much, you’ll leave visible the white of your eye and not the iris, and this will look bad in the shot.
The face position. Don’t lift your chin too much – your face will seem round. Don’t lower it that much either – your neck will seem shorter. Again, the only exception is if you do it on purpose to fir the character’s personality. If your character has glasses on, you should take out the lenses – otherwise there will be flares. (pictures 32-33).
The face looks the best if it’s turned on three-quarter (pictures 34-35).
If you need to transmit the cuteness of the character, try to place yourself under the objective, so that your eyes look bigger, and your face – thinner (pictures 36-37).
A couple of words about emotions. Before the photo shoot train at home in front of the mirror – to feel which face muscles you should use to get a certain emotion. Plus, you’ll know what you should or shouldn’t do in order not to look stupid on the photograph. For example, this is a same person with different emotions. Look what a big role they play (pictures 38-43).
Shoulders – don’t squeeze in your shoulders. If they are tense, it’ll be very noticeable in the picture.
Hands. Hands also play a big role on a photograph. Usually we don’t know what to do with them. Fingers splay across look bad in a picture. Try to hold them together. But again, if your character usually splays fingers across, like Lelouch, it will be appropriate on the photograph (pictures 44-45).
I also don’t like elbows turned towards the camera. And I ask models not to do that. Turned elbows make your hand look shorter, and sometimes it even seems they don’t grow from the place they’re supposed to. Try to keep your hands busy. It will relax you in front of the camera and give your photograph a meaning. That’s why it’s better to bring props to a photo shoot. For example, here (pictures 46-49). I hope these photographs will inspire you to come up with new ideas.
Don’t stand still like a soldier. Don’t put your arms on your hips, the correct way is to place them on your wrist. Most part of the fingers should be turned towards the camera.
Legs. Don’t separate your legs too much – it doesn’t matter if you stand or sit. If you stand, lean on the leg you’ve placed at the back. It will make the hip look smaller. It’s better to stand at the angle of 45 degrees to the camera (pictures 50-52). If you sit, don’t squeeze your legs under the chair.
Try to notice the difference between poses. Men pose wider, and women poses are more flexible. The main rule for me here is “rot all that bends”, except knees and elbows. Look at the other’s photos and analyze it. That will help you to understand where to put every part of your body. Everybody has his own comfortable poses that we use in everyday life, so it is better to start with them, than you will feel comfortable, and then experiment.
For me the hardest is making photos in full growth. You have to look not only for hands and head, like in portrait, but for the full body, it’s angle, position of legs. Than look at the costume, and only then make a picture.
About posing with weapon (pictures 53-58). It is a very complicated topic, and about posing with every kind of it it’s better to go deep into specific sources. Sure, you don’t have to be professionally swordsman, archer and stuff. Enough to learn 3-4 position with your arms and rehearse them in front of a mirror.
Also note that you cannot do when posing. For example, shooting with katana sometimes you want to get it out of the sheath, sit and rest it in the ground. You really shouldn’t do that. It is also important to know the stabbing or cutting weapon you have. This will depend on positions. In general, it is necessary to know the intricacies of positions whether in your hands katana or gun.
So here we are getting to the end. Of course cosplay, cosplay photosets – this is primarily a hobby that brings us fun. And of course, should not be taken to prepare photosets too seriously and go for a photoshoot on the job. I just told what to do in order to achieve the best results , how to avoid mistakes that you need to have with you on the photoset , and a little more about posturing. That’s all the basics, but even experienced cosplayers often forget about them. But all of this is very important to remember and to train yourself all the time. Practice more in front of a mirror.
I’m against any rules and limits in the photo. But there are things that are better not to do because experience has shown more than once that it does not look good on the pictures if you do not believe the experience of other photographers you can do to try and experiment . After all of this can get something radically new.
Remember that not everything goes right the first time. Sometimes you have to get used to the photographer. And if you feel uncomfortable it will be very noticeable in the photo. Do not stop after the first time. Try again and again. Sooner or later you’ll surprise your friends and yourself with beautiful photos.