Cosplay For Beginners 11 Tips
Good cosplay tips for beginners are hard to come by these days. So as an experienced cosplay photographer in Portland I'm going to give away my best advice for those of you wanting to dip your toes into the cosplay world. I've been shooting cosplay for years and have been featured in multiple publications, articles, and even on the news.
Every Comic-Con I've been to I always see beginner cosplayers. I can always tell the level of cosplay experience from someone by how worried they are about how they look. Some look great, others look..... awful if we're being honest. Ever wonder why some look amazing, while others look...... less than great?
In this article I break down how you can avoid common cosplay mistakes so you don't come off as a newb, look your best, and actually enjoy con to the max! Make sure to connect with me on Instagram HERE
1. Don't get Intimidated
If you're only getting your inspiration from major cosplay sites or curated Instagram accounts like badasscosplay, it's easy to get intimidated by the amazing "Hollywood Quality" costumes people make especially when prosthetics are involved as shown below.
With many professional cosplayers, costumers end up helping them make those costumes via free collabs. Not everyone has the money, time, or skill to create massive works of art.
Now granted I don't typically photograph people in cheap Halloween costumes they got from Spirit Halloween but if you need a simple low budget costume to wear to Con, Spirit or Amazon works great, you'll still have a blast, and you'll still get compliments and photos taken :) However, if you want to spend a little bit more to get a better quality costume like the one shown below plus many more options I made a list of my top ten websites to get cosplay costumes and props.
2. Ask Questions
Whether you go to con as a participant or just a spectator never be afraid to talk to others at conventions. If you see someone who made an epic costume it's okay to approach them, compliment them, and ask them how they made it. I've been to many cons and never seen anyone that wasn't thrilled to talk about their costume, especially if they made it them selves. Most cosplayers are pumped to share some guidance. Take Downen Creative Studios for example. Beverly is always sharing tips on how she creates her epic costumes (as seen below) on her Instagram. Like I said before, cosplay is without a doubt one of the most welcoming communities you can join.
3. Do it for the right reasons
"Professional" Cosplayers are few and far between. Meaning, those who make a living from their cosplay. But they're out there. It's absolutely possible. Just look at cosplayers like, Myrtle Sarrosa, Marie-Claude Bourbonnais, Meagan Marie, Alodia Gosiengfiao, Linda Le, D-Piddy, Lisa Lou Who, Spiral Cats, or Yaya Han. Just keep in mind Professional cosplay is very competitive, and it's a community that takes its craft very seriously.
There's a lot of drama involving cosplayers these days, primarily because there are a lot of people who get into cosplay because they want to get rich, have millions of fans, and get endless attention. Like Jessica Nigri for example who has over 4 million followers on Instagram alone. The "business" of cosplay can get dirty. So never start cosplay with any goal other than having fun and expressing yourself. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure. People can always tell if you're not dressing as characters you actually like and only doing it for the money.
4. Choose the right character for your build
One of the most common questions from beginners is "who should I be?" I always tell them to choose a character/costume that would naturally complement their looks and build and obviously a character they connect with and like. Luckily, the nerd universe is filled with characters of every shape and size.
For example, someone who has a thin build would make a great spider man or black panther. As shown below.
Where as someone with a bulkier more muscular build would be better off as Batman, Thor, a Spartan, or Adam Hunter as shown below.
5. Know your skill level
When it comes to a custom costume, know your skill level. If you don't have the time or money to make props and accessories I suggest a full body suit like spider man. That's as easy as it gets. On the other hand, bigger, bulkier cosplay costumes can easily get torn, crushed, or dirty in transit. So, if you have a lot of gear, make sure that it can be packed easily.. Once again, this is why fully body spandex and cat suites are so popular among beginners as seen below.
6. Keep transit in mind
When making a custom costume keep transit to con in mind. How do you plan on getting to con? Uber, bus, walk, plane, or driving yourself? Larger or bulky pieces might need to be foldable or reduced in size in order to make it work. Armor, for example, should be able to be pulled apart into pieces so that it doesn't end up getting broken while in transit to your next con. Example below. Many newbies have learned this the hard way so please heed my warning.
7. Keep the season in mind
Some of my favorite cosplay costumes I've ever seen were massive creations involving bulky materials or thick costume material. At first I was envious until I learned they wanted to pass out from heat stroke after a few hours at con. Conventions tend to be very warm, you don't want to be the person who makes the mistake of wearing a thick heavy non breathable cosplay costume in the middle of summer. I don't care how epic it is, you'll hate wearing it.
