Cosplay Photography: Posing Basics
Updated: Jul 15
We’ve all been there, you ask your friend to take some shots of your cosplay, and you both have a hard time thinking up more than two or three basic poses. Which is fine for hallway shots, but not what you were looking for in the long run.
Posing for pictures often requires you to be dramatic with the placement of your arms, hips, legs and even your expression. If you have very little experience in posing for pictures, it can feel unnatural and a little goofy. So here are some tips for how to strike your best pose and get the most out of your photoshoots.
General Tips for Posing:
Know your character. Study screenshots of them, look up pictures on Google for some of their more popular stances. Watching “best of” videos helps too. Bring a few images of your character in their most iconic poses with you to the con, photoshoot, or meetup for reference. If you’ve hired a photographer, this will help them figure out how you’d like to pose if they don’t know the character.
Foreshortening is a thing. Basically, keep in mind that the closer an object is to the camera, the larger it looks. The tip of a prop weapon may completely block the view of the arm holding it. Try not to point things directly at the camera lens to avoid "flattening" your image and losing depth. Point slightly away from it instead.
Stand up straight, try not to slouch (Unless you’re cosplaying L from Deathnote). Proper posture makes a huge difference.
Create gaps, don't press your body together. Leave small gaps between your body and upper arms to make them look slimmer.
Stand at an angle. Don’t square up to the camera unless you’re aiming to look intimidating in your photo.
Don’t over rotate your eyes. The phrase "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" does not apply to photography. Too much white area in the eyes can make you look bug eyed. You can easily avoid this by looking:
Into the lens
Into the distance over the photographer’s shoulder
45 degrees to the left or right (Using the camera as ground zero)
In the direction of the light source for your photoshoot (Don’t look directly into a high voltage light or the sun, please!)
Roll your shoulders back, it can have a slimming effect on your neck.
Push your chin forward/out. Depending on the angle the photo is being taken at, you can tilt your chin down or up to enhance the effect: this is also called “turtling” and helps define your jawline in pictures.
Don't sharply tilt your head to the side. Unless you're trying to look creepy. It usually doesn't work well for anything other than the creepy crazy shots. Stick to tilting up and down or at slight angles.
Don't be afraid to move around a bit. Look around, play with your hand and foot placement. It will help you relax, and make the photos look more natural.
The basic portrait photography focus for male models is usually about portraying power and a standard male body shape (V shaped). Hard lines and angles are essential. Males are encouraged to square their shoulders up to the camera and angle their waist for a slimming effect. Whereas, female portrait photography will focus on beauty, soft edges, and the female form. Women are encouraged to avoid hard lines and angles.
Note: your character will play a role here too. I'll expand on this later, but these are the basics for now.
Posing Male Characters (Generic tips):
Male models will push their head forward and tilt their chin down for pictures. This will show off their jawline and reduce neck space and size.
This is tricky, sometimes it’s easy to forget about hand placement, and poor hand placement can make the photo seem awkward. Give the hands something to do.
Crossed arms (Allow both hands to show for a balanced picture)
Thumbs in pockets or one hand in the pocket
Resting on a surface
An important dynamic, and often one of the most flummoxing things when cross-playing. For male characters, remember it’s usually about power, being broad and bold. You want to look larger than life.
Spread your legs shoulder width apart, placing one slightly forward so it’s closer to the camera
Cross shins and put the weight on your back leg. This is a good casual look.
If you are leaning against the wall, the leg closest to the photographer should be bent, the bottom of your foot flat against the wall and your knee should be high. This is another good casual look for male characters.
When a male character is sitting, the ankle of one leg goes onto the knee of the other for a relaxed look.
Posing Female Characters (Generic):
Play with hair placement, try to avoid hair in your face. Try having it fall over a single shoulder, over both, or behind the shoulders completely.
Female models will often tilt their chin up to show confidence. and down for a more femme fatale look. When dipping the chin, make direct eye contact with the camera lens to really drive that killing intent home.
Like male characters, pictures seem much more natural when you give your hands something to do.
If your character makes hand signs or gestures, utilize them.
Play with your wig or hair (If you can)
Play with parts of your costume like gloves, or an overcoat to make it look more like a candid shot
Let your hands relax or clasp naturally
While seated, try to create triangles and angles with your legs to give the picture more depth and make your pose more visually appealing.
Sit criss-cross applesauce
Prop an arm up on a knee
If you're sinking low into a crouch or pose, make sure you really sink into it.
While standing, remember to bend your knees. If you look at the above photo of @SamsPics' Ashi cosplay, she keeps her forward knee bent. Not only does it help to add depth to her leg and keep it from succumbing to foreshortening, it helps her shift or move from that pose to another.
Props add so much to your cosplay photos, and I’m not just talking about prop weapons. A prop could be an item as inane as a wall, a flower, another person or an animal. Anything you can interact with that can create a new measure of emotional and visual depth to your picture.
Don't point your prop weapons directly at the camera. Foreshortening comes in here and you will lose a dynamic element in the picture. Instead aim at an angle, and look directly into the camera.
Keep in mind these are just baselines. Not every female character will be feminine, soft and the pinnacle of beauty, just as not every male character will be all hard angles and exude power.
Picture your character. Are they strong and proper? Rebellious and crude? Lazy and sluggish? Happy and laid back? You can mix and match all of these tips and tricks to help you stay true to your character.
I hope this article was helpful in outlining the basic tips and tricks of posing!
@JamBlute: Hawke, Rainbow2.0
@SamsPics: Ashi, Rogue, Isabella, and Tex
Myself: Fem!Yatsuhashi, Fem!Shephard, and The Hero of Ferelden