Tips for Convention Prep
So you're going to a convention? That's great! Conventions are a lot of fun and a great place to meet new people who love the same things you do. There's a lot of things that can go into preparing for a convention, that you may not be aware. Here's some of my tips to help relieve that "am I forgetting anything" feeling!
First things first, my number one tip is: if you are cosplaying and you have to travel, purchased a hard-shell suitcase. Fabric ones and other non-sturdy suitcases can risk any fragile costume pieces getting damage during transport.
While on that topic, it's probably good to mention, that you should plan your cosplay line-up accordingly. If you have to travel a long distance and use public transportation, you need to take this into consideration. Some cosplays (such as huge armor sets and large props) may simply not be transportable via suitcase. There's always the option of having it shipped to your hotel (if they allow that) or choosing a different route cosplay wise.
Number two! Make sure to give yourself enough time to build a cosplay! Don't start a complicated project only a week or two before the convention. Be realistic and use your time wisely. You don't want to end up having to pull countless all-nighters days before the convention just to finish a cosplay. Even if you don't finish a cosplay in time, don't fret! Just save it for the next one and enjoy your time at the convention (in or out of cosplay).
To jump back to the topic of suitcases and packing, have you ever got that "I'm totally forgetting something" feeling? Me too. And I've totally forgotten so many things! I've figured out a way to help me avoid that after all those times. Make a list! And don't just make it the night before, make it days before. That gives you time to go over the list each day and really make sure you've noted everything you need. Sometimes you just happen to forget something or not think about it in the moment your initially writing your list.
Don't forget the essentials either! I know most of us (cosplayers at least) are trying to remember not to forget our wigs, wig caps, costume pieces, etc and can get caught up in doing so. But you need to remember your basic necessities as well! What are you going to wear when you're not in cosplay? Got your tooth brush, tooth paste, deodorant, razor?
Number four! Make sure to have your batteries charged! You want to have your phone, iPod, game system, camera, etc at full battery when you leave. It's simply more convenient and phones just come in handy when trying to find your way around or needing your ticket information.
That leads me into my next tip! Have all your tickets printed out. Or confirmation email or bar-code. Usually the convention's FAQ section will clarify what you need to present when picking up your ticket. It's good to have those documents ready to go in multiple medias. It'd suck to have you phone die by the time you reach the front of the line and it's annoying for everyone else if they have to wait for you to pull up your email.
What about planning your days? Most conventions will list all their various activities (panels, signings, cosplay gatherings) on the website weeks prior to the actual conventions. This can help with planning out your days and cosplay line-up. Remember to note line times. Larger conventions have longer lines and people sometimes line up hours before the panel/signing. If it helps, writing it down in some sort of easy-to-carry planner can be useful while at the convention.
Speaking of gatherings, attend them! It's a fantastic way to meet fellow cosplayers, photographers, and con-goers interested in the same things as you. I've made so many friends just by hanging out at gatherings and chatting with people. It's also fun to see all the cosplays from the same fandom as yours.
Here's a couple other cosplay-relate tips to take note of when prepping for a convention.
If you're a cosplayer or photographer, get business cards! This will help cosplayers find the photos of them after the convention and help photographers in tagging the cosplayers when posting photos. They're also a great way to exchange information quickly and easily when you meet someone you want to catch up more with later!
If you have the time and budget, try to buy or make different bags that match the costume of the character you're cosplaying! At the very least, try to incorporate pockets into your cosplays. They will be desperately needed! You want to have a place to safely store your belongings (such as your wallet and phone).
Something that's always said, multiple times, but is never a bad thing to note: shower! Please shower before you hit that convention floor and maintain good hygiene while there! Conventions can be crowded and no one wants to be at an event where everyone smells bad. Be considerate of those who are around you.