8. Use the right face and body paint
Alot of cosplayers use face and body paint to complete their look and although it can look really good when they show up, I've seen far too many look like crap after a few hours in a warm convention center. When buying makeup for your face and body make sure it wont run or get streaky when you sweat. A great hack you can use to get out of full body paint is by using painted nylon stockings or a full body spandex suit as a base for your body, then all you have to do is paint your hands and face to match as seen below.
9. Don't be a creep
Obviously every con is full of beautiful people, some in more reveling costumes than others. But just because someone is showing more skin that doesn't give you or anyone the right to be inappropriate. Show everyone at con the same level of respect you'd show your family. You can admire and compliment but never touch a cosplayer unless requested to. Never cat call and if you have a photo taken with a cosplayer you should still avoid touching them.
10. Ask before taking photos
look, there are countless opportunities to take photos at con but it's always best practice to ask before taking a photo that way the cosplayer can strike a pose before you take the photo. There's nothing cosplayers hate more than random shitty photos online of themselves half dressed in costume on a break shoveling food in their face. As long as you ask they will always be happy and willing to strike a pose or take a photo with you.
11. Know your limits
If you are at a con in costume and someone snaps a photo of you half dressed on a break or you simply weren't ready for a photo don't hesitate to say "hey man, I'm glad you like the costume but I wasn't ready, can we retake it and I'll put the rest of my costume on and pose for you?"
And if someone is being inappropriate don't hesitate to say something to them and or security.
The best advice I can give you is stop worrying about what others think, Cons are extremely welcoming to all nerds at every level, just show your true self and have fun with it. :)
Portland Photographer empowers kids by transforming them into iconic movie characters. Must See!
Hello my friends, my name is Lance and I am that photographer based in Portland Oregon. Because I am known for my cinematic cosplay & horror photography I wanted to share some of my fan favorites I've done with kids. Some of these projects have even been shared on local and international news. From a very young age I always loved Halloween and scary movies. My goal is to become a big Hollywood Photographer someday. I think my favorite thing about being a photographer is that I get to pretend it's Halloween 365 days a year. I love my clients because they share that love for Halloween & so do their kids.
Do not be fooled, some of the photos below may look scary but I promise you the kids are always having a blast. That's my number 1 rule. The family is always there and I always make sure everyone is comfortable. All photos below were taken by me on my SonyA7iii and couldn't have happened without an amazing team around me. I work with amazing designers for custom made outfits and as you'll see insanely talented makeup artists like Taelorfx & Jordan DuPont. Let me know your favorite set in the comments below and Connect with me on Instagram HERE or get a quote HERE.
Disclaimer!! All blood is obviously fake. I use "Vampire blood" I get on Amazon. Works great!
1. Edward Scissorhands
2. Wolverine / X23
4. Sweeney Todd
6. Trick 'r Treat
7. Georgie / IT
8. The Joker
9. Peter Pan and Wendy
11. The Omen
12. Alice in Wonderland
As you'll see below sometimes the kids aren't always playing a specific iconic character but rather having fun playing a part as a side character in a themed photoshoot.
The Tooth Fairy
As a photographer, makeup plays an absolutely crucial role in how a photo turns out. Makeup can make or break a good photo. Luckily for me I work with some of the best makeup artists in the world. I work with MUA's who specialize in glamour, beauty, lifestyle, fashion, theater, and film but the focus of today's article will be on special effects makeup. Below are 10 of the best special effects makeup artists on Instagram you need to follow for mind blowing inspiration.
@taelorfx is my go to SFX makeup artist here in Portland for all my horror and heavy prosthetic concepts. Taelor should be doing makeup for Hollywood movies but currently does makeup for me, the local Portland haunted houses, random gigs and her killer TikTok feed under @taelorfxx. Follow her to see behind the scenes and watch her journey to Hollywood because I guarantee that's where she will end up.
@artbybmazz does amazing work. Not only is she an amazing makeup artist but she does it all on herself and takes her own photos. She creates something new and exciting almost every day like and it's always creative, fun, and beautiful. She does a great job at recreating a lot of well known characters you will be sure to love. Don't miss her amazing before and after transitions.
