Sittin’ Pretty – Getting Photos You Like

Sittin' Pretty

Also known as: “How to do everything you can, to optomize how you feel & look in photos”

Note: all Wonderfully old-timey photos are from the blog New Old Stock

Okay. So. It is now April. Hush. I’m still going to write about the body stuff. BUT THIS IS A TIE IN POST SO DEAL WITH IT.

Let’s be Real

There are going to be photos of ourselves that we don’t like. This is one of those shitty facts of life. Harshly lit, non-white balanced photos can make anyone look awful, no matter how photogenic they are. For cosplayers, there’s not much we can control behind the camera unless we’re talking about doing #selfies.

But I’m not, (today). Let us begin with tactic 1…

Test out posing in your costume before the con

You may discover that poses you had in mind are just not possible in your costume.

Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) Prime Crew Member Donald "Deke" K. Slayton suits up for an altitude test of the Apollo command module in an altitude chamber of KSC's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB).

Like crouching, or sitting. Or moving.

Even if many poses are possible, but they may not all be flattering.

Pay attention to what works, and practice those until you know you can get into them easily.

Tip: Put on some music you like/think fits the character, and have a pose off with yourself in front of a mirror. I suggest anything David Bowie.

Bonus tip: Remember to lock the door so your roommate/sibling/landlord doesn’t walk in on you.


Facial expression matters too

Rawr, work it kitty!

Le tigre

There’s a thing a lot of people do when modeling for a shoot, and I call it the deadface. I’m sure you’ve seen it (done it too!) where the subject of the photo is mimicking models and looking off, face relaxed. DEVOID OF ALL THINGS HUMAN.

Hard hitting truth: very few of us have the facial structure to pull that look off. I don’t. I still do it by accident though, but I’ve practiced more facial expressions in photos and in front of the mirror so that I’m less likely to fall back into the deadface.

Smile, laugh, sneer, frown, grimace, snarl, roll your eyes. Be your character.


Props make posing easier

I’m not saying you need a prop, but if you’re familiar with the panic of “OH GOD WHAT ARE HANDS AND WHERE DO THEY GO?” then I suggest finding a prop. It will help because you’ll be all ‘oh yeah, I hold onto the Thing, that’s what hands do’.


Hm. Yes. Golf clubs are held in hands. I see. Quite good, ol’ chap.

If your character doesn’t have a prop, that’s okay. Think of what they do, and what they’re like. A ladies’ man? Maybe a cheap rose, or a mirror to check yourself out in. Shy and socially awkward? Book. Partier? Empty drink/mug/stein thing. EMPTY.


Only one glass until you’re done for the day

YMMV on this one, but take a look at that face:


Alcohol makes your face relax because it’s a depressant. A tasty, tasty depressant, that, in photography can sometimes make you look like you are having a stroke, and then get people concerned for you. Or, you just look drunk.

Drunk expressions don’t usually translate to ‘oh man I look hawt’.


If you’re in a group Cosplay, Organize!

Preferably before the photographer arrives, or name one person in the group as drill sergeant to help sort everyone out.


“So, uh, the guy with the hat, can you move to the left a bit?”

The bonus of having a group, is more photographers are likely to stop and take a picture if you’re already all posing for another photographer. There is strength in numbers! Magnetic attention grabbing strength.



Don’t worry, there shouldn’t be a chainsaw wielding maniac. Unless someone’s cosplaying Leatherface. Then there actually might be a chainsaw wielding maniac.

Bears (Polar) in Glasgow Zoo, Glasgow, Scotland / Rex Nan Kivell

Finally a picture all on my own. No Clarence hogging the spotlight.

More often than Leather-faces and polar bears, there will something that could ruin a shot like an outlet in the wall, a small child eating paste, or a splotch on the wall.


Lookin’ good vs lookin’ Ruff.


I’ve talked about makeup before, and while you don’t need to go to drastic stage makeup levels, there are a few things that will make a huge difference between how you look in photos. Boys, you too.

  • Foundation
  • concealer for con caused dark circles
  • eyeliner/mascara
  • lip colour/chap
  • setting spray/powder

Scout locations before your shoot

A good background can make an incredible difference.

SFFf-1989091.0D 046

If your con is lacking mountain ranges, do a little walk around and try to find one or two locations that would work for your costume. Whether it’s a simple wall, or something more dramatic like Tall Grass, knowing where you want to shoot helps you figure out what kind of pose and feel you want from that series of pictures.



Hmmm I want to erase that zit on my nose. 01000111010101000101. There.

If you’re familiar with post processing, and the photographer is okay with it, ask for high res images so you can go in and do a beauty pass or two. Always ask the photographer if it’s okay to alter their picture. Remember, it’s their work too.

If they say no, then respect that.

Something important about Photoshopping that not many non tech people know: it does not act like magic and fix all the problems of a photo.

Photoshop is best for:

  • cleaning up smudged makeup
  • faking coloured contacts
  • tucking in a bit of stomach (if you choose),
  • erasing visible bra straps and
  • adjusting hue and contrast.
  • removing background clutter

Things Photoshop is not good for:

  • removing graininess from a picture taken in low light.
  • adding in missing props or parts of a costume
  • detangling a wig
  •  erasing something that overlaps with the cosplayer, like a dog running through the frame.


Check out Elemental Photography’s video series on how to pose for cosplay


2 thoughts on “Sittin’ Pretty – Getting Photos You Like

  1. Your bonus tip under testing poses made me giggle because I sometimes practice cosplay posing in the bathroom mirror at work. And every time, inevitably, someone else walks in just as I’m doing something embarrassing…like trying to smoulder. Facepalm.