Avoid convention food! Not saying it's bad, in fact it can be pretty good or unique. This tip is mostly for those who are on a budget. Convention food is typically hiked up in price (and to the max). If you're trying to keep your spending on the lower end, eat else where. It's a good idea to travel a few blocks away from the convention before looking for food, hit up fast food joints or buy food from places like Target or Walmart that you can eat "cold" or heat up in your hotel's microwave.
Wait till the last day to buy! Unless you see something selling fast, it's a good idea to wait till the last day or day before last to really look into buying some goodies. Booths will typically lower their prices or have sales on items on the last day. They want to leave with as little items as possible! At some booths, you can even haggle down prices.
My final tip (for now) would be to secure room, travel and tickets as early as possible! Tickets are usually cheaper the further away the convention date is. As the convention draws near, they usually go up in price. Try to grab them early when they're not as expensive.
While on the topic of tickets, a lot of conventions will connect with and sell tickets through Eventbrite. Their tools make it easy to find and plan conventions in your area!
It's good to book your travel and hotel early. Make sure you have the funds to cover the place yourself or you're 100% certain no one you're rooming with will back out on you. It'll suck to have to pay those early cancellation fees. It's a good idea to have clear guidelines when booking rooms with others about things like this (such as splitting the fee or when it becomes too late to back out without paying one's share). Travel is also cheaper to book early (depending on the mode of transportation).
Thanks for reading. I hope some of these tips will come in handing for your next (or first) convention! I'll probably be back with another post like this in the future, as I think up or come across more helpful tips!
~Positive Outcomes Only~
Recently read something that caught my interest. There was an article where a comment was made about how "lazy" a certain cosplayer's gijinka design was. The author's solution? They suggested "just make a catsuit"...
Now I don't think a catsuit would make a "bad" cosplay (I don't think there's such a thing as a "bad" cosplay, in general). A catsuit could be great, amazing and creative! That's not the problem. To compare that idea, in such a negative way, to one who simply looked at it a different way was a little... ignorant. Part of the fun in designing a gijinka cosplay is how creative you can be! There's so many different aspects to take into account that can go a lot farther than just the physical shapes and colors. There's no limit to what one can do because it's your very own design!
If you aren't sure what I'm talking about and looking to add even more into your gijinka design or if there isn't too much there for you to go off of to start with, then this post may be what you need!
What Are You Cosplaying?
So lets start! Since it's probably some of the most common characters that have a gijinka designed for them, we'll be using Pokemon for this example!
Okay, so we've decide what we're going to cosplay and it's a Pokemon! More specifically, let's say it's Vaporeon (at least for these next few examples). I know, this was a very basic step. Not much more to say, just needed this covered to move on.
What Does The Character Look Like?
Let's take a look at Vaporeon. It's yellow, white and two shades of blue in color. There's three "ears" on it's head, a collar around it's neck, it has a mermaid-like tail and scale/fin-like detail that go all the way down the back. It's skin/texture also appears smooth.
So what can we do with this information?
Well, just by looking at it we can already decide on what our color choices should be for the materials (whether it be paint or fabric); blues, yellow and white. We can also decide on the texture (if you're not going for an armored version--that usually changes things up a bit, but we'll touch more on this later); smooth. We also know we should probably include some key details like the ears and collar piece. The webbed shaping of the fins, collar, and ears is pretty significant too. We can make this will be a reoccurring shape throughout the outfit.
Where Do They Live?
This is very important! The area in which they live can definitely help you figure out what kind of design/style to go for. If they live in a hot, sunny dry area, you'd typically want to design something meant for that climate. If they live in a cold, snowy area you'd probably be looking towards designing something warm maybe with a lot of fur or layers. What about a desert? Or specific region of the world? Is there any sort of traditional clothing or style common to that area in real life? What about the time period? What would people where in those days? These are all things to consider!
Vaporeon lives in the water, so going for something with a water vibe--whether it be mermaid themed or pool party themed-- is a pretty fitting idea. The Pokedex entry also mentions it prefers beautiful shores. That can make the idea of designing something with a little bit more elegance and very detailed pop into our head!
