I am a cosplayer for 7 years now. I learned so much during this time. Not only my sewing, crafting and posing skills increased, I also made some big steps forward regarding photography and retouch.
If you want to take a look at my work please see:
First of all I want to say a few things about how I do Cosplay photo shootings – as a cosplayer and as a photographer. Since I know both sides pretty well, I thought it might be interesting for you to read what I think is important and what I appreciate during shootings.
For me it was quite difficult in the beginnings of my life as a cosplayer to get good pictures. I barely knew people from the scene. And the ones I knew were on the same level as I were, so I didn’t learn fast, because there were no people who could give me tips about making pictures, let alone editing them. Seven years ago, when I started it was also much harder than it is today to find good tutorials or tips regarding cosplay photography online. It is unbelievable how fast cosplay grew in the last 7 years. When I started I had to learn really everything by myself. But even if it took me YEARS to be on the level I am now (which is still not very high), it was the best experience I could get. I made a lot of mistakes, tried a lot of different things out and sometimes had a damn hard time solving difficulties. But you learn from nothing better than from making mistakes and trying several methods in sewing, crafting or photographing. Now I know exactly what I want, what methods I like and which methods I don’t want and what I dislike.
Personally, as a cosplayer, I like most of all doing pictures with my friends who are also cosplayers. Because if you know how it is to wear a costume and how hard it can be to bring a character to life and what problems you might face during doing your make up, creating the “perfect” look, how much you can love a costume which you sewed with your own hands or while posing, you treat your models different and also edit your pictures in a different way in the end. I had of course also very good experiences with photographers who are not also cosplayers and I like some German and also some international photographers a lot! They do a good job, are always nice, friendly and respectful. I love to work with them.
But I met also others that didn’t have any respect of the costumes or the wishes of the cosplayer himself. Also I had photo shootings where I did not even get one picture in the end. Or I worked with photographers that took 50 pictures of me, but edited and uploaded only 1 or 2 in the end, without saying a word about how the other results were, what was wrong with them etc.
Of course I try to be as polite and friendly as possible when I take pictures of other cosplayers, especially because I had some bad moments during photo shootings myself. And this is what I think is really important when you photograph others and also what I appreciate when being the model:
I appreciate when photographers show me the results on their camera every 10-15 pics. Even if the pictures are technically super professional, the angle perfect, the light awesome… there are two people who should be satisfied with the photos. None of us cosplayers likes his face in every angle (for me personally it’s my nose. I try to hold my head in a position where you can’t see too much of me in profile, but since I don’t stand in front of a mirror while posing, I often can’t correct it until I see the final picture). And sometimes the photographer thinks the picture is perfect, but the cosplayer doesn’t like himself in the photo. And if you communicate, you are able to maybe redo a shot where the cosplayer poses a bit different or hold his head in another position. That way there is a bigger chance that both of you will be happy in the end =)
And as already mentioned: It is a good thing to show respect for the cosplayer and the hand made costume he/she wears. If you have a good idea for a picture but the cosplayer feels not comfortable with it after one or two tries or if there is the chance that the costume could be ruined while doing a certain pose, don’t force a picture. And for all cosplayers out there: If you feel uncomfortable with a pose for whatever reason – say so! You don’t have to do everything just to make the photographer happy. And if the person you are taking pictures with is reputable, then he/she will understand. I think all serious photographers will agree with me here =)
Same goes for the editing – communication is the key! Before editing pictures I normally show ALL THE PICS to my models and they choose for themselves which pics they like and what I should edit for them. Additionally to these pics, I edit some more that I especially like (if they were not already selected by my model). I ALWAYS ask my models if they are satisfied with my editing. If they don’t like something at all, I try to change it. And if one of them says that he/she doesn’t like a picture at all, I won’t upload it, which fortunately happens very seldom. Not at least because of the communication during the shooting. But most cosplayers are so grateful if you give them the opportunity to decide for themselves what pictures they would like to see online and in general for letting them be part of the whole process.
