I’ve been cosplaying for about ten years, so I’ve taken a lot of photos and had my photo taken a lot too. I’ve taken professional photos in my hometown and at conventions. I’ve taken random photos in con hallways, or photos that my friends came up with on the spur of the moment.
Outside the con setting, though, where do you go to get good photos of your cosplay?
Locations for Modern or Futuristic Costumes
My favorite location for a more modern cosplay photoshoot is any building with glassed windows. If they’re reflective, you can get some really cool “mirror” type shots as well. When I was cosplaying from the game S4 League, which has many urban settings, my friends and I found a building that matches this description.
Head downtown and take a walk. You’ll be surprised how many buildings have columns or steel railings for you to pose around. I’ve also seen a lot of cosplay videos and photos taken in empty levels of parking garages. The steel and concrete really fits with a modern cosplay look.
Locations for Darker or Horror Costumes
Parking garages are again, a great idea. It’s an enclosed space so you don’t have to worry about rain; it’s also a little darker and naturally grittier.
Find a wooded area in a local park or near a walking path. The shade can provide interesting light, and depending on the time of year, you can get really good spooky photos when leaves are falling and branches are bare. A lot of my Resident Evil cosplay photos were taken in a dark, shady corner of a park.
I don’t recommend cemeteries as photo locations, just because you don’t want to offend anyone who might be visiting a loved one’s grave there. I think you can get a similar look in a botanical or rose garden, especially if they have stone benches or plaques that could resemble headstones.
Also look for abandoned or old buildings. There are lots of websites that help find “haunted” places or abandoned buildings. I had an abandoned house recommended to me by a friend and chose to shoot there for Resident Evil as well. Keep in mind you should be really careful if you go inside such a place! I was able to go inside the house I took photos at, but I didn’t go very far in case the floor was rotten.
Locations for Fantasy Costumes
Parks are perfect for this! They’re also excellent because many botanical gardens and parks have accessible restrooms, which you may not find at other photo locations. Plus, people are used to seeing photoshoots take place in parks, so you’re likely to be left alone.
Rural areas near and outside your town may also work well. I once took some photos in a rocky part of the hills that fit in well for the fantasy setting of .hack//G.U.
Historic buildings, including churches, can also work. There’s a train depot in my town that has a rolling lawn and fountains in front of it. Look for public places, especially with free or cheap admission. Some historic places, colleges, and museums may have space that allows photos. Just make sure when you enter a building or business that you check to see if there are any rules about photography inside it. You don’t want to get kicked out and ruin your photoshoot!
Brick walls or stone walls. You can find one in just about any size town or city. I used walls a lot as a backdrop for cosplaying Annie Leonhardt from Attack on Titan.
Playgrounds, especially for childish or silly characters. You may also be able to get inside an empty classroom at a local university or community college, especially if you or the photographer have friends there.
Any urban area, like an alleyway, that has stairs, lantern posts, and other interesting elements for you to interact with.
Don’t forget there may even be spots in your own house or backyard that suit the character! One of my friends shot a Persona video entirely in her house and neighborhood, and the setting worked for the story the cosplayer wanted to tell.
A Few Notes & Tips
If you’re going to be shooting for a long time, keep drinking water! As you get dehydrated, you’ll get cranky, and your skin won’t look as good in your photos. Bring a water bottle with you if you can.
Also bring some emergency supplies, including things to repair your costume and things to repair yourself! Tuck some Band-Aids into the camera bag in case you skin something kneeling or posing. Bring bobby pins and Spirit gum to keep your wig in place or make adjustments. I also like to have some kind of glue on hand. Hot glue won’t really work unless you have access to an outlet, so I like to have super glue on hand (the kind I linked has always worked for me). You can also use clear nail polish to stop frays and act as a temporary glue.
My best advice is to just get really familiar with your area. I live in a small city in a U.S. state that has a lot of outdoor locations, so I make sure when I’m driving or walking to keep my eyes out for a spot that might work for a cosplay I’m doing. I also check on websites for local photographers and see if they mention any particular building or spot. Then I look at the location myself!
Get to know your town, grab a friend with a camera (or a professional photographer, if you’re willing to spend the money), and go have fun!