What Are Some Key Aspects?
What stands out about the character--more than just appearance? For Pokemon we can instantly jump to their typing, the moves/abilities they have, and other information easily found in the Pokedex in games (or Wikipedia pages).
So for Vaporeon, we know it's a water-type, it learns a majority of water-type moves, and it evolves from Eevee. The Pokedex entry also mentions that it's molecules are similar to water (it can even melt into it) and that it's tail is often mistaken for that of a mermaid's.
So from this we can decide to lean towards a water-fitting design. Maybe something mermaid inspired or maybe some sort of bathing suit--made with water friendly materials. The fact that it's molecules are similar to water can bring about the idea to use fabric that moves and even sort of looks like water. You could also go about this a completely different way. You could decide to play more into the fact there's multiple Eeveelutions and make one uniformed design with slight tweaks for each individual characters. This could completely change your choice of fabric and if they environment/typing is important to consider or not.
What About Personality?
Personality is an important aspect! How does the character behave? Are they a bad-ass and edgy? Shy? Super serious? Young and playful? Seductive? Depressed and sad? Happy and motherly? If a character is childish and playful then it's probably a good idea to go with something youthful and easy to move in. If they're edgy and dark then maybe it's fitting to stay away from too many bright colors, throw in some spikes and a biker jacket? If they're motherly, think about what a mom would wear--maybe a classic 50's portrayal of one?
Now Pokemon may be a little tricky. But if you watch the show or check the Pokedex entry you can sometimes find some information about their personalities. If they don't mention that then go with what you feel. I've personally always felt like I could do something glamorous and elegant mermaid-wise or something fun and playful for Vaporeon.
What Do They Do?
What does your character do? Do they have a job? What about hobbies? If they like to cook, how about adding some sort of apron to the design or chef inspired outfit? Do they play sports? What kind? Maybe you can do some sort of sports attire fitting to them?
I know for Pokemon this can seem a bit irrelevant. For most gijinka designs this can be difficult to think about. After all, gijinka designs aren't inspired by humans... or at the very least, they don't always have human-like traits (such as jobs and hobbies). So instead think about it in a different way. If they were human what would they do? What do you think their job would be? Would they have any hobbies? Do you see them playing any sports? Their owners/trainers, what are they like? What do they do? Does the Pokemon get along with their trainer? Are they similar? If so, you can probably bet they'd be doing the same things as their trainer if they were human. Is their trainer more like a mother to them? Like how Misty is to Togepi! We could easily make a Togepi design inspired by children wear or something youthful. You can get fairly creative here!
For Vaporeon, mostly because of the water aspect, I can see it being a swimmer. Maybe a mermaid--I know not fully human but close. Maybe some sort of royalty?!
For a Pokemon like Chansey we could probably go with something motherly! Chansey is usually in the Pokemon Center in the cartoon, so if Chansey was a person we could only assume it'd be a nurse, doctor or some sort of caretaker. Something that comes off as warm, caring and welcoming, probably modest and mature, seems fitting. Obviously a nurse or doctor inspired outfit would be great!
Putting It All Together
At this point, you collect all the research you've done, taken into consideration many different aspects and now it's time to piece it all together.
So for Vaporeon we know we want something water-friendly or water-themed. We probably want to use smooth or flowy fabric (most likely bathing suit material), maybe a mix of both. We also want to keep significant details, like the ears and collar. At this point we could come up with a few designs. There's the option of doing something mermaid-y. Add many elaborate details, use light-weight fabrics that could be airy and flowy in water, and give it a mermaid gown shape to it (if not a full on tail). Or we could do a bathing suit. Something fun and cutesy with extra shapes added on and hems cut to match the shapes of the fins. Now it's just up to you to decide and give it your own personal touch! I think the design above (by hokoricupcake on DeviantArt) is a great mix of both!
