Cosplay Posing 101

About: Seamsetress, Foam Fabricator, Sculptor, Pattern Drafter, Photographer, Videographer, IT Nerd and all around Pop Culture Enthusiast!

Posing...the greatest foe of any cosplayer. You've made/bought your costume, dressed yourself up and are attending your event when BAM! Someone comes up and asks for a photo. Sometimes they want to pose with you (which honestly makes it easier) but most of the time they want YOU to be in the spotlight of their memories.

First and foremost: TAKE A BREATH. Yes, posing is scary but it, like any other skill, can be learned and mastered. In this tutorial I will talk about...

  1. Relaxing - Easing out of Nervousness
  2. Finding Your Angles
  3. Performing The Action
  4. Using Props to your Advantage
  5. Posing in Groups
  6. and why HAVING FUN makes for GREAT photos

Enough of my chit chat, let's get started!

Photographer Credits: Kincart Photography, Matthew Hunt Photography & Hyn May Productions.

Step 1: Relax - Ease Out of Nervousness

One of the quickest ways to ease out of nervousness is to DIVE RIGHT INTO PHOTOGRAPHING. The first image show Cinder (red dress) standing awkwardly on a grassy hill. I was SO NERVOUS. I had NEVER worn a dress that tight, I was cold, this was a NEW photographer I was working with AND I had heels on. So I just crossed my arms and asked the photographer to take the picture. The result was a haughty photo of Cinder looking down on the world when, inside, I was trying very hard to keep from giggling. Fighting that giggle made my jaw tighten and I had to lift my head to keep my smile from showing. It was SO worth it.

If jumping right in is not your forte then you can always bring a friend or friends along. As a matter of fact, if you've NEVER met your photographer before or if you do not trust them PLEASE bring someone with you. Friends help ease tension by making funny comments or lifting you up with banter, they also offer "pack" protection and deter inappropriate behavior. In the second image we just finished talking the girl in the red swimsuit into getting in the water. We helped her pose and the shot...oh my goodness they were BEAUTIFUL. It was her first shoot and she played it safe. She brought friends, shot in a public space and was very vocal with what she felt comfortable doing.

Speaking out loud during a shoot to let your photographer know how you feel helps A LOT. Most photographers or people asking for photos will have a pose in mind for you. If you DO NOT want to enact that pose TELL THEM. It's ok to NOT consent to an idea/request.

If friends and diving in STILL don't work then try breathing in and out very slowly. Picture something that makes you happy and think about WHY you are in costume.

Photographer Credits: Cole Bekah Photography & ThermoCosplay

Step 2: Find Your Angles

I am a pretty tall girl. I am also muscular and have VERY large eyes with a VERY small mouth. This all sounds weird, I know, but these details are VERY important when figuring out the best angle for a photo.

Since I am nearly 5'10" I often have to kneel, hunch or squat for photographers. I have found that leaning into the photo or popping my hip help immensely with:

  1. Creating an appealing angle for my body type
  2. Generating different planes of interest
  3. Giving the photographer a chance to photograph more of the outfit

When I am in an outfit where kneeling, squatting or leaning over does not work I will find steps to stand above the photographer so they have a lean angle from below OR I will lean back against something to elongate my frame while showing more of my costume. ALWAYS pose at an angle. What does that mean? It means...

  1. Avoid profile unless that is your intent
  2. Avoid head on/ straight forward unless you want to look imposing or you're going to grill the camera with your eyes
  3. ALWAYS pose at a 3/4 using your hips and shoulders to form opposing angles (shift opposing directions)
  4. Avoid pushing your hips forward unless your character wants to impose their pelvis on the photographer
  5. Tilt your head down or up and keep it at a 3/4 view

When facing the camera your have one of two choices...

  1. STARE THAT CAMERA DOWN
  2. Look OVER the photographers shoulder and into the distance

I like to practice in a full length mirror and a bathroom mirrors as these are literally the angles that photographers or the general public will use to photograph you. Your body IS a canvas a cosplayer so be aware of what makes you comfortable and how YOU want to best represent your character.

Photographer Credits: Kincart Photography, Orange Slice Media & Tony Julius Photography

Step 3: Perform the Action

When posing for a picture while in cosplay you'll want to consider a few things...

  1. What is my character's attitude?
  2. How well can I move in this costume?
  3. Does this character have a partner/group/enemy they often interact with?
  4. What actions could I perform to make this look more natural?

