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Tutorial : How to Self Shoot by Starleigh Cosplay

There’s a pandemic around the world, cons and events are cancelled and it’s looking like you’re not going to be able to get a photographer to shoot your newest costume! Now maybe the perfect time to learn how to shoot your own photos!

Taking your own photographs can be incredibly helpful in not only maintaining a steady flow of content for social media but also in giving you the freedom to take photos on your schedule! Another incredible benefit of this process is learning what poses, expressions and angles look best for you.

Poster board backdrop, balloons, Nikon D610 DSLR on a tripod with wireless remote and a standing light with a softbox

What Do You Need

The list of supplies needed to self-shoot can be very simple, especially when you’re just starting out. You need a camera or cellphone/mobile phone, a timer mode or remote, a tripod, a source of light, and a backdrop you like for the costume! Most phones nowadays have pretty decent cameras built-in as well as functions to allow for hand motions to snap your shot or a timer setting. If you’re using a point and shoot camera or DSLR, make sure you have a timer setting or a remote to make sure you can take the photo yourself! Most DSLR cameras have off-brand remotes you can buy for less than $20.

Tripods will be dependent on what type of camera you’re using and space you’re shooting in. Many online stores sell phone tripods and camera tripods of varying types. Generally, a tripod that can reach to your chest is a good option. This will allow height for full-body/portrait photos as well as drop-down to a height for sitting or on the ground photos. A small tripod you can set on a desk or countertop is another great option. There are models for phones that also include a Bluetooth remote as part of the set. A tripod is not completely necessary if you have a good spot to put your phone/camera and can shoot from there.

For the source of light, the best place to start is sunlight. It’s free, provides an even light source and usually just requires a window. If you’re working outdoors with sunlight, it’s recommended to shoot early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the sun directly over your head. Sunlight directly above can create unflattering shadows on the face.

Shot outdoors with natural light. Nikon D610 DSLR, full size tripod, with wireless remote.

If sunlight is not an option for you, artificial light may be the direction to go! You can purchase small clip-on ring lights for your phone that works great for close up photos. Desk lamps can be used to direct light onto you as well. If the light seems especially strong, try angling it at a nearby wall to have the light bounce off the wall to you. This can create a softer lit look.

Professional photography lighting is another avenue you can use though it is more expensive. Large ring LED lights, soft boxes and standing lights are great choices. Each type provides a different style of lighting. These are good things to research before sinking money into so that you can get your preferred lighting style. You can also add coloured light in through floodlights, LED light strips or gel filters for professional lighting.

Back Drop and Locations

Your backdrop makes a big difference in the final image. It can help showcase your costume or perhaps help tell a story. If you’re looking for a backdrop to hang behind you, you can utilise sheets, blankets, spare fabric, poster board, curtains, etc. Anything you can cover the space behind you with can work! A blank wall is also a great neutral choice. Try to make sure the backdrop is wrinkle-free to make it look more professional!

Background is white poster board with black electrical tape. Shot with Nikon D610 on full size tripod with wireless remote

If you’re working outdoors or on location, try to angle the camera to exclude distracting things such as cars, construction signs, and other elements that don’t match your costume. This will help the photo focus on you and your costume and save you any photoshopping or editing to remove these elements after the shoot.

You’ve got your camera, your lighting, your backdrop and all your necessary supplies but how do you get good photos from this point? You want to take a lot of photos and review them often. This will help you find the poses that look good and the ones that don’t. You can use what you see to adapt the lighting, change an element of the backdrop, change your expression, etc. A good basis for poses is to look up professional shoots of models and cosplayers. See which poses you like and are feasible for you. A good study of the character and any particular motions or poses they commonly make can be very helpful at this stage. Try everything and you will learn quickly what you like and don’t like. At this stage, it’s common to take a lot of photos and maybe have a 5% rate of good photos or less. Practice makes perfect!

Here are some tips for common problems:

If you feel like you’re getting a ‘double chin’ or your jawline is not flattering, try raising your lighting to create a shadow just under your jawline. If you cannot move the lighting, try raising your camera to not shoot upwards at you. You can also jut your chin out slightly to create a stronger differentiation between your jaw and neck.

Blank wall, one blue floodlight, held slightly above eyeline to add shadows to jawline, taken on Samsung Galaxy A70 with hands free shooting

Straight on photos are usually not the most flattering. Try a 45-degree angle. This can be an incredibly flattering angle! It helps if you feel a straight-on photo makes you look boxy or larger. 

If you’re shooting a full-body shot, try different heights of your camera to see how each height changes the look of your body. Heights can give a different mood to the photo.

To find nice lighting for your face, stand in front of a mirror and use a flashlight or your phone flash. Move it around your face and watch how the shadows change the look entirely. You can find really nice lighting for your face this way.

Take multiple photos of the same pose. Sometimes you might blink or move slightly. Multiple options give you choices in case some of them don’t turn out but you like the pose.

If you can, keep a mirror nearby, angled so you can see your pose in real-time. Around or near the camera is a good position for it. This allows you to make sure elements of your costume are sitting right, the wig hasn’t shifted strangely and your pose/expression looks good!

Now you have the tools and knowledge to shoot your own photos! The main thing is not to get down on yourself if the photos aren’t that great to start with. You will get there with practice and time!

Disclaimer: all images and videos used, do not belong to FnC and belong to their respective owners.

To follow the works of Starleigh Cosplay who wrote this article, you can follow her on these social media links.

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