In a lot of cases I also edit the pics friends took of me myself. Or – other way round – I give all my Raws to my friends if they want to edit the photos themselves. That is something most photographers would never do, and I totally understand that. For me this also only works when there is a lot of trust and I would also never give my RAWs to people I don’t know super super good. But I wanted to add that just that you can see how cosplayers do photo shootings with their friends =)
But really: communication is the key and we cosplayers highly appreciate it if you let us be part of the whole process. I personally made very good experiences with following the tips above =)
BUT NOW! Forward to editing pics 😉
I never change my pictures too much. I personally prefer to search for nice and fitting locations and just do slight adjustments to light and colors afterwards instead of removing whole backgrounds or something like that. But that is really a matter of personal taste and who knows… if my skills with PS would be not so lousy, maybe I would edit my pics a bit stronger 😄
So this tutorial is really perfect for beginners! It is fast and you don’t need any special skills regarding PS =)
I decided to do a little tutorial and show my ways of changing photos, because I profited a lot by tutorials made by other cosplayers and photographers and I think it’s always a good thing to share your work, even if you are not a pro in what you do. We can all learn from each other, no matter how skilled we are.
So let’s start! I chose a picture from one of my latest shootings with Calssara. (This was one of the shootings that I mentioned where I got all the RAWs in the end and edited everything myself. Thanks a lot to Calssara for taking all the nice pics =) )
Our location was not super fancy and also the light was kinda weird… The pictures turned out quite pale and yellowish. But I liked the angle, my face and my pose. I chose this picture exactly because of that: it’s nothing really special. You could do such a photo nearly everywhere. But even if your location is not super special and the light is far away from perfect, as long as you like yourself in it, everything is fine and you can rescue the rest of the picture with only a few minutes of work. And I so like it after I did a bit of retouch. It is one of my favorite shots of the day =) Here you can see a before and after:
I always take my photos as raw files (and so did Calssara here). Raw files contain more information about light/colors/other picture information, while jpgs are already automatically slightly changed. So if you have the option to take your photos as raw files – you can choose that option in the menu of your DSLR (and I was told that some bridges offer that option as well, just check your manual if you are not sure) – you should do so.
I work with PS CS6. But I mostly use basic functions, so every version will do (you can get CS2 for free online). And now good news if you consider buying the newest version of PS: you don’t have to buy it once for a huge amount of money anymore. Honestly… PS always has been ridiculously expensive. I bought it while I still was studying and I got a nice discount because of that. I would have never bought PS for over 1000 bugs. Now Adobe uses a kind of a subscription model with the Creative Cloud. You can pay monthly now and subscribe for the programs you need. And I think their price for a PS subscription is totally fine, it was something around 20€ as far as I can remember. Ok, enough of this, let’s start with the tutorial already 😀
If you open a raw file in PS you will first of all see a kind of a tinier version of Light Room that will look like this:
Unfortunately I installed a german version so you probably won’t understand too much from the pics 😄 But I will mark everything you need in red, so you should be able to follow. The options you can see here are all about light and contrast and white balance. Just start playing around with the options. There is no right or wrong in editing your picture, you should just like it in the end =)
I thought cool colors and a crisp look would look good on that picture, so I changed the white balance and added a bit more blue and violet, I added a bit more color contrast and I personally like to bring out the depths and blacks more. When that was done it looked like this:
Every set of pictures needs a different and individual retouch. Depends on the series, the character, the atmosphere you want to create. Sometimes a bit more yellow in the pics looks better, sometimes blue… just experiment! You can see how easy you can redo your steps if you don’t like what you see, so don’t be shy and try everything out =)
Next step for me is the corrector brush that you can see marked red in the picture below.
