January 22nd, 2017

Behind the Scenes: Photoshoot locations

When thinking about a photography topic to talk about, I remembered how Liz recently asked me whether I figure out the photoshoot locations or if the cosplayers do. I haven’t really touched on this part of photography, but I thought it’d be an interesting thing to go over!

At Conventions

Most of my photoshoots happen at Anime conventions, which makes sense since it’s where cosplayers typically wear their cosplays. The “pro” is that I can meet cosplayers from other cities, and I can book several in one weekend. The “con” is that I’m pretty much stuck to locations at or within a short walking distance of the convention.

If the cosplayer has a location preference, we’ll use that. For example, when we did a Scooby Doo photoshoot, we used an abandoned building that the cosplayers found as the background.

A couple times, I’ve been requested to do a hotel room shoot, and we’ll use the one they’re staying in for the convention.

Most of the time though, I’m picking the location. Before every shoot, I research the characters to get pose and location ideas. Then I’ll arrive at the convention earlier and look around, taking note of possible places and what might match the characters.

There are types that usually come up that I’ve learned to look for. For dark/creepy shoots, parking garages have become my go-to.

Nature shots can be hard if the convention isn’t near a park, but really, any greenery helps, even if it isn’t a large section.

I also make sure to take note of any neutral walls or backgrounds that I can use. They are a lifesaver when nothing else really works.

While I prefer outdoors shots (way less crowded), sometimes the weather forces us to stay indoors instead. I look around places in the hotel or convention center as well.

An important thing to remember is that even small backgrounds can work. You don’t have to do very wide shots to get full body, and close crops are an option.

Of course, I do run into the problem where I re-use locations, and you can see them repeated in shoots I do at the same convention.

Private Shoots

I’ve done a few shoots outside of conventions, and these are the ones I prefer. They take a lot more research, but the result is worth it in the end!

One time, a cosplayer wanted a shoot for her Noodle (Gorillaz) cosplay in her Plastic Beach outfit, which meant a beach was the preferred location. Well, if you aren’t familiar with where Austin is in Texas, let me show you a map:

Ah, yeah… the closest beach is 3+ hours away. We settled on a lake instead, and I began researching lakes around town. On a whim, I searched for a beach in Austin anyway, and lo and behold! A lake near me had a sandy beach area!

I went there twice – the first time to scope out the area and the second to check lighting. The “beach” ended up being a small area, and it’s not exactly the ocean…

But! Like I said above, you don’t need to shoot very wide, and with the right angle and crop, it can work! (More photos here.)

Another time, I was asked to do a shoot for a Touken Ranbu cosplay, and her preference was a Japanese garden or temple. If we couldn’t do that, then something naturey instead. I started my search by visiting nearby green belts. Because those are public areas, it wouldn’t be an issue for us to use them as photoshoot locations.

I had my eye on a couple other areas but wasn’t sure if we could use them. One was a Buddhist temple and another was a botanical garden with a Japanese garden that charges professional photographers $50 per shoot to use.

And well, you never know until you ask. I emailed both places – the Buddhist temple for permission and the botanical garden to see if a “for fun” shoot would count towards the $50 fee. Both inquiries went well! The Buddhist temple gave us permission to use the outside of the temple, and the botanical garden told me that I wouldn’t have to pay the $50.

After that, I visited both of them to check out spots. We ended up only using the botanical garden and went in the morning when it was less crowded. I love how this one turned out too! (More photos here.)

And that’s pretty much it! Basically, I always research and scout areas ahead of time. Finding the right location can make a big difference in the photo. To end this entry, I’ll share some photos with more background examples!

15 Responses to “Behind the Scenes: Photoshoot locations”

  • Nancy says:

    You’re too talented when it comes to photography ;). I like the creativity that is forced into the photoshoot. The Scooby Doo shoot was perfect with the broken glass! Haha, the parking garages are perfect for the dark shoots. I love how resourceful you are when you had to find a place with a beachy environment. 3+ hours from the beach is pretty far @___@. Thanks for sharing your experience with photography! I love how crisp your pictures are and the bokeh is perfect when applicable.

  • Kenny says:

    Cat, as always, your photography is beautifully done, and I hate you for being so talented when I just have a crappy point and shoot camera that I always have to edit for hours to avoid being mocked and ridiculed.