I want to use two examples for this. I've touched on Vaporeon but now I want to do an overall look at another Pokemon. So let's use Litten. Looking at Litten we know it's a cat-inspired Pokemon. It already looks a bit sassy just by design (also cats are typically full of sass, lets be real here). The colors we'll be sticking to are red and black and there's a significant marking on it's forehead. The cheeks/whiskers, tufts of hair on it's head, tail end and stripes on it's legs can also be taken into consideration. From looking at the colors, I instantly go to something edgy, punk-ish and rocker. Red and black are a common combo seen in punk/rock outfits and styles. I feel for a cat this is also fairly fitting. We could also take into consideration other cat-themed characters, such as Catwoman. It's common to see cat-themed characters portrayed as sexy and a villain, so creating this sexy, bad-ass design is another path we can take. It's also a fire type! With fire I usually go with something, well, fire-y (spicy, edgy, sexy, etc--can all be fitting options). I feel Jessica Nigri and Danielle Beaulieu did fairly decent takes on this! But don't worry. If that's not you're style you can definitely go with something else! It is a starter Pokemon, so another option could be something spunky, young and playful. Or even a catsuit can work! Throw in the colors you need, add little touches and bam!
Armor and Other Themed-Designs
Okay so this is where things really change up! If you're doing an armored design, or something glamour inspired (like a red-carpet gown), pool party themed or even PJ themed, it'll be a lot different. You don't have to consider as much. When you have a bigger theme to stick to then all you really have to take into consideration is the colors and signature markings or details.
Take this Venusaur design (by bulletproofturtleman on DeviantArt). You can see the Venusaur in it and at the same time it still may be something different then what you were originally thinking was fitting for Venusaur. It has all of the colors, the designer changed the signature flower on the back to a weapon/shield so it's still included in the design, and they also threw in other flower aspects--keeping true to it's design as well as considering the fact that it's a grass-type. While it may not be a soft or hard of a design as you'd think when thinking of Venusaur, it still represents the Pokemon well.
It's taking classic armor pieces and modding them to fit a Pokemon. There's many people who take inspiration from various World of Warcraft sets, for example. They use those sets as a sort of starting point and then change and recolor pieces as needed--adding on details and removing others, changing shapes of the edges, etc--to make it better represent a different character.
My point is, you don't always have to take into consideration every last details. You can pay more attention to some details than others. It's all about what you feel would fit your design the best. The only thing that may be really important to keep are some signature aspects the character is know for (for animal-like character it's typically the ears, tail and/or the texture of it's fur/skin and maybe the pattern of it). And even then you don't absolutely have to if you don't want to. There's many ways to incorporate these different aspects.
I feel the various things mention will help anyone who's stuck or doesn't know where to begin. If you just can't get a good idea start looking more into the character, research different aspects of their environment or personality or pick an outside theme (like armor or glamour) and design towards that.
Ultimately it's up to the you to decide what you feel is fitting and it shouldn't really matter what anyone else thinks--cosplay is for fun and as long as you're having fun, that's all that matters! So just enjoy yourself, design a billion different designs before picking one, explore your talents and tastes--just have fun and love what you're doing. And to anyone who doesn't like it... well, then you can make it yourself, the way you want it done and just leave the other cosplayer be--because obviously they're happy with their design and there's no reason they shouldn't be.
~Positive Outcomes Only~
My Photo Editing Process
For anyone who's wondering how I edit my photos. These are editing techniques I use mostly for cosplay or human-subject photos (in other words, something like food or scenery doesn't get edited this much or even goes through these techniques/tools).
So of course, go through and pick out all the photos that are keepers and will move on to the editing phase. I use Photoshop Elements 8.0 to edit my photos.
The photo I'm using in this example is a photo I took of my friend and cosplayer, Courtneykissme, in her Arcade Miss Fortune (from League of Legends) cosplay.
So one of the things I like to do is create super smooth skin to make it look as if the photo is a digital painting or straight from the anime/video game (some great examples--and editing skill goals--are the amazing and professional shot Lightning--from Final Fantasy--cosplays photos you'll see around the internet). This is how I achieve that effect or something similar to it.
