Photographer Interview with Oscar Cwajbaum

What should we say? Yeh, first, huge thanks for Oscar – the famous photographer. Thanks for sharing us these useful words here. It’s actually a big pleasure for us and all of our fans here :D. Now, let’s begin.

1. How long have you been engaged in photography? Do you consider it as a hobby or is there any other reason that got you into this field?

Photography has been my hobby for almost 10 years now. I got my first digital camera as a wedding present, and have been actively shooting ever since. During the day, I work as a software engineer for a large online retailer; photography lets me switch gears, be more creative, and helps me meet lots of interesting people.

2. Have you ever confronted some difficult elements in photographing? How did you overcome them?

Each cosplay presents its own challenges when shooting. Some costumes are all-black and fade into the background; others are very white and are near impossible to get right in sunlight; still others have shiny bits that make using a camera flash difficult. Learning to overcome each costume’s challenges comes with practice — the more you shoot, the more techniques you learn.

Some examples:

Catwoman Cosplay

Character: Catwoman; Cosplayer: KittyCatChi

This photo was shot in the middle of the day, in bright sunlight. To avoid that harsh light, I had one assistant holding a diffuser to create shade, and a second assistant with a handheld softbox to light the cosplayer with a softer light.


Character: Guts; Cosplayer: Inoli

This photo was shot in an empty field late at night. Because there was no light for the camera to focus with, I had to point a flash light at the cosplayer, tell the camera to focus, and then move the flash light away before taking the shot. Also, to avoid having the black armor disappear into the background, I needed two lights. In addition to the usual light aimed at her face from my left, I had an assistant hold a second light above her head to light her hair and shoulders.

3. Which equipment do you most like? If required, what set will you recommend?

I really adore my Canon 5D Mark II camera; I have used it for almost 3 years, and can’t imagine what shooting was like before I got it. It’s not a good beginner camera though; it requires a deep understanding of camera settings to use well. If someone is just getting into cosplay photography, I recommend the Canon T3i as a great entry-level camera.

I strongly prefer using off-camera lighting whenever possible, so I have several Lastolite softboxes that I use with my two 580EX II speedlites, with a set of PocketWizards to trigger them.

4. Which is your most satisfactory cosplay photo and why?

It’s really hard to pick just one, but one of my all-time favorites is this one:


Character: Syaoran; Cosplayer: Bekalou

This photo was shot towards the end of a relatively long shoot in a field in Angel’s Camp, CA. It shows off the costume and cosplayer very well, in a setting that’s very detailed and appropriate for the character, and has no real technical problems. I’ve printed it very large (3 feet by 2 feet), and am very happy with how it looks when printed that size.

5. Do you have some suggestions for people, especially for those who were the first time to be at a photoshoot?

Have poses ready. Practice the poses in front of a mirror until you’re happy with them. No matter how great your cosplay is, a photo of you standing with your arms at your sides looking bored isn’t going to make for interesting photos.

Know your character and the series. Is the series bright and happy? Is it dark and brooding? Tell the photographer what is appropriate, so he or she can pick a background and lighting that matches.

Show up on time! If you have to cancel, cancel at least a few days in advance. If you’re running late, call or text the photographer to let him/her know.

6. You are a portrait photographer, specializing in costume photography. So, to seem appealing, what’s the most crucial element for a cosplayer? In your opinion, what contributes most to make one differentiate with another?

What appeals to me the most about a cosplayer is one who wants and appreciates good-looking photos. This encompasses several things.

First, the costume should look well-made; costumes that look like they were sewn the night before aren’t very interesting. (I don’t care if they actually were sewn the night before, as long as it’s not obvious that they were.)

Second, the cosplayer should show up on-time, ready to shoot, with ideas for poses, appropriate backgrounds, and lighting. Cosplayers that answer “I don’t care” to every question I ask probably don’t care as much about the results, either.

Third, the cosplayer should post high-quality photos of their costumes whenever possible. There are lots of great photographers willing to do free, high-quality shoots. Processing photos from a shoot is a big time investment for a photographer; cosplayers that show they care about the quality of the results motivate me to do my very best.


“Character: Viking Denmark; Cosplayer: bekalou”

7. Is there any difference between taking a cosplay picture and a common one? What scene will be great for a cosplay picture? Do you always improvise a scene?

A normal portrait emphasizes the person being photographed. A cosplay photo needs to emphasize both the person and the cosplay. Sometimes that means a particular background or specific lighting; other times that means a unique pose particular to that character or one that shows off the costume well.

Each character is different. Guts from Berserk wouldn’t work well in a bright cheery field; Pokemon won’t work well in dark contrasty lighting. I try to take that into consideration when choosing a location and lighting for a shoot.

8. How many conventions have you gone? A private photoshoot and a convention photoshoot, which one do you feel more interested? Are there some differences?

I have been attending conventions longer than I’ve been shooting — my first convention was in 1992 — and I’ve lost track of the number of conventions I’ve been to since.

Shooting at conventions allows you to meet (and shoot) many new people, and is the best way to shoot with people who live far away. On the other hand, conventions tend to be crowded and have limited options for shoot locations. Because of that, I prefer private shoots over convention shoots. A private shoot has a much better selection of locations, is a lot calmer, and generally results in better photos. I also like shooting at regional cosplay gatherings, as they attract a number of people who I don’t see very often, but with less stress and crowds than a convention.


9. What regions do you often cover? How can we get in contact and invite you to shoot for us? And also, do you charge for this?

I mainly shoot in California and at DragonCon in Atlanta. In 2012, I will also be attending Anime Central in Chicago.

I do not charge for the shoots themselves or for web-sized, watermarked photos. I do ask for a full model release for each shoot, and I charge for full-sized, non-watermarked files and for prints.

To shoot with me, please email me at

10. We do believe post-processing is crucial. But will it be possible to make a person seem too artificial? Is there any recommendation?

For normal portraits, it’s definitely possible to make someone look too artificial. For cosplay, it’s a bit murkier, since a cosplayer is trying to replicate an animated character. And similar to choosing lighting and background, how artificial the desired look is depends on the specific character and what style the photographer is going for. If the photographer and cosplayer like it, it’s OK.

Please visit OscarC Photography’s website at, Facebook at and Twitter as ocwajbaum.