    Location scouting is something I’m familiar with, although more with films. To put it short and sweet, it’s a pain in the butt.

  • Michelle says:

    Omg, I have another cosplay in the works and am done with the preparations. I’d love to do another shoot with you ๐Ÿ™‚ I trust in your work and your friendship, a lot. Also, I recognize a lot of Danganronpa cosplays and a lot more of them too. You’re the best photographer there is!

  • Christine says:

    Absolutely stunning photo work!! I love how the photos all convey the perfect mood to go with their cosplay outfit. I wouldn’t even know where to start in terms of finding a location and working with people. Very impressive!

  • Diamond says:

    I enjoyed reading your post! It’s great how you put effort into taking photography, and your photographs look amazing! I was especially impressed by that Scooby-doo photo, it just looked perfect! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Georgie says:

    You do a lot of research into your photoshoot locations! I think itโ€™s great that you put a lot of thought into it and are well prepared. Props to Liz for asking this question because it made for a great post.

    You do really well with what you have, especially at convention locations. I can imagine the people you photograph are so happy with the results and how you make it work with your location. I especially loved that you figured out the beach scene one โ€“ there are a lot of hidden โ€œinland beachesโ€ in Sydney alongside small rivers and lakes that youโ€™d never really think of looking at if you live so far from a beach. ?

    Shooting indoors can be hard but from the photos youโ€™ve shared, you can get creative, work only with what you have, and still get an amazing shot. I admire your work and the hard work that goes into it. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was nice getting a glimpse into your shoots โ€“ not sure if you have more behind-the-scenes posts planned but I loved reading this. ? I put far less thought into my Fashion Friday posts, sometimes the locations are very last-minute, haha.

  • Kya says:

    This is a great post. It’s wonderful to hear about your process and how you go about locations. I think it’s pretty obvious from the amazing shots you have taken, that doing the extra work and finding a good location is going to make a difference to the end result!

    I can’t get over the fact that there was a beach location! Not technically a beach, but still something that is very close. It’s funny the things you don’t realise are out there, until you look.

  • Chynna says:

    I honestly squealed at the Scooby Doo cosplay. They looks awesome! Velma was always my favourite character ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love how much thought and research you put into your photos and the fact that your turn up early to research and stuff. That’s why all of your photos are awesome! Thank you for sharing this ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Pauline says:

    This is such a great post, thank you for sharing Cat! You’ve actually given me ideas on my own photography of other people and of myself for my blog haha.

    I like your thought process on the background and photoshoot in general and your efforts definitely show in these images. They look super pro!

  • Elisa says:

    i immediately said OMG literally the moment i saw two Bioshock Infinite cosplayers there (the 6th picture; they’re portraying the Lutece twins from bioshock infinite) i’m a huge fan of bioshock so that makes me incoherently happy, lol
    my favorite shot you did is definitely the scooby-doo one. it was taken from such a good perspective! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Joy says:

    Hey, how have you been? ๐Ÿ™‚ I wanted to let you know that I deleted my old blog (Suzan | unnie.net) and I’m now at redvelvet.cc as Joy ๐Ÿ™‚ It would be super nice if you could change the link/button <3

  • Amy says:

    You’re photography is so amazing. It’s really great to see how much attention you give to each individual photo. I especially love the Scooby Doo one. That background is perfect!

    I also love the nature background. It looks so cool!

    I wish you lived nearer because I would absolutely love a photoshoot! The only cosplay photos I’ve had ever done professionally were in front of a boring white background, and I’d love to get some nice ones done.

    Really enjoyed reading this post. It’s definitely inspired me to be more ambitious with my blog photography!

  • Tara says:

    Oh, wow! I am not a serious photographers, but your tips on locations and backgrounds are super helpful. They are things I hadn’t considered really, but it’s good to know in the future if I need them. In particular, the neutral background tip makes a lot of sense ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good to know that some places will also allow shoots. It really doesn’t hurt to ask — even better when they give you permission and doesn’t charge you!

  • Mija says:

    Amazing work yet again!!! Are you coming to houston for anime matsuri this year?

    • Cat says:

      Thanks Mija! Unfortunately I don’t go to Anime Matsuri because the timing of it always seems to be inconvenient for me. My next con will probably be A-kon!

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