Duplicated the original image into a new layer. Right click on the image and select Duplicate Layer. Make sure the new layer is selected.
Then hit Filter -> Blur -> Surface Blur
Once you've selected Surface Blur move the threshold slider all the way to the right, maxing out the numbers. From there adjust the radius glider so that the face appears blurred but still recognizable.
Once you've set the radius glider move the threshold glider to the left until the skin appears smooth but not blurred. It'll usually start looking right around the same number setting as the radius or slightly lower. Hit okay.
Make another duplicate of the original image and move it so that it is the top layer. Make sure that layer is selected. To add some definition and details back into the clothing articles and hair hit Filter -> Other -> High Pass.
From there adjust the glider so that you can see the details in the hair, skin, clothing. For this you're going to have to eyeball it. Try not to put the glider so far to the right the color begins to return (you'll see what I mean if you glide it to the right). Hit okay.
We don't want the photo stay grey. In order to change this go to where it says Normal and has a drop down menu above the layer listings. Click the drop down arrow and select overlay.
Everything will appear to have more detail and definition again, but I still want the skin smooth and almost-digital looking (aka I want the Surface Blur-ed layer to be what the skin looks like). Still working on the same layer (the High Pass-ed layer), select the eraser tool and begin to erase anywhere the skin is. Feel free to erase any other areas you want to appear smooth or have the effect it was given on the Surface Blur-ed layer--I just stick with the skin.
Tip when erasing; work slowly. I avoid just erasing over large connected patches (such as the face and the neck) carelessly. I don't want the line of definition between two areas to fade and soften so I erase ever so slightly around them, avoiding the line itself. Example: I won't just scribble the mouse/tool over the whole face, I avoid the eyes, lips, brows and move around the nostrils and lines defining the nose and jawline.
Once your happy with how everything looks so far, merge the three layers together. Ctrl+Click all three layers --> Right Click --> Merge Layers.
Another thing I do is remove any blemishes, spots of discoloration or dark circles. This can be done at any time, although I do prefer to do this as a first step. For this I use the Healing Brush Tool found in the tool bar. You're able to Alt+Click any spot of skin without blemish/discoloration, then Left+Click any spots you want to cover up. This helps the skin look smooth, clear, even and helps the photo look professionally done.
This isn't a necessary step, it's all up to personal preferences and not everyone "needs" this editing done. I just feel it helps give the photo a professionally done feel. I also stated that I do love when photos look like they're straight from the game/animation, or close to it.
Another thing I will do, especially for photos taken in not the best lighting, is adjust the lighting. Enhance --> Adjust Lighting --> Brightness/Contrast.
Adjust the brightness or contrast by moving the gliders. This is all left up to personal preference and what you feel looks best. Hit okay.
Since I don't wear contacts I'll alter the eye color (the cosplayer in this photo is wearing contacts though). I didn't get a screen shot of this but basically. Create a new layer. Using the basic paint brush tool and the color of your choice, carefully color the iris of your eye (the colored part). Once both eyes are filled in adjust the opacity to make it look more natural. You want details and shadows from the underlying image to show through but not so much that the color of the eye doesn't change. You can also soften the lines using a slight Gaussian Blur.
Another way of changing the eye color is selecting the iris of both eyes. Enhance --> Adjust Color --> Adjust Hue/Saturation. Move the Hue (top) glider until you achieve the color you want. Do this on either a duplicate layer of the base/original image or the original image itself.
Something I'll almost always do as well is use the Dodge Tool on the iris of the eyes. Since my eyes are really dark and remain having a very dull or dark look to them even after changing the eye color I like to brighten it up and/or add highlights using this tool. Make sure the brush size is small and to remain in the iris of the eye only. I'll sometimes overlap brush strokes a couple times to make it brighter/more highlighted in certain areas (pay attention to where the light is hitting naturally).