Candide posing is not terrible. Sometimes it's all you have when you're running around a convention. That being said, you can ALWAYS move into your pose. Let's walk through the images on this step to explain...

  • Cassandra Screaming: Cassandra Alexandra is a swords woman from the Soul Calibur series. She bounces back and forth and often points or shouts at her enemy. During this shoot I literally mouthed a yell at my photographer and, at one point, I DID yell at him. He took a few shots as I was moving until we caught this perfect moment.
  • Sombra x2 - Preparing to Hack & Floating In The Air: It was a cold winter's day for this shoot which was PERFECT as this outfit is a WHOLE LOT of leather/pleather/pu leather/vinyl. For the first pose I very slowly bounced back and forth so 1) my hair would move with the wind and 2) my body would not go rigid to hold the pose. For the floating image I jumped as high I could over 10 times before we caught me floating off of the ground. Be sure to test your outfit (I had good shoes underneath my boot covers) to make sure nothing will break or fall off while jumping.
  • RWBY Swimsuit - Attack Cinder: This was an impromptu shoot at a convention. We ran into a good friend who takes great photos and found a wall of curtains to photograph by. Our first shot, to break the ice, was Penny and Nora preparing to attack Cinder with their pool props. I hit Cinder gently on the head a couple times to 1) help her get that sassy look on her face and 2) help my body get into the pose naturally.
  • Thane Krios & Shepard - Romance: I am TERRIBLE at "sexy" or "smolder" so having a mask on helped IMMENSELY as I could use my body language to emulate what I was trying to portray. I could not see how close I was to my friend which made it MUCH easier for me to not laugh. She also used her hair to hide her eyes a bit so some of the amused smile she was fighting did not show. Using wigs, clothing, props or other items to help you fake a mood is ABSOLUTELY OK. I touched her chin VERY lightly and we leaned over A LOT (I am much taller) to make it seem as though our lips were about to meet. The sunlight also made for GREAT mood lighting.
  • Yuri & Kei: The two lovely angels LOVE to fight. So we pretended to yell at one another as a convention photographer captured a few candid shots. These were unscripted, last minute decisions that made this impromptu shoot amazing.

You DO NOT have to move while the photo is being taken but PRACTICING it once or twice before you're in frame can help set the mood for your character's attitude.

Photographer Credits: Kincart Photography, Orange Slice Media, Tony Julius Photography & Eurobeat Kasumi Photography

Step 4: Using Props

PROPS PROPS PROPS!!!

A prop can be...

  • A found object
  • A person
  • A prop weapon
  • A garment
  • etc.

A prop is SOMETHING you interact with that is inanimate or living which creates flow/depth to your image. Let's talk through the props we have here...

  • Omni Tool - This attaches to my arm via a strap. It is worn by ALL Mass Effect characters and is therefore VERY useful (my Shepard and I switch between using it for poses at conventions).
  • Kratos Frost Axe & Ash Pouch - A prop weapon is useful for creating new angles in your pose. A simple standing pose is elevated by creating a parallel line with a weapon. I also interacted with a pouch on my belt which held the ashes of my loved one (ok...it was actually stuffing but people don't need to know that).
  • Cinderburger - This was a joke. I "stole" my Sadao Maou's burger and "ate" it. Having fun with random props generates interesting photo content.
  • Lovely Angels - A "laser sword" and "laser gun" help round out these intergalactic "police officers". (we used a child's light saber for the sword and a ketchup gun)
  • Amazon's Enemy - I used my cape to "clean my enemy's blood" from my sword.
  • Cassandra Alexandra - The shield and sword in this are light weight foam creations which attach to one another via magnets. The separation means both my hands are occupied which helps with positioning this fighting character.
  • Leafeon - Simple and sweet. This lightweight foam bow broke up the background and gave me an opposing angle to pose against.

Be aware that you WILL have to carry your prop with you ALL DAY if you are at a convention. Keep your props light weight and/or collapsible so you can store and/or carry them easily. For larger props I suggest having a car nearby to store them in or only using them at planned shoots. Please also be aware of your surroundings. When posing with a prop make sure the area is clear of people and small children.

