When it comes to cosplay, I often joke “if you didn’t get any photos in the costume, did you really wear it at all?” Photography is the medium that makes the ‘temporary art’ of cosplay permanent, since it's not as though we can stay in our costumes constantly! Normally one would collaborate with a photographer to memorialize a costume, but many cosplayers are opting to learn self-portraiture and have friends or partners snap pics their instead. But why the heck are cosplayers picking up yet ANOTHER time-consuming hobby? When this question was posed to my Twitter followers, a trend of six distinct reasons kept coming up.
In all of these poses, my right hand is hiding a remote for my camera!
1 - Affordability
Flat out, cosplay is a luxury hobby. It's time-consuming, materials are expensive, cons and events are pricey, so by the time a costume has been completed, a cosplayer’s wallet may be hurtin’. Many cosplayers cite that while they respect a photographer’s skill and price, it’s simply out of their budget to do more than a few shoots a year. In fact, for the average cost of a single cosplay photoshoot, plus the rights to produce prints, you could buy yourself a beginner piece of equipment, or save towards a nice camera or lens. The long term investment pays off, especially for those doing multiple shoots a month.
@msginnyliz I don't usually have a ton of money to pay my photog friends what they're worth.
@koumori_no_hime I couldn't afford to book as many shoots as I had costumes.
2 - Accessibility and Convenience
Many cosplayers or models work constantly to produce new content and promote their brand, so having a flexible friend or partner, or an in-home studio that you can work with at the drop of a hat is highly beneficial. It also combats issues of scheduling and availability conflicts with busy photographers. Other cosplayers also remarked that they don’t go to cons very often, or don't have many local photogs, so rather than wait or be forced to travel far, having the ability to do a shoot right at your fingertips is especially empowering.
@arabella_fae I can't drive, so getting to shoots can be somewhat difficult.
@misskoumori I have a couple faves that I still work with, but some live hundreds of miles away.
3 - Complete Creative Control
Cosplayers often have specific visions for a finished project, but often find that not all photographers share the stylistic choices as them. While artistic collaboration can be a beautiful thing, some cosplayers prefer having creative command of a shoot, and control over post-editing. Also, because the part of the final product is literally one’s body, it can be discouraging to receive photos with unflattering angles, awkward poses, or unsatisfactory editing jobs, so some would rather skip that disappointment and discomfort and just make photos that they can feel confident about!
@kazeninja17 I want to start doing my own photos because I feel like I'd have more control.
"It's all about Me Me Me and my imagination!"
4 - Timely Content, and Lots of It!
As the old man in Toy Story 2 will tell you, “Ya can’t rush art”, but many cosplayers have become discouraged with long turnaround times of photographers, and disappointing results. Backlogs, computer crashes, day jobs- we get it. Life happens. But sometimes even paid photographers do not deliver their product in a timely manner (or at all!), leaving cosplayers frustrated at a lack of new content and behind on trends or posting schedules. So rather than solely count on photogs to provide pics, cosplayers have started snapping their own! Plus, there’s no limit to how many photos you can get back!
@alexandriathered The wait for edits (even paid shoots) often sabotaged my release schedule.
@sirynrae I got tired of waiting. Waiting for availability, waiting for pictures. Now I do shoots when I have a spare few hours and edit 3x as many photos as I used to get.
As many photos as you want = as many waifus as you want
5 - Snubbed by Photographers
Unfortunately, the media has a blatant lack of diversity, and portfolios of cosplay photographers are no exception. Many cosplayers aren’t confident paying money or spending time with someone whose arena of skill may not include their skin color, body type, etc. Worse off, some photogs have straight blown off cosplayers based on everything from race, to weight, skill level, popularity, gender, or even just the genre of cosplay that they do. Cosplayers should never have to feel “______ enough” to feel worthy of a photoshoot.
@aquacatjen Because I am not well known and was plus size, not many photographers would give me the time of day.
@bigloserqueen All the photographer portfolios I saw only had thin models, and anyone who was plus-size had that traditional hourglass shape; I felt like I wasn't "worthy" to shoot.
6 - Peace of Mind and Comfort
Shooting with strangers can be awkward, and most cosplayers are not used to modeling professionally. It can be a very vulnerable state, so being able to just relax with no inhibitions will result in a better product overall. Time and time again you hear horror stories of abusive and predatory photographers, and it is an epidemic that is pushing cosplayers to be less likely to reach out to unknown talent. "Better safe than sorry". Being able to shoot in the safety of your own home or amongst people you closely know is going to yield photos where you feel better about yourself because you’ll be more comfortable and at peace.
@spoopykiwi If I am not comfortable with a photographer, it'll show in my photos.
@confidentcourt I was done being harassed by sketchy photographers.
This shoot with my friend, Torakami Tank, was both fun and comfortable!
Other than stepping barefoot on sticks in the sand, that is...
Unfortunately, some aforementioned bad experiences with photographers has made a negative impression on countless cosplayers, but that certainly doesn’t mean photographers aren’t valuable. But it’s important to acknowledge that while photographers’ skills and talents are not to be dismissed, neither are the feelings of anxiousness and worry that cosplayers have experienced. Building successful working relationships between cosplayers and photographers will take time and tact, but if you can find a photographer/model that gels with you, by all means, pursue that creative relationship!
In the end, while cosplayers may just be starting their photography journey, ALL photographers started somewhere. Photos are essential for cosplayers wanting to share their work with the world, so being able to do it affordably, comfortably, conveniently, and in your creative vision is hugely advantageous! There’s countless free videos and blogs online to learn from, as well as textbooks available to introduce you to the trade. “Kinda sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something”, so why not just go for it?
The blog kills the resolution, but these pics done in my living room came out great as prints!
Author's Note: the Twitter features are paraphrased quotes, not direct quotes.