Because enough friends of mine on my dash are talking about this, and after enough major cons I totally feel that feeling of “What the hell am I doing in this picture ugh can I burn it?” that some of you (LIKE ME!!!!) may be having with one or two shots. I am here to help you. But because I still have con crud, I’m going to primarily be using text and a few links to recent photoshoots from Japanese cosplayer MPZero’s site.
The not joking tl;dr tip that is my absolute best tip: Watch Top Model and RuPaul’s Drag Race during the photo challenges to see what they’re doing and how it works. Especially RPDR just because it has a better variety of faces and body types. (Some people it’s impossible for them to take a bad photo. I sometimes contemplate stabbing them.)
But other than that, here’s some useful things.
1) THE MIRROR LIES.
Does that pose look good in the mirror? Be prepared to not realize that it may look pretty terrible on film. The mirror’s reflection distorts somewhat, is reversed (duhh), and most importantly, only shows you one angle with you yourself being able to see. Sometimes just the smallest angle change is enough to make a photo go from BLUH to AMAZING… but it can also work the other way around. So you need to be able to work a pose that will work from more than one angle!
2) THE BEST WAY TO PRACTICE POSING… IS TO PRACTICE POSING.
Whether it’s a friend with a camera or camera phone (preferable, because they’re going to be better at helping you figure out what’s different between frames) or you with a digicam and a tripod, the best way to practice posing is to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Take photos. Take hundreds of photos. Take enough that you feel like a vain bitch. Get a friend who also cosplays and take photos of each other. What you want to do is to, at the very minimum, establish several flattering “stock” poses for whatever genders of characters you cosplay. At the best, get stock poses and one or two specific ones for favorite characters. Learn what angle to hold your head at relative to the camera and what angle you should avoid. (For me, I prefer to present a 3/4 view depending on the light, with my head either tilted up or down just a bit. Full-front and tilting my head back too much is an absolute disaster, as is true profile while I’m laughing. It may be different for you.) Practice sitting and standing poses. And remember, when someone’s taking a pic of you from above with you lying down, letting your head rest on the ground is almost never a good idea; do a tiny crunch! Don’t be afraid to go through tons of art and magazine photos and whatever sources you can find for poses to imitate. That being said…
3) AN INTERESTING POSE IS ALWAYS BEST
You know what the most boring pose in the world is? Standing there facing the camera. And even if you want a front-on shot, you need to make it interesting. You have weight. Shift it! And it doesn’t even have to be too much, either. Look at the first photo of this Japanese cosplayer on a photo blog I read. It’s not a photo so interesting you’ll remember it forever, but just by shifting her weight and doing something with her arms and hands, it’s gone from boring to interesting to look at. Doing something with your hands and arms is one of the fastest ways to turn a bleh pose into something more interesting. Practice how to hold your hands so they’re interesting. Work on having an outstretched hand and figuring out how far to one side or another you have to move your arm before foreshortening makes it look like you no longer have an arm. (You actually CAN do that part in a mirror, btw.) You are beautiful. Figure out how to make the camera show it!
4) REMEMBER THE LITTLE TRICKS
After you’re OK with poses, THAT is when to remember the little tricks that you’ll find on every “modeling guide” like putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth or whatnot. But really? I’d worry less about things like that and more about keeping an interesting rhythm to your body.
5) BE A COPYCAT
It’s like I say for cosplay tutorials. Save every one with a good result you come across; even if you aren’t making the same project, you can use the techniques. The same for photos. If you see someone who looks like you, save that in a pose inspiration folder! Hell, you may even want to have several character poses to remember printed out in your bag.
6) POSTURE POSTURE POSTURE POSTURE POSTURE
unless your character has bad posture (and these exist), make sure your posture’s good. If you’re reading this, you are probably a computer addict, and you probably slouch at your monitor a lot. Don’t do this while cosplaying, unless you’re actually supposed to. It is not flattering to anybody ever.
7) HAVE FUN
Confidence shows in photos. If you feel like shit, you’ll probably look like shit. You as a viewer may not know which are which, but I can look at my past cosplay photoshoots and even before remembering the specifics of the shoots I can tell you which ones were outfits I loved and which ones were outfits I hated or I was really sick at the time. If you don’t like your outfit, well then honey, FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. Or get home, realize there’s a problem, fix it, and then rock your bad self in a slightly better version.