Note: This is sloppily done because I just did it for screen shot purposes. Please know when actually editing I use and try my best to keep neat clean lines.
Another thing I do is add to and take away from specific colors and areas. In order to avoid taking hues away or adding them to areas you don't want to, use the selection tool and select the area you want to edit.
Once selected, go to Enhance --> Adjust Color --> Adjust Hue/Saturation.
For this specific photo I want to brighten up the pinks in the costume and hair. So in the drop down menu I select Reds and more the Saturation (second) glider more towards the right until I like the coloring. Hit okay.
You can either go to Select --> Deselect or hit Ctrl+D. Select new areas you want to change if there are anymore. I'm selecting the skin and background.
So going to the Hue/Saturation Adjustment menu, I select Yellows in the drop down menu this time. I personally like to remove the yellow tones from lighting and the skin depending on the photo. I feel it makes the photo look more clean and professional. But depending on the style of photo and editing it, yellow light can add to it. It's all preference.
In order to remove the yellow tones move the Saturation (second) glider more towards the left. Once it's where you like it hit okay.
Changing colors of the background or different subjects in the photo. Note this is done sloppily, once again, because I did it quickly for screen shot purposes.
Select the area you want to change the color of and open back up the Hue/Saturation window. To change the color drag the slider along the Hue bar until it's at a color you like. You can alter the darkness/brightness and saturation of the color using the other two sliders.
Another thing I'll often do is slightly enlarge the eyes. I like to make it more "anime-like" and other times eyes may be slightly squinted due to bright lighting or some other reason. Anyways, to enlarge eyes you can use a tool found under the liquidfy option.
Filter --> Distort --> Liquidfy
The 6th picture down or the picture of a square with an arrow on each side facing away from the square will be an enlargement tool. It should say something similar when hovered over. Set your brush to be around the size of the eye and just click once or a few times until the eyes are the size you want.
I'd recommend not to over do it and to keep it as natural as possible. I like to use this as a little trick to help make the eyes pop or be slightly more fitting to the cosplay/character.
Sometime my camera won't focus quite where I want it to or a picture will be slightly blurred. Usually I find that the eyes aren't as in focus as I'd like. Click the second tool picture from the bottom. You'll find the picture is whatever tool you left off on so it can either be a tear drop, a triangle or a pointing hand. Click image and make sure it's set to the triangle/Sharpen Tool.
Adjust the brush size to be around the size of the aspect you're sharpening. For example, when doing eyes I make sure the brush fits just around the entire eyes and simply click once or twice to sharpen it. When doing large object, like an entire person, I make sure the brush is a large size but doesn't fit around the entire person (since people typically aren't a circle--they have limbs and such). Then I'll click and drag the brush around/over the person I'm sharpening. I'll only have to do this once or twice.
Keep in mind that if you continue to sharpen an area over and over again it'll begin to look super pixelated and you probably don't want that, this is why I recommend only going over an area once or twice. I also rarely use the sharpen tool at full strength. You'll see an option to adjust the strength in the top bar, a few slots to the right of the brush option. I usually put it anywhere from 30-75%.
I often blur backgrounds, especially if they're very busy and I feel pull focus away from the main subject (i.o. cosplayer). To do this we'll be going back to that same tool option we just found the sharpen tool under, but instead click the Blur Tool/tear drop.
I recommend duplicating the layer for this and do all the blurring on the top layer. I say this because if you accidentally find you've blurred a part that you didn't want to, you'll be able to simply erase it and the original, unblurred photo will be right there underneath.
You'll be constantly adjusting brush sizes during this in order to get around the different shapes just right. I usually use a large brush size for a majority of the empty space around the edges (referring to this photo^) and then switch to a brush size of 12 or less when going around or near my subject. For sharp corners, sometimes the circle shape of the brush will mean part of your subject gets blurred, this is where the eraser comes in handy (just erase the subject --or at least that part-- from the layer).