That tool is really awesome! You can change different parts of your photo totally independent from others. The changes are only applied on the places where you use the brush and you can add new options and changes to every new brushstroke. Adding a bit of color and darkness to the edges of the photo always gives it a bit more dynamic and brings out the model a bit more. Especially when the location is quite “empty” as in this picture it performs miracles. I thought a slight touch of violet would fit nicely. When I finally liked the result I opened the picture in PS. Choose the option in the middle to transport it into PS.
Then I only do a bit of beauty retouch. First I get rid of the dark circles under my eyes and other imperfections by using the red marked tool. Just select the area you want to correct and pull the chosen area to a place with lighter and smoother skin. PS will blend the two areas together. You can do the same with imperfections on the floor or on walls or wherever in your photo. In this case I had to get rid of some duck poo on the stairs 😄
After you did this, the next step will be making the skin a bit smoother. Select the lasso tool you see marked red on the picture below. Then draw around the face. Since we have to leave out the eyes from the selection anyway, you don’t have to include them in your selection. After you did this, click on the tiny symbol above that says “substract from selection”. Once you clicked it, you can mark parts in the area you chose before – this will remove these parts from the selection you made. We want to select the mouth and nostrils here. I will explain the reason later =)
If your selection is complete, then press “ctrl” and “j” to create a new layer. This layer will change only the area of the face that you have chosen before with the lasso. Then go to “filters” above and choose what you see in blue on the picture below –gaussian blur.
You will see a new window opening. Select something between 50 and 60 pixel and press OK. Your picture will look quite terrible now… But we will fix that! 😄
Next step is reducing the opacity. And here is a tip, especially for beginners. I know how awesome it is in the beginning when you find out about all the cool features Photoshop has to offer. But it is as with most other things: less is more. Don’t overdo it. Faces can look unnatural and flat so easily if you use too much blur. I like a fill opacity between 20-43% depending on the picture. On some portraits you can use up to 45% and it will still look good. But I also have some portraits where I used only 19% and it was already enough. Just be careful with this tool. Next step is adding a mask over the layer – also marked red. Just click the tiny symbol =)
And here is the explanation why we left out eyes/mouth/nostrils from the selection. With using the Gaussian Blur we spread the pixel in the chosen area. When they spread, they spread also a bit beyond the lines of your selection. But of course we don’t want to spread them there. We want to have crisp eyes, nostrils, lips and hair. Only the skin should look blurry. With ignoring these parts from the beginning, and selecting really only the skin, we are now able to get rid of the excess pixel in exactly the sections we left out by using a mask and the brush. Choose the brush tool and paint with black over the areas you want the pixel to vanish.
We are almost done =) The last thing I do is bringing out the eyes more. Use the dodge tool on the left that I marked red. This will help you to brighten up colors. To get the right range of colors that you want to brighten, you have to choose the “midtones” in the options you can see marked red. You can also brighten up highlights if you want to. Therefore you just have to choose “highlights” instead of “midtones”. It’s nice to brighten up the whiteness in the eyes, but don’t overdo it! I personally don’t do it, I always have the feeling it looks a bit too unnatural, but everyone has a different taste there. Also select a low fill opacity so that you can build up the result. I like something between 7 and 11%. Now I brightened up the eyecolor respectively my colored contact lenses. See the result below.
Next part is darken the shadows. Therefore select the burn tool and select “shadows” in the bar on the top. Use a fill opacity of 7-11% again and brush over the parts in and around the eyes that you want to stay out more. For me these were lashes, pupil and the circle around the contact lense. I also sometimes use this tool to darken my make up around the eyes a bit. Below you can see the result.
And we are DONE =)
If you did this procedure a few times you can do all the steps in 5-10 minutes, depending on the photo. That is really not much and makes such a big difference as you can see in the before/after picture.
I hope my little tutorial helped a few of you. I know that what I do here are really the basics and on a beginners level. Nevertheless I think for people who only just started to photograph or started to work with Photoshop or also for people who don’t have much time for editing this could maybe be a nice solution… =)