So you want to be a Cosplay Photographer

By Mark Vawser (Castleforge Photography)

Image: Cosplayer GrizzlyGhoul shot by Castleforge Photography

So, you want to be a Cosplay Photographer, you want to capture all the cosplays, the question is, how do you start? I’m Castleforge Photography and I’ve been in the cosplay scene for almost a year. I attended my first con as a photographer at PAX 2022 and have since attended seven cons as a freelancer or official photographer. I’ve had the privilege of shooting with some of Australia’s best cosplayers and told “you can’t shoot here” by the finest comic con security guards. Let me give you a crash course in Cosplay Photography. 


The photography proverb “the best camera, is the one you have” holds true here, any DSLR or Mirrorless Camera can do the job if you know the fundamentals. For me it all comes down to light, if you can see your subject clearly through the camera then you’re in business. Con halls have notoriously bad lighting so best to try and shoot outside. This is where you’ll find all the other photographers hunting down cosplayers. If you’re looking to step up your game an RGB light adds some colour and mood to your shots. This will require you to buy a portable stand or friend, both are hard to transport but defiantly worth it. Photographers often fall into the gear rabbit hole, sure, a 10K set up helps, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I’d rather take a photo on a potato than not take one at all. 

Working with Cosplayers

Do you ever get stopped at a shopping centre by an overly enthusiastic (and sometimes desperate) salesperson trying to sell you something? Annoying right? That’s every photographer at a con. You’re trying to convince cosplayers to take time out of their day to get some photos, so here are FIVE tips on how to be a charismatic salesperson and not a desperate “I need this” photographer. 

1 - Approach within eyesight. Cosplayers spook easily. There’s nothing worse than turning around to find someone breathing down your neck, not a great start. Wave, smile, and tell them who you are: “Hi guy’s I’m *Insert name here* and I was wondering if you had a spare moment to take a couple photos?” 

2 - Compliment their cosplay. They spent a lot of time working on it, you approached because it looked great, tell them. You didn’t watch every episode Critical Role or Naruto to not bring it up in conversation. 

3 – Take photos of everyone. If people are in a group address them all, not just the one dressed as Harley Quin. Offer to take photos of the whole group, they appreciate the offer and that’s more people that will share your work. Don’t chase clout by only going for the big names, its disingenuous and seasoned cosplayers can smell it a mile away. 

4 – Make them feel comfortable. Say the words with me “only do what you’re comfortable doing” that goes for both the cosplayer and the photographer. This is critical when it comes to posing, ask them what poses they would like first, then correct some angles from there. Don’t touch without permission, can’t believe I have to say that but here we are. I never suggest anything “spicy” unless they specifically request it. If you don’t feel comfortable with it either simply communicate that and if necessary, end the shoot. No photo is worth ruining you reputation. 

4.5 - Show your photos. After you take a few shots and you’re ready to move onto a new pose, take a moment and show the cosplayer your photos in the back of the camera. This is critical. The cosplayer gets to see how they look, offer suggestions or correction to posing and most of all, make sure you not just zooming in on their cleavage. It’s a collaboration, you must let them in on the process and make them feel comfortable. 

5 – Exchange socials. Instagram is the preferred platform used by cosplayers so always get their Instagram handle, this is usually what they are referred to by the community anyway. If you haven’t already created your own photography page, start one. Don’t use your personal page, you need to be professional and depressing posts from your teen years don’t add to your professionalism. Plus, you get to create an awesome handle like Photography Dog. Screenshotting a cosplayer’s IG after the shoot has saved me more time than I can count, always tag your cosplayers.

Post Processing & Delivery

You’ve got your precious photos, survived the con, and the community are abuzz with your amazing people skills. It’s time to edit. Lightroom is the most used program for images, but free options are available such as Snapseed on mobile. Unless you are familiar with these, I would suggest going easy on the post editing, it’s very easy to go overboard when you’re starting out. A little sharpening and a little colour correcting can go a long way, as time goes on, you’ll discover what you like and create your own signature style. However, don’t force it. If you take good photos in camera the editing is just the icing on the cake, if all your photos must be “saved” in editing, then you need to reevaluate how you’re taking your photos. 

You took the photos for free right? Then you are under no expectation to deliver them right away. That being said, never delivering them is also poor form. Communication is key, give people updates via stories or posts. 2-4 weeks after the con is around the mark for delivery, some work faster, some slower. Paid work is a different beast altogether but don’t worry about getting paid…cosplayers have no money. 

Congratulations! You’re a cosplay photographer! The final thing to know is that the Australian Cosplay Community is passionate, diverse and most of all, owes you nothing. Add to that community in a positive way and you’ll be welcomed with open arms. It’s certainly welcomed me. 

There’s more to say but only so many pages. For vlogs and tutorials check out my YouTube channel Castleforge Photography or follow my Instagram for cosplay content.