I typically set the strength to 100% but depending on the look you're going for you may want to change it. Sometimes I will change the strength several times throughout the photo when I want the blurred parts to fade into an in focus part. In example, if I the subjects just sitting in the grass and I want the grass in the background blurred but not the grass towards the front. I'll change the strength several until it's around 5-10% at the last part to be blurred so everything will blend. You don't need to go down 1% at a time, towards the higher percentages I'll jump down from 10-20% at a time and towards the end 10-5% at a time.
I'll sometimes add a ring of darkness/shadow around the photo or shade different areas of a photo (sometimes I'll shadow the entire background just to make the subject pop). To do this click on the tool picture where it'll either look like a pencil or paint brush. Click on the Brush Tool.
Create a new blank layer (can be found at the bottom left hand corner of the layers tab/window). This is the layer you'll be working on.
The size you adjust your brush to will depend on what you're shadowing and your photo, you may have to change it several times. For the color choose a black. Then color in the area you want shadowed. If you're doing the entire background leave a bit of a gap around the subject or whatever you're not shadowing. If you don't want even the slightest shadow on your subject make an even bigger gap in between the shadow and the subject then.
You'll want that gap because we'll be blurring the layer and depending on how much of a fade you want the shadow may get onto the subject after blurred. The more faded you want it, the bigger the gap in between the coloring and subject you'll need. You can always go back in and erase shadows off the subjects but sometimes they may leave weird harsh lines in the shadow that you may have to re-blur (either using the blur process we're going to do right now or the blur and smudge tool).
So to blur the shadow and create a fade,
Filter --> Blur --> Gaussian Blur
Adjust the slider/percentage until you the fade/blur is to your liking. This honestly depends on preference and the photo.
Now to make the shadow more natural/less harsh or when using it just to darken a background, go over to the layer window/tab.
Hit the arrow near the Opacity option and adjust the slider until it's where you like. Once again, this depends on both preference and the photo.
Sometimes I like to have more fade to a shadow than just the blur tool alone can do with one layer. So either I'll duplicate the layer we made the shadow on (before any of the blurring was done) or simply color in another shadow on a new layer.
For example, if I want the very corners of the photo to stay black I'll create a new shadow layer. I'll repeat the same steps as above but change the amount/percentage I blur it at and the opacity.
I usually have it so that the bottom layer has the least opacity (aka lower percentage) and is the most blurred (higher percentage), each layer above that has higher opacity (higher percentage) and less blur (lower percentage). I usually only have 2 or 3 layers of shadow if I have more than one.
I'll then Ctlr+Click and select all the shadow layers and Right Click--> merge. I'll then apply a Gaussian Blur one last time to blend all the shadow layers together and adjust the opacity if needed.
This is how I typically edit all my cosplay photos. I hope it's both in detailed enough and easy enough to understand. I tried my best!
~Positive outcomes only! ~
Saving Expanding Foam
I've seen quite a few posts in the past where someone will mention only using expanding foam once (as in, once it's been opened/used it can no longer be saved to use later). I guess that's the "proper" way to use it since it does only come with one nozzle that'll get plugged up once the expanding foam dries. I've always re-used and saved my expanding foam though, especially since I never use a whole can on one thing. Here's how for any of you who may have been tossing it out before it's empty.
*Remember!* Wait till the foam is fully dried before doing this. Otherwise it just becomes a gooey mess and doesn't come out in one nice piece, nor as easily.
This is the expanding foam I used and a cosplay piece I used it on.
As you can see foam can and probably will end up drying in random spots along the tube. Sometimes it's not fully blocked and others it's just hopeless.
In cases where it's blocked I'll find something that'll be able to scrap it out. Not everything is long enough though as you can tell in the photo above. I'm using some random tool I had lying around but even a toothpick can work.
When the nozzle is too long for the tool I simply just cut it down. I've never had a problem with it changing the way the expanding foam its applied.
It may take a couple tries especially if what you're using has