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22 Feb 2008 - 14:291725
Photography Tips Thread
I thought it would be very helpful for myself and all the other budding photographers if we had a thread to lend photography experience.

We all know that a great cosplay is great idneed, but what really can clinch the cosplay is the quality of the photo taken. A great cosplay will probably not look so good if a poor blurry photo is taken and heralded.


Everyone wants a lovely photo - so let the tips commence! My tips are:

- Lighting! Natural daylight is always a good source of light that exposes details that would have otherwise been cast in shadows. I find that playing with different angles of the camera produces different shadow effects that could highlight a certain area of the cosplay/subject.

- Background! I find that it's always nicer to take a photo in an area that suits the cosplay itself. For example, if I was to take a photo of Uzumaki Naruto, it would look quite strange if the scenery was a city centre. To me, Naruto would be suited better amongst rockery and/or a grassy area, or even a dusty pathway, like the Konoha village. Hey, actually, a ramen place would suit him best! ;D

- Batteries! There has been one occassion when I forgot to bring spare batteries for my cameram and I could've kicked myself when the batteries became dead and I couldn't do anything about it D: Remember to charge the most essential things XD



Fire away with your tips!


__________________
Katsu no wa Hyotei~♥
22 Feb 2008 - 14:591726
The most obvious one of all:
Keep the camera still! XD You don't want your hands to be all wobbly otherwise the pictures will come out blurry xP... A lot of my photos are actually pretty rushed so a few of them are blurry and no use =[

I'm no photographer... I plainly suck at taking decent photos LOL! So yeah the keeping the camera still one is the only one I could think off ^_^;;


22 Feb 2008 - 15:101727
I'm not much of a photographer... I can just about manage a decent photo, given enough attempts.

But a decent digital camera is always good. Always do a bit of market research if you're looking into buying a new camera. Don't go for the most expensive because you think the price reflects the quality of the photos you'll get.

And when you get a camera, spend some time playing with it. So you know which settings do what, so when you ask for a photo you're not standing around for an extra five minutes saying: 'hold one, I just have to flick this and wait for this'. :]

Thats all I can really think of.


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22 Feb 2008 - 15:581728
Quote Odd-One-Out:
- Lighting! Natural daylight is always a good source of light that exposes details that would have otherwise been cast in shadows. I find that playing with different angles of the camera produces different shadow effects that could highlight a certain area of the cosplay/subject.


Natural lighting has its pros and cons, to be honest. I went through a "Natural lighting is always better" phase only to be proven quite wrong following Collectormania Glasgow.

My best piece of advice regarding this is: always use the flash. Every single time. Abuse the hell out of your flash. The only time I don't use my flash is when I'm deliberately trying to use a feature of the surrounding lighting that would be disrupted by the flash (most artificial lighting falls under this category). If you're not sure, you can take more than one photo to compare. Otherwise, flash highlights the subject and dampens any harsh shadows.

Quote CrystalNeko:
The most obvious one of all:
Keep the camera still! XD You don't want your hands to be all wobbly otherwise the pictures will come out blurry xP... A lot of my photos are actually pretty rushed so a few of them are blurry and no use =[


It really helps to lean against a wall or your knee to keep it steady. Though for most normal photos you won't need to go this far: it's only really important when the shot has a long exposure time.

Let's see... things to avoid are taking a photo of your subject from a dark location with a bright background. The plaza outside the main Amecon building is notorious for this.

Always make sure the face of the subject is clear and in shot. If the face is obscured by the cosplayer's posing- and there's not a good reason for this (e.g. it's the character's trademark pose) then it's not a good pose.

If the cosplayer has the worst pose in the world, get them to pose better! The vast majority of cosplayers are friendly and will not bite your head off when you point out their pose leaves a bit to be desired. It's important to remember that they can't see what they look like on camera. That being said, if you notice any glaringly obvious mishaps (the most common one I see is that their wig has slipped back and exposed the hairline), let them know. For the photo and out of sheer principle. Also, con bags and badges should <i>not</i> show up in shot!

Know the limits of your camera. I use a 18-55mm lens which limits me to close-range shots only. This is mostly something you'll pick up with experience but knowing statistics like that helps a lot.

That's all I can really think of at the moment. It's probably moot to mention this but Nick's tutorial on cosplay photography has a lot of good, relevant tips.