@phonyghost is not only an amazing makeup artist but an amazing model. I've worked with her here in Portland numerous times and she always blows my mind with not only her makeup ability but the costumes she makes from scratch. She is as talented and creative as they come.
@kosmickatie does beautiful, vibrant, colorful work. I love her use of neon colors. Most of her work is more body paint and less prosthetic but stunning none the less. She's also a stunning model and does all of her looks on herself. Check her out.
@ry_fx is an extremely talented self taught SFX makeup artist and Body Painter. Not to mention one of the best makeup accounts on Instagram. Nothing but raw talent and creativity. If you're looking for badass makeup inspiration look no further.
@khaleesiisaa is a magician with a makeup brush. Her work is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Her SFX work is some of the best I've seen on Instagram and TikTok. I literally can't get enough.
At only 21 @fx_freak is already one of the best special effects makeup artists you'll find on Instagram. She's one badass Monster Creator, Face/Body Painter, and Halloween enthusiast. She has a perfect blend of scary and pretty concepts on her page.
@ellie35x out of Scotland has over 356K followers on Instagram and you can see why. I mean her talent is undeniable. Notice the difference just a crown and jewels make in addition to the makeup. I love how she uses backdrops and jewelry to match her looks. All these elements combined make a beautiful piece of art. You will not find better makeup inspiration than this.
@zorinblitzz does some of the coolest makeup you will find on Instagram out of the UK. It's Gothic, it's beautiful, it's dark, it's twisted, it's inspiring, and it's down right kickass! Don't skip over this page if you're looking for inspiration.
@shaulrivas is a legendary makeup artist outside of the US. This page is a MUST follow for all your makeup inspiration needs.
I hope you enjoyed these amazingly talented artists and find the inspiration you're looking for. Make sure to check them all out on Instagram and connect with me there as well. @kickassdesigns
And checkout 8 Horror Photographers you need to follow.
What exactly is Horror photography? I view it as a sub genre of fantasy photography and surreal photography. It's art you want to see, but at the same time, wish you didn't. We have all experienced nightmares that feel real enough to leave us in a cold sweat. That's what a good horror photo should do. Most horror photography I've seen looks amateur, cheesy, and over the top gory but these artists I've listed below are as talented and creative as they come. Besides film, these artists are my biggest inspiration when it comes to horror & cosplay photography. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. If you like these don't miss The 10 best SFX makeup artists on Instagram.
1. Rick Jones @horrifymeuk
Rick Jones is not only an award winning horror makeup and portrait photographer based in the UK but also my biggest inspiration in horror photography. This dude is a legend in this niche. If it's fear, shock, disgust, or simply sheer bloody delight you're after look no further. Also don't miss his amazing Horrify Me Art Book. It will take your breath away.
2. Lance Reis @kickassDesigns
Oh he it's me :) I couldn't not put myself on this list, I mean it is my blog after all. But seriously, if you love horror photography I would love to connect with you on Instagram. Only about half my work is horror, the rest is Fashion, lifestyle, boudoir, and cosplay. I am blessed to work with some of the best special effects makeup artists in the US. My work isn't quite as gory as Ricks work so if you're looking for something slightly more PG13 My work might be for you.
3. jannike @jannikeviveka
What I love about Jannike is she takes her own photos, styles her own photos, and edits her own photos. I love her dark Gothic style. Check her out on Instagram and don't miss her gorgeous prints on Etsy.
4. Joshua Hoffine @joshuahoffine
Joshua Hoffine is one of my favorite horror photographers just from a creative standpoint. He's also one of the most recognized photographers in the world. He is a pioneer in Horror photography niche. Joshua stages his photo-shoots like small movies, with sets, costumes, elaborate props, fog machines, and SPFX make-up. Everything is acted out live in front of the camera. Beyond his amazing skills behind the camera I appreciate the time and effort that goes into his elaborate sets and costumes. Don't miss his best work on his website.
5. Ashley Nicole @ashleyvonhelsing
Ashley Nicole is a Director, Photographer, & Designer out of Los Angeles. Most of her work is less horror and more dark & Gothic but deserves to be on this list all the same. Her Photoshop work is inspiring. Check her out on Instagram and find even more on her website. You wont be sorry.
6. Jeff @seventh.voyage
Jeff is more of a Digital artist than a photographer but does both. He's a Photoshop and Blender wizard. He just might be my favorite digital artist and not all of his work is horror. A lot of his work is beautiful with brilliant use of famous Hollywood characters we know and love. Don't miss his Prints & Photoshop Course on his website.