Photographer Credits: Kincart Photography, Matthew Hunt Photography, Orange Slice Media, Tony Julius Photography & Eurobeat Kasumi Photography

Step 5: Posing in Groups

Once you've figured out your angles, your character's personality and what props you want to interact with you are ready to start adding MORE PEOPLE to the equation. The more people you have the more you have to consider their limits, preferences, angles and personalities. Let's walk through each of these images and the obstacles I faced...

  • Argh! A pirate...and some anime chicks?!
    • Obstacles - Our pirate was only familiar with convention hall shots. We had to help him relax into posing with non-affiliated characters. We also both had VERY short skirts on and the camera angle was...well...close to improper.
    • Benefits - We had SO MUCH FUN teasing each other that our smiles were natural (not forced) in these images and our body language was far more relaxed.
  • Eeveelutions
    • Obstacles - There were EIGHT PEOPLE in this shoot. This was impromptu ( a con photographer pulled us to the side for photos) and we JUST came from masquerade pre-judging (we were tired and hungry). There are three of us over 5'9" in this photo and three of us under 5'4". It made creating levels/poses tough, especially when the photographer was trying to show off our entire costumes. Also..there were A LOT of us so we took up SPACE.
    • Benefits - We STOPPED THE CROWD. Seriously, this gathering generated SO MANY PHOTOS for us. We learned our limits (who could kneel, bend, squat, etc.) and figured out the best hi/low levels for our different costumes. We also got meet so many other people from this one shot that our cosplay network expanded ten fold.
  • Salem & Cinder
    • Obstacles - Honestly...nothing. We both were experienced cosplayers in a private setting.
    • Benefits - The private setting meant we could relax around our photographer. We know each other well and were comfortable leaning into/against each other which created a tension these characters exude in the series. We also had more time to come up with unique angles/poses and how to use furniture in the studio to our advantage.
  • Guardians of The Galaxy
    • Obstacles - This occurred in front of a back wall at a BIG comic convention. The temperature at this convention was 100 degrees farenheit in a desert environment. There were HUNDREDS of people in our area. There was no natural light available. Our Star Lord is 5'4", Mantis was 5'10" and Groot was 5'6"...none of us matched the height of the characters.
    • Benefits - WE GOT SOME GUARDIANS TOGETHER. We had a GREAT photographer who helped with lighting and our poses were easier with all of us knowing the limits we faced. I (mantis) kneeled or bent one of my knees consistently to make myself shorter and our Star Lord used her infinity stone speaker prop to distract from character differences. We all know each other well which helped us ease back into poses interrupted by excited con goers. Also,during solo shots one or both of the other cosplayers would distract con goers so shots could be completed.
  • Thane & Shepard
    • Obstacles - It was over 100 degrees Farenheit that day AND the sun was setting.
    • Benefits - Having two models meant when one of us was overheated we could break off and cool down. We were able to create a "romance" mood with a "male" and female character (I was Rule 63 Thane). Our photographer used the setting sun to his advantage and had use put our backs to the sun so we had diffused light filtering over us. Interacting with another person helped me relax more as I am often nervous in this alien make up because my line of sight is obscured.

Interactions are the BIGGEST benefit of group photos. SO MANY SCENARIOS can be enacted/created by adding 1, 2 or even 3 people. If you are all new to one another be sure to set boundaries and break the ice with amusing anecdotes on yourselves.

Photographer Credits: Kincart Photography, Matthew Hunt Photography, Euorbeat Kasumi Photography, Hyn May Productions & Orange Slice Media.

Step 6: Have Fun

Posing can be stressful and exhausting. Be sure to take moments for yourself. Sometimes the best photos come from moments of distraction. Here are a few examples of distracted images and what was happening during them...

  1. Amazon - It was 112 degrees Farenheit and a breeze came through. I was SO HAPPY ABOUT THAT BREEZE.
  2. Pirates and Anime - Our pirate kept talking about his hook so I decided to eat it...yeah, that's about it.
  3. Swimsuit Nora - I realized my pool noodle was long enough to bonk my photographer on the head with.
  4. Salem & Cinder - I literally said "Hiya" and we got this cool shot.
  5. Hikaru & Fuu - Our Photographer made a joke before this shot and Hikaru smiled while I went "huh?" It worked out lol

Distractions, jokes and positive comments make for fun and interesting photographs. Good luck!

Photographer Credits: Kincart Photography, Matthew Hunt Photography, Madonia Photography

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