Last edited by Redkun (22 Feb 2008 - 16:03)
22 Feb 2008 - 16:121729
Nick's tutorial is such a great tutorial for photographers. I agree with your tips Redkun, I think they are extremely helpful especially the tip about knowing your camera beforehand.

Thread is still open for more tips


__________________
Katsu no wa Hyotei~♥
22 Feb 2008 - 16:311730
More from a cosplayer's point of view than strictly the photographer's, but I suppose it's all connected!

Agreed on helping cosplayers out with posing. It's really good to know when you're going wrong, or even just to get new ideas for the photographer. We don't mind being advised about posing, or being moved to a more suitable background, so don't be afraid to say so!

I would add that (where possible) it's a good idea to try to take more than one photo. Firstly to ensure you didn't catch the cosplayer blinking, or somehow mess up the first shot etc., and secondly, to attempt some variation. See about taking the second shot as a close-up, ask for a different pose...even just two different photos like that is worth a lot more to a cosplayer than a hit-and-run snapshot, and it need not take much longer than one photo.


22 Feb 2008 - 16:461731
I think this is based on my Film Studies but I'm going to say it anyway because I still think of it when I'm taking cosplay photos:

LEVELS - Sometimes flat-out straight photos are good, but see what you can get when you raise the camera higher or lower, you can get interesting angles and shots (just beware getting a shot up someone's skirt!!!).

If you're taking a shot of someone who is an evil character, I recommend taking at least one photo that is a low-angle shot, it makes the character look more imposing and scary-looking because they look like they are towering above the photographer. How low you want to go is up to you, and angle it how you want so you get the best look for the costume Don't be afraid to get down on the ground if you want to get a good photo!

High levels are intended to make a character look weaker or more innocent, but depending on your cosplayer's pose it could come out as a realy cool shot (you get some fun stuff if a character is looking/pointing/posing up at the camera). Oviously these are slightly harder to take because you have to hold them with your arms right up in the air (looking a bit silly sometimes) or you could go and find a chair, though it really depends on how high you want to take the shot. Sometimes if a character is crouched down or kneeling all you have to do is take it standing up at an angle.

FRAMING - Framing is very very important because if a photo isn't framed very well it will just not look quite right. Don't be afraid to take a few steps back and make sure you have the framing right, or go up close and personal (ask first!) depending on the type of shot you want.

Close ups can either be very easy, or very difficult to get right and sometimes a cosplayer may not want you to take a close-up of them (so be nice and ask first!). Make sure that when you take a close up you are not too close! Try and get a nice shot from about the shoulders to the head - Don't cut off the top of the shoulders otherwise it will look just like a floating head which looks quite silly!

If you're doing a mid-shot (from about the beginning of the chest upwards) make sure there is no 'dead space' above the cosplayer's head, usually leave a small gap, but nothing too huge, otherwise it looks silly and it'll spoil your shot. (You can crop this in a program like photobucket, but then you get a photo that looks uneven and it doesn't look quite right to the eye).

Full shots are more easy-going because you can normally get away with quite a lot more, you normally get more of a cosplayer's pose (if they're doing one) and get a nice look at their entire outfit. Still, framing is important, try and imagine a small frame about the entire shot that makes an invisable gap between the edge of the photo and the edge of the cosplayer. It makes the photo look neater.

MISC. - Various other tips I can think of off the top of my head but I'm not too sure what catergory they should go into ^^;.

I'm going to sound a bit pretentious now, but try and think of the 'flow' of the photo. If you have a digital camera, take a moment to consider where the eye is drawn to in the photo you're about to take. The cosplayer's head? The feet? The arm? Think it over and then see where the eye goes to? Do they look at the sword first and then follow along to the shoulders and head of the cosplayer and then down the costume to the feet?

Just think about this so you have an idea of what people who are looking at the photo might be doing when they see it. Is it easy-flowing, or jarring? If jarring try and change the angle slightly, or possibly ask the cosplayer to change their pose ever so slightly. Though don't worry if you forget to do this! ^^

Profile photos (where the cosplayer is facing straight at the camera) aren't always the best, see if you can ask the cosplayer to turn just a little to the side, at an angle (not too much so you don't see all the outfit, mind!) try and get a little shadow or something to see if you can get a nice outline on the face and costume, and if they don't want to move, you can always move yourself.