7. Stefan Koidl @stefankoidl
Okay so what if Stefan isn't a photographer and this is a list for photography. He's an amazing artist in the horror space out of AT, Salzburg and a lot of his work actually looks like photos. Most importantly though he's a huge inspiration to myself and other horror photographers. His work is terrifying without being creepy. Don't miss out on his beautiful Prints.
eyesoflamia is another one of my favorite digital artists that's both horrifying and beautiful.
The 10 best websites for Cosplay Costumes & Props.
Hey guys and gals! As you know I photograph many different things but I'm most well known for my cinematic cosplay photography. I'm constantly asked where do I or my clients get their costumes and props. So I thought I would put together this list of the 10 best places to buy cosplay costumes and props for all ages year round.
Now selling NFTs of my work! Find a collection of all my latest NFTs for sale on OpenSea HERE
I really hate to say this but the most reliable websites for costumes and props are the huge retailers. Without question They have the biggest selections and best prices because of the massive volume they do. Just keep in mind Inexpensive costumes are made cheaply in mass numbers, regardless of whether the site brands itself as a Halloween store, a costume store, or a Cosplay store. Fact is better made costumes cost more money. Customized costumes and props made by costumers who sell their work through sites like Etsy, ebay, and Instagram are the highest quality, the most expensive, and you sure as F aint getting it in three days.
The Cosplayers I know understandably want costumes that are more durable because they plan to wear them to multiple events, where Halloween partiers are happy with something they will only wear once, not to say I haven't seen people spend nearly an entire year to create Halloween costumes to compete in Costume contest. Halloween retailers like Spirit Halloween tend to cater to cheaper costumes and Cosplay retailers tend towards more obscure characters and better costumes but that's not to say I haven't seen total crap for premium prices because they do much smaller volume of sales than the giants like Amazon. But the plus side of big retailers is they often offer cheap shipping or free shipping and returns or exchanges are often easy.
7 key elements to a viral Cosplay photo
In my opinion Etsy is probably the best place to go as far as getting that hand-crafted look for your cosplay costume. There are a ton of very talented prop makers and costume designers on the site. See: Cosplay Etsy below. You could piece together a very good and convincing cosplay costume just from Etsy vendors but you will pay premium dollars for this and you may have to wait months to receive your final costume or props but in my opinion it's worth it because quality is king in my book.
Last thing I want you to keep in mind when shopping online for costumes is not to be shy about buying from over seas. Some of the sites I've listed below are in China and the UK. They are still a great option but just keep in mind most importantly a size 10 in the US may be different than a size 10 in China or the UK. So pay close attention to sizing charts when ordering and be prepared to wait a little longer for shipping. Also don't forget to read reviews! I've listed my top 10 sites for costumes and props below with the most obvious such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy last. 2 of the 10 are local to Portland Oregon. Just click the image and it will take you to the website. Hope this article helps you on your next adventure into cosplay. Let me know in the comments below and connect with me on Instagram HERE
