Deconstructing Cosplay Photography

As the Thoughtbubble Comic Book Art Festival is fast approaching, I have taken it upon myself to deconstruct the key aspects of Cosplay Photography. Here, I have categorized each element under the form of moodboards so that I have a better understanding as what kind of quality and skill is needed to create a replica of this sub-genre which will hopefully give me an idea as to how I want my images to look as well. As there are so many aspects that I need to take in to consideration for this shoot next week I need to break down these key elements so they also cater to my chosen publication to feature them in, which is the monthly magazine entitled ‘Geek Magazine’. This magazine to me would be the perfect publication to feature such a subjective artform as it produces an annual run-down of convention such as Comic-con and even hosts a feature of some of the best cosplay the magazine sees each year.

For each moodboard, I looked on forums and image searching sites such as Google to see what cosplay photography looks like in both a studio and on location in order to see if the quality differs at all.


Judging by the lighting seen in the images that I have searched, it seems to me that lighting is a key aspect of cosplay photography. Of course, it depends on what the weather and mood it is that you are going for that help compliment the character, however I feel that this is something that I will need to consider when choosing who to photograph. There are hardly any shadows but I would say that these images use a lot of back light and have been heavily edited to appear brighter as only some seem to use natural lighting. I would not be surprised however if a lot of the photographers used portable lights to enhance this though however, along with using the flash on their cameras. This will be something that I will also need to take in to consideration as natural lighting probably won’t be enough for my photoshoot.


From looking at these images, its clear that location adds a lot in terms of quality in cosplay photography. I feel that this is because it makes the characters that these people are trying to portray that much more believable and makes the characters truly come to life. Having said that however, I feel that when I am photographing my cosplayers I don’t think it will be hard to find a good location depending on what characters I choose to photograph. To me, anyone who is portraying a superhero would look perfectly in character if they were in a gritty setting and luckily the setting around the convention looks exactly like that, so this is something that although I will give thought to I will not need to worry too much about.


Looking at this images, its pretty easy to say that the majority of cosplay posing reflects on the character that is being portrayed. You can also see the mix of fashion editorial and portraits within these photographs as well. Obviously, it also depends on the type of costume that the cosplayer has, as I have noticed that the ones with the more revealing costumes tend to pose in a more sexual way that I personally would say isn’t necessarily being true to the character; and thus making them that much more sexualised. However, a majority are highlighting the traits of the characters that they love, and so with my photoshoot I have been thinking it would be interesting to produce some action shots like some on the moodboard above. I feel that this will not only let the cosplayers act out their characters, but also stay true to the notions in cosplay photography. This is something that I also feel Geek Magazine journalists would ask the cosplayers to do when they do coverage of comic book conventions; which is essential for me to keep in mind as this will be based on their target audience.


Of course, some of the most striking cosplay photography contains the most extravagant of costumes. The images here are among some of the finest examples of craftsmanship a cosplayer can possess. Whether it be through making props and masks or fine detailing a costume to perfection; these particular costumes in cosplay photography are simply a marvel. It would be fantastic to find a cosplayer with an impressive costume such as these as it shows the time and energy that goes in to the making process. As I am comparing craftsmanship to sex appeal for my article in this module I will be looking to photograph costumes such as these and so will be paying extra attention to detail. Geek Magazine’s comic con coverage also indicates that they appreciate such cosplayers who go the extra mile with their costumes and so photographing something similar would be essential.


Sex appeal is a common notion in cosplay, especially when producing ‘sexy’ versions of otherwise less than sexually charged characters. It is something that is definitely on the rise with cosplay becoming more and more popular as the years progress. I can understand that a lot of  female comic book or film or even gaming characters are made to appeal to attract a male oriented audience and thus their appearance much accommodate this; however, I find a lot of sexy cosplay to be in very poor taste. Whether it is an excuse for the cosplayer themselves to dress up in a kinky fashion and gain attention or not, this kind of cosplay just screams attention seeking to me and I feel that there’s little to no need for it. With some costumes its almost on par with pornographic, however it is seen as acceptable for the pure reason that its cosplay. I think it can almost degrade the people who do this kind of cosplay as you are simply looking at their bodies and not who they have actually dressed up as on top of that. Although many of us will have different opinions to this, it is something that I find interesting when comparing it to craftsmanship which is why this will be my main theme in my article. Due to this, I will be looking for more revealing costumes as well as the heavily crafted outfits photoshoot at Thought Bubble so that I get a good idea as to how and why both are so popular.


Gender-swapping has always been something that has fascinated me in Cosplay. I think its probably to do with the fact that you have more creative freedom that you would if you portraying a character of your own gender; as you have to find alternate ways reflecting the obvious giveaway aesthetics of a character while still making it wearable.This is something that I would really like to be able to photograph at Thought Bubble as I feel it counteracts the whole argument of sex appeal vs craftsmanship. Obviously, a lot of women who will cosplay as male characters have more choice and can choose to make it a sexy version or not, but I feel its an interesting subject as it shows how much of an impact a male or female character can have on the audience while never crossing the line of being exploitative. When I am at Thought Bubble this is something that I will definitely be on the look out for.


I’ve found that editing in cosplay can range from minimal to quite drastic. If you look at the pictures above on the moodboard, you’ll see some have been heavily editing to add graphics or make the cosplayer appear more appealing or in character. Although I understand that because cosplay photography is really a mix of fashion and portrait photography, I feel that adding graphics can be a little distracting and not something that I think Geek Magazine would have in their publication. With my photoshoot, I think that I will obvious edit certain things here and there to make the images look more appealing and fluid, but I think the graphics and special effect wouldn’t look right in my images as I would like them to appear more realistic.


As mentioned before, cosplay is a mix of fashion and portrait photography; and due to this, to the camera angles compliment these styles. I feel however, that it is more fashion-based than that of portrait as the idea is the show off the costume and character. It is also more on par to the fashion photography genre as with fashion it is usually about telling a story; which is the basic idea of cosplay. For my photo-shoot, I feel that my camera angles should be more of a mix of the two so that the images don’t appear samey and uninteresting. Also, after looking at the images Geek Magazine that produced for their Comic Con feature, it also appears that they try to photograph the cosplayers in both styles; with mid to close-up shots along with using low and high angles to give their feature a better range and appear more eye-catching to readers.

After being in contact with a few cosplayers for my interviews in my main project module, I have agreed to meet up with a couple so that I can photograph them on the day. However, a lot of this shoot will be down to who it is I find interesting to photograph, and so I will not know until the day. Due to this, my art direction needs to be more based on planning the location and technical aspects of the shoot until I know what kind of costumes I am dealing with.

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