Don't be afraid to try out new things! Sometimes photos just don't look good! But don't be upset, everyone takes a bad photo at some point, if you're worried, ask if you can take a couple of photos from different shots/levels/angles, you're bound to get enough that you like

Hope that helped ^^; I'll see if I can think of some more stuff asap!


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I'm going to slash your pillow and tear out all the stuffing with a motorbike made of jelly.
26 May 2008 - 22:413063
Quote Redkun:
My best piece of advice regarding this is: always use the flash. Every single time. Abuse the hell out of your flash. The only time I don't use my flash is when I'm deliberately trying to use a feature of the surrounding lighting that would be disrupted by the flash (most artificial lighting falls under this category). If you're not sure, you can take more than one photo to compare. Otherwise, flash highlights the subject and dampens any harsh shadows.
Yes... and no...

- If your only flash is the one built onto your camera, then never use it; anything is better than using those little buggers. Turn on lights near you, open the curtains more, move to a different area if need be, wait for cloud overhead to move a little, or put the ISO up (even if you're using a good old 35mm and this means changing film). There is nothing in the world worse than camera's built-in flashes.
- Basically, buy a separate flashgun. You can get good ones for almost any camera body for a little under £200, and my god is it worth it.
- Never have the flash pointing directly at the subject, ever. Try and bounce the flash off a light wall or ceiling.
- Buy a flash diffuser if you have to have the flash pointing even remotely towards the subject.
- No matter what great flashgun you buy, don't expect it to solve all your problems. Even the best flashguns will still cause the usual problems; direct flash can cause redeye, and if you're not experienced working with flash at distance (or up close, as the case may be), you're very likely to over-expose your subject but drastically under-expose the background. Of course some people also don't like being photographed with flash too, and you should respect this. Even after dropping a few hundred on a nice flashgun, getting a diffuser, under-powering the flash, and paying some poor kid to stand around with a reflector to bounce it off... you should still be prepared to lose the flash and be able to resort to other methods of achieving good exposure.


And lastly, something which I think is just as important even if you're not using flash:

- You don't always need to be using the widest aperture, the lowest ISO, and the fastest shutter speed.
It seems these days, everyone constantly uses apertures of f/2.8 or faster, shutter speeds in excess of 1/80, and never risk putting their ISO above 100.
Granted, if you don't have to put your ISO up, you shouldn't. But if it helps, it's not a crime to use ISO 200, 400, or even sometimes 800. Most budget bodies made in the last couple of years can easily make use of ISO 800 without too much noise (noise will go up indoors in low-light, but that's a given), and any professional-quality digital camera will be able to make use of ISO up to 400 with no noise at all, and 800+ with only minimal noise.
Wide apertures are nice for tightly framed portrait shots, but everybody seems to overestimate how wide you need to go, and I catch lots of people using wide apertures even when doing wide group shots and the like. Stop it! Don't be scared to stop down to f/8 and beyond - I've even made use of f/16 and f/22 for some portrait shots, and it's turned out fine. Most budget lenses perform their worst when they're blown wide open anyway.
Everyone also overestimates how fast they need the shutter speed to be. Most people only want to eliminate any motion blur or camera shake, yet they whack their shutter speed up ridiculously high. You can stop all camera shake and 99% of motion blur with shutter speeds of 1/40-1/80 (depending on focal length, and also just how cack-handed you are at keeping the camera held still). When photographing cosplay, it'll be rare you'll ever need to go faster than 1/125-1/160 (again, depending on the specifics of the lens you're using). On Cosplay.Com I've seen people using shutter speeds of 1/320 indoors with low light, photographing a still cosplayer, and having to use horrible flash and ISO of 1600+ to get the exposure anywhere near to right, when they could have just slowed the shutter down to 1/80, gaining two stops (easily enough to use ISO 400, and under-power the flash, or maybe not use the flash at all).


I've seen so many dodgy cosplay photos that are victims of bad use of flash/ISO/aperture/shutter speed/heavy photoshopping to compensate, and there's rarely any excuse for it. Please people; practise taking pictures in a room with low-light. Invest in a couple of cheap accessories. Practise keeping that camera still, test out every combination of settings your camera and lenses offer until you know off by heart what will give you the best quality while affording you good exposure too. And above all, don't be scared to get out of your comfort zone.


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