6. Costume Avenue - Beaverton
7. Avant Garden Vintage - Portland
Bonus! Mill End is the best option for custom fabrics in Portland. DIY
7 Tips for a viral Cosplay photo.
I wanted to put together a short list of what I find to be the most important elements in making a viral photo. This might surprise you but it's not an expensive camera, nor is it bulky expensive lighting equipment. Do you need access to a studio or years of experience with Photoshop? Nope. The 7 elements below are all you need for a viral photo. However going viral is never guaranteed, but if you hit all these points and a little bit of luck your odds will go WAY up. As seen below I've had multiple photo shoots go viral and my work has been featured on both local and international news outlets more than once. If you like what you see below find more of my work on Instagram HERE
I'm a huge advocate of shooting on location rather than doing composites. (cutting out the background and replacing it with something else in Photoshop) The more you can get in camera the less work you have to do in post. Just my personal preference. This will require location scouting. My favorite tool for this is hashtags on Instagram or searching by location. Choosing a location that fits the theme is crucial. As an example above I knew I'd be shooting a fairy theme so I knew a forest made more traditional sense than urban. So when location scouting for the perfect forest scene I found a park close by that had a huge mushroom big enough to walk inside. I knew this would save me a ton of Photoshop and with the right perspective would make my model seem smaller which is what you want for a fairy theme. Model: @Lexylovestruck
Obviously when shooting Cosplay the outfit will be the biggest factor in making a banger photo. When searching for cosplayers to collaborate with I always look for screen accurate costumes. You probably don't have the money to go buy an outfit for thousands of dollars for the right model to wear. So search Instagram & local cosplay groups on Facebook to find the perfect cosplayers in your area that already have the outfits. They put in a lot of money and time to make beautiful costumes for Comic-con. They just need YOU to help bring that costume to life. Model: @hoptownspidey
When it comes to cosplay, especially horror cosplay nothing can ruin a good photo faster than bad makeup. If you don't use a professional makeup artist especially when using prosthetics a terrifying horror cosplay can turn cheesy as hell real quick. The difference between Hollywood quality horror and a family friendly haunted house is the makeup so choose a cosplayer who is a skilled MUA or find a local SFX MUA to team up with. My MUA for the photo above is the very talented @taelorfx Model: @starbar_1
Props are a key element to any great cosplay. Usually the cosplayer will have props they've made to go with their costume but in the case they haven't you can search Instagram for a prop maker and have one made. That's what I did for the axe and helmet seen above. I was lucky enough to find a very talented local prop maker @dragonbornjedi and as you can see above if you took away the axe and helmet the photo wouldn't be as compelling. Makeup by @taelorfx Model: @ThePDXViking
If you want a photo to go viral cosplay or not there needs to be a compelling story. The story doesn't need to be obvious but there needs to be enough emotion and information in the photo for the viewer to make up their own story. In the photo above I have a beautiful mermaid who's conveying so much emotion in her face, that alone makes the viewer ask why. Why is she so sad? Now add some wind, rain, sparks, and a pirate ship in the distance and you've got a story. What's the story? That's up to the viewer. Whether it's sadness, happiness, or straight up horror make sure your viewer feels something. Model: @LittyLeRouge
6. Most importantly: Casting!
This is the most underrated key to a successful cosplay photo. If I'm searching for a model for a particular character I put out a casting call on social media and try to find a person that looks most like the character. When I wanted to recreate the Pulp Fiction movie poster I knew I wanted someone with the same build and facial structure as Uma Thurman. So look for certain characteristics in the character you'd like to shoot and find someone who matches for the best success. Model: @1wonderbug
7. Engage with your Audience
No matter how good the photo is you can't just post it and hope for the best. You need to actively engage with your audience. It's as simple as thanking everyone who comments and or shares your post. Not only does this show appreciation to your fans but also keeps your post at the top of the feed. I see photographers with smaller followings fail miserably at this and they wonder why they don't see engagement or growth. Not engaging with your fans shows them you only care about yourself. TAKE THE TIME to show them you appreciate them!
Clark County ScareGrounds was nice enough to invite me to their haunted house in Ridgefield Washington to take some promo photos of Beetlejuice & Lydia. As a huge Tim Burton fan I couldn’t resist. Trevor does the best Beetlejuice cosplay I’ve ever seen and in person his impersonation is even better. Make sure to see him live in preson every weekend in October.
Trevor is a man of many faces. I’ve photographed him as Beetlejuice, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers. All of which you can find on my Instagram.
If you enjoy this set make sure to check out my Instagram & facebook where I’m posting 31 days of Halloween Cosplay photos.
Models: Sam York & Trevor Heineman-Overton /// Shot on my SonyA7iii at the one and only Clark County ScareGrounds. The ScareGrounds is conveniently located at the Clark County Event Center, 17402 NE Delfel Rd, Ridgefield, WA 98642. Parking is FREE!
More info: Facebook | Instagram
Horror Cosplay - Nightmare on Elm Street
Huge thanks to my Models: @goblin_teeth & @alyxandriamodel for helping me bring Freddy to life. Smoke purchased from: @oregonairsoftarena by @smokegrenades All shot on my SonyA6000 in Portland Oregon. See more concepts like this one on my Instagram below.
Horror Cosplay - Halloween
Huge thanks to my Models: @andrewgcalleri & @missmerandalynn & @goblin_teeth for helping me bring this Halloween concept to life. It was a blast! And yes we did sacrifice a guitar for this concept. Also the face on the pumpkin wasn't planned but I find it hilarious :) No one was hurt in the making of this series. All shot on my SonyA6000 in Portland Oregon. See more concepts like this one on my Instagram below.
Author Lance Reis
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