How to take a nice photograph of a cosplayer?

Nowadays, there are several events which provide opportunities to take the photographs of a cosplayer, such as “Comic Market” and “Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Festival”.
But it is a different story whether the cosplayer will use your photo and post it on SNS. It will be difficult to get chosen if you do not have a distinction when compare to other photographers.

What should we do to have the cosplayers to choose the photo that was taken at an event? We assumed that the answer is in China, a nation which holds several great photographers and where multiple high quality photos are produced.

We asked one of the top 3 event cameramen, called kuma. He has an experience working as the official photographer for a popular app “Arknights” at the one of the largest Dojin event in China, also known as “China Comiket”, called “Comicup25”, which was held on Dec. 21, and Dec. 22, 2019.

We closely covered his photography locations during “Comicup25”, and closing in to the secret of his photography skills.

■Adapt to the environment
An event site does not always has a location that matches the work, and often there are limitations to the photography equipment. Comparing to an event site, a studio allows a photographer to choose the location they want, and there are less limitations to the equipment that a photographer can use (It depends on studios). Of course, it is difficult to take a photo that completely matches with the work at event.

Therefore, it is necessary to learn a way to take a photo by adapting to the event environment and rules. For example, it a shooting is taken outside of a building, photography taken in high speed synchronization when the sky is dark or blue while maintain the brightness of the person, and usage of stroboscope in the dark places inside of a building, are the choices. It is the essential to learn the different ways to take the photos depends on the situations.

■Establish you own style
After establishing your own shooting style, the shooting techniques will improved, and it will give strong impressions to the cosplayers when they looked at the photos being sent to them.
In case of kuma-san, the photo shooting at the large-scale China’s ACG events (the events related to anime, manga, game, and dojin) can be done either inside or outside of the building, as both have a wide area for photographer, and he had established his own style specialized in indoors photography. In other words, it is a step forward by using ordinary stroboscope in advanced ways.

Cosplay shooting often expresses unrealistic situations, therefore it matches nicely with a stroboscope, and by using red and blue lights, it possible to takes an impressive photograph. Of course, it easier for the light to be reflected in a dark room, but it not suitable for outdoor photography.

kuma-san will decrease the number of the stroboscopes if there are limitations on the photography equipment such as the light stands and softbox, but he will not change his style of using the stroboscopes. When he participated in Comic Market in Japan, he took photos in the shade.

Of course, there are several other photographers who use a stroboscope. The basic method is to shred a light on the model face, while using other stroboscopes as an accent. The examples are making contour visible by shred a light from the behind and using the color of the wall behind the model.
The techniques that kuma-san uses are not limited to creating the accents by shred a stroboscope light with colors on the model’s face. His camera flash work greatly on expressing a story plot in the photographs.

■Recreating anime and game scenes

Another reason that his photographs contain stories is that he takes photographs with 135mm lens. Smaller the number, the lens allows a photographer to take a photo closer to the model. Therefore, in a clouded event, it is normal that the photographers will use 35mm or 50mm lens. For 135mm, the photographers should take 10 meters or more to take the full body of the model. (Although it depends on the height of a model) Japanese event sites are often clouded there for it is not the best lens to use. The lens it often used to take a back scenery big in the scenery shooting.

It is not always wrong to take a method that does not have much precedents. kuma-san uses the uniqueness of 135mm, such as compression, and beautiful blur, and closely take the photograph of the model.
The combination of a stroboscope’s wide range of light, close shooting of a model, oppression and blur recreates the 1 scene in anime and game.

The most important factors are angle of view and composition. These 2 factors cannot be recreated even if other photographers use same lens and settings of the stroboscope.

For example, when you want to take a photograph of a character trying to attack others using a weapon, there are unlimited number of choices, such as make a model stand, sit, take vertical or parallel photos, from which angle to take, whether take the full body or full weapon, which cut to use,or how to use the stroboscope itself.
The understanding toward the character and the model is essential to quickly imagine the composition that he wants to take, give the direction to the cosplayer, and set the stroboscope in the right spot. By experiencing such situations for multiple times, the shooting sense will get advanced.

Next page: The close coverage of kuma-san of the “Ark Knights” official cosplayer

■Covering actual shooting set
We directly interviewed kuma at the shootings of the “Ark Knights” official cosplayers at “Comicup25”. Many popular cosplayers were invited, since the app is very popular in China.

The event used multiple halls for spacing. There is no prohibition since any shooting is allowed if either indoor or the outdoor is not clouded.
kuma-san chose a room on the 2nd floor for shooting where no general participants cannot enter. Since the general participants can interrupt the shooting of the official photographers in China, it is necessary to find a spot where they can shoot the photos quietly.
If the photographer is trusted by the model, it is better to find more adequate spot also in Japanese events.
There are few assistants helping the shooting. Their job is to make a wig or the costume wave. The movement in the photograph brings a great change to the photographs. This cooperation is becoming common also in Japan.

kuma-san had multiple items for the photo shooting, most of the times, he used 2 stroboscopes and shred a LED light on the face of the model. The reason why he does not use the stroboscope for the front is that is not to erase the light of the stroboscope’s light from the back.

kuma-san the used red and blue color filters this time. The reason why he used the bigger color filter than the usual one is to increase the diffusing amount of light color.
kuma-san’s photograph is unique in a way it stroboscope’s light covers the entire photo and covers the entire background with the strong light. The color filers are necessary to take such pictures.

During the photo shoot, he took from several angles according to the postures that the model can recreate and move and gave additional directions and corrections of the postures.
Additionally, it was impressive that he told the model about the image of the photograph that he wants to take in advance, and he showed the photographs he took to the cosplayer for understanding.

To understand him, the writer tried the best to closely followed the directions that he looked. (with almost no distance between kuma-san) Please refrain from doing this to other photographers since it will disturb their work for sure.

■One more factor to be good at photo shooting
There are more competition among the cosplay photographers in China than in Japan. Kuma-san started shoot cosplays from the end of 2016, and grew rapidly by cogitating. He answered to the interview, “It is important to take photos in a style you believed in. You must practice over and over”.

The important point of this report is that kuma’s style is just a choice, not the complete answer, as kuma-san stated.

By actually witnessing the shooting site, we surprised after seeing the photo taken, saying “Ahhh!”. But this method does not work for everyone, because this recreates the image in the head of kuma-san, and changing it is even more difficult.

He also advised us that just repeating the numbers is not the best way. It is important to “learn from the photographer that you admire, when establishing your own style”.

But analyzing the photograph that the photographer took and learning techniques is also important, not just receiving lectures from that person. This will lead to acquisition of new skills. He believes that creativity is nurtured by being inspired and through more practice. There is a long way of cosplay photo shooting.

Cosplay photographer: kuma
kuma’s photographer: Nogi Akira