Cosplay Photography: The Cosfamous-Only Lie

photo by CT Photography

Last year at Colossal Con, I had the pleasure of rooming in a massive Villa with a whole bunch of Cosplay Photographers. Listening at hungover breakfasts and at ‘Family Dinner’s was pretty illuminating. Cosplayer drama is well documented on the internets, but cosplay photographers have their own fair share of issues and gossip. (But if you ask them, cosplayer drama is totes worse.)

Villa Patio

Life was so hard, sipping on beer on the patio.

Specifically, I remember lounging on the patio and listening to a conversation where a cosplayer was getting upset that a photographer wasn’t interested in shooting with her. Or had made a joke about only shooting with ‘famous’ cosplayers. I don’t remember exactly, but it snowballed into an angry cosplayer, a frustrated photographer with a damaged rep and a rumour that seemed to hang around for a while. Let’s get this out of the way early. *ahem*

Photographers are people.

‘Kay? ‘Kay.

As people, they are not obligated to take your photo. Unless they have agreed to a business transaction, and you have already paid them. In that case, breach of contract, and all that. Also, for what it’s worth, verbal contracts are only worth the paper that they’re printed on.

BUT ANYWAYS. Back to the Pictures and the famous people.

A photo of me Sempai?

It’s easy to look online and see only Famous cosplay faces and hot bodies. It’s easy to think, seeing all these glamorous pictures, that only hot or ‘famous’ cosplayers get their photos taken. Going by that logic, in order to get your picture taken, you need to be famous or conventionally hot.


So Sexy

Of which, I am… neither.

It definitely seems that only famous/hot Cosplayers get their photos taken, but that’s the unfortunate effect of viral sharing and social media. The ‘Big Three’ (metaphorically big, they’re all actually itty bitty) of cosplay all produce really beautiful costumes. They are all also very attractive.

Pretty ladies in pretty costumes are internet friendly and get shared a lot. Also, even a lower quality photo of camera-ready costumes and photogenic people can become a hit, so, yeah… photographers gonna photog the hot people. Haters gonna hate that, and I’m just over here shaking it off.


What if I’m not famous/busty/thin/etc?

Photo by Elemental Photography

pictured: Not a body that I’m currently pleased with. Still a good photo.
Bad idea: Eating a large lunch right before a shoot. LEARN FROM MY ERRORS.

The short answer

So what?

Find people that you like working with, and work with them. Learn how to pose, learn how to do make-up for camera, and learn how to relax and enjoy showing off your cosplay.

The Longer but Truthier answer

Photographers are people. Some people are shitty. Some are wonderful. Some only want to take pictures of hot ladies in costumes, some want to take evocative pictures that are art.

Some do cosplay photography to pay for their cons, some do it because they love it and only shoot who and what they want to.

The story at the beginning of this post was about a misunderstanding that exploded into a mess. The photographer wasn’t only interested in shooting ‘famous’ people. They were just interested in shooting what they like, and had a schedule that they had to stick to.



There is a more recent story of arranging a shoot with a photographer for a large group, many of whom were NOT famous or a size 2, and the photographer showed up, took two pictures and left.

Allegedly, they were doing it as a ‘favour’ to one of the more prominent cosplayers in our group. Whether this is true or not, the lack of interest in our was pretty clear. Which is dumb, because we were hella gorgeous.

Photo by CT Photography

We heard u been talkin’ shit.

While shitty, there’s not much you can do with someone like that. They’re interested in what they interested in, and if you don’t fit it, tough tits.

I don’t have the time or energy to convince someone who isn’t interested in shooting my cosplay to do so. Especially when they aren’t being paid for their time. It’d be like someone poking at me to make them a costume, from a series I wasn’t interested in, with fabric I don’t like using (SATAN. SATIN.) just because. If they were a friend, I’d be more willing, but still.

I’d much rather work with someone who I get along and feel comfortable with, than a ‘big name’ who isn’t interested in working with me:

I am tall, and am not at my goal weight.

I don’t have an optimal boob-to-waist-to-hip ratio.

I don’t have a small pointy nose, or perfect teeth.

I make unattractive faces way too often.

I have prominent scars from surgeries and injuries.

I have tattoos that I used to take back ownership of my skin.

I’m human, I’m different, and that’s what makes me interesting.

When a photographer is willing to see the differences each of us have, and then use them to get awesome shots, the results are amazing.


How to get pictures

Sweet Sensation Photography wrote a great post on her facebook page about different ways to get photos. [the direct link is being difficult atm, will post it when I manage to grab it] I won’t rehash it, because I think she did a great job and is coming from a point of view of a photographer herself.

Things that have worked for me as a non-famous, non-petite cosplayer


  • Find photographers that are interested in the costume/series that your costume is from
  • Groups are more impressive than individuals. Especially well-matched groups that have great costumes or look like the characters. ESPECIALLY groups that are organized and not milling around in confusion.
  • Find a camera-friendly location for hall shots
  • Watch for when photographers open booking before cons. THEN BOOK THEM FAST.
  • As Elemental Sight suggests in her awesome Posing Videos, practice a couple poses and switch between them. Photographers will be more likely to stop and snap a hall photo if someone else already is. Because shyness.
  • Express an interest in working with photographers that you’d like to work with. Standing around them and staring doesn’t work. It’s creepy. Don’t do it. Be blunt and say “I really love your work and would love to shoot with you sometime”. Subtlety can be lost in the haze of Con life.
    • Sub note: if you’ve expressed interest, and they don’t, it’s okay. There’s many reasons a photographer says no: exhaustion, hangovers, full schedule, not interested in your cosplay source… it’s not always personal.
  • Be willing to book paid shoots, often that’s how photographers can afford to go to conventions at all!
  • Find Photographers who are just starting out, and be patient if you’re used to fancier gear and so on. This is more from my model days, but look up local photographers who aren’t at cons and see if they’d be willing to shoot for experimenting with new techniques, their portfolio, etc.
  • Make friends. Not ‘Friends because I want something from you’ but ACTUAL FOR REAL ‘I LIKE YOU WE’RE FRIENDS NOW’ friends.


Photographers are people.

ColossalCon Crew

That means there are those that are awesome and fun and silly, and there are those that are more goal oriented and business minded.

There are those that like trying out new things with shoots and those that prefer their routine.

There are wonderful people who love the hobby, and professionals who treat it as a job. Because it is their job.

And yea, because photographers are people, there will be the shitty ones, the creepy guys with cameras (GWCs) or the fame-hungry ones. Just like there’s shitty (personality wise) cosplayers, creepy cosplayers and fame-hungry cosplayers.

So, find people you get along with. Work with them. Support them. Enjoy them. shooting with them.

Because life’s too short to have no pictures of your awesome-as-fuck cosplay!

xox Calamity



8 thoughts on “Cosplay Photography: The Cosfamous-Only Lie

  1. I once logged onto a local cosplay forum to hunt for something slightly different from what I normally do (I’m a portraitist). I posted something on the lines of “Hi, I’m looking for beautiful cosplayer to do a shoot (free of course)”. I linked my portfolio so that the potential model would see what I can do with the camera. But the key word turned out to be “beautiful”. I thought it obvious that when I want to work for free, at the very least I get to choose with whom I will be working. Silly me. Very interesting experience. Not one I’d like to repeat, though. If I were to describe the cosplay community after this with one word, I’d go for “demanding”.
    In the end I got to shoot with a cosplayer (not through the cosplay forum, but through the modeling site) and, quite ironically if I do say so myself, our photos got featured in some strange places that I’m told are important in cosplay community.

  2. #Truth, if you flatter me I’ll instantly want to shoot you but it would have to be before con so I can plan around it! I’ve booked a lot of shoots following hashtags on social media. A cosplayer can look for photographers posting about a convention pre con and swoop in with a request before that photographer’s schedule is full.

  3. I’m of two minds on paying for cosplay photoshoots.

    On one side, speaking as a retired professional photographer, my god yes. Pay your photographer! Pay for the years of experience and the artistic vision that will make your photos …and to steal a line from Futurama… pop, lock, and bust the freshest! You’re not paying for the gear, you’re paying for the mind and the artistic talent behind the gear, you’re paying for all of those years trying and failing, and you’re paying an artist to collaborate with you to create a work that should be greater than the sum of it’s parts.

    However, the other side always screams at me that this is a hobby and no one should be paying me to practice. If I’m at a con taking pictures it’s so I can get better at handling challenging lighting situations, or to get inspiration, or to scout an area for future shoots, or sometimes I’m just there because I enjoy going to cons but I feel naked without the reassuring weight of the camera in my hands. I want to make friends and any photos I take of them are gifts and mementos of the awesome time we’ve had, not some banal business transaction, not me trying to squeeze the cost of the room and the badge out of some poor kids who just want a couple of good shots of the Sailor Moon costumes they worked so hard to make.

    So, I get it. I know why some photographers charge and I know why some don’t, and I’m pretty firmly stuck to the idea that it is really up to the cosplayer and if they feel that the photographer’s work is worth what they are charging, then by all means, schedule that shoot!

    But I’m going to be over here, doing this for fun, keeping the hobby aspect alive, and hopefully keeping the angry cosplayer drama to a minimum.

  4. I’m a professional photographer and a cosplay photographer. I read your article and liked your tips but also like some of your reasoning. You sound like an ideal person to photograph and don’t think your photographers don’t notice how cool you are.
    Feel free to ad me on Facebook, you are someone I would like to be friends with and hopefully meet you at con sometime!
    PS: Love the inclusion of “hangovers” in why a photographer may be hesitant. 😉

  5. Actually, your nose was something I made a note of thinking was adorable, & being a little jealous of. But, grass is greener, nose is cuter, etc. 😛 (I have a stealth nose; small & cute from the front, prominent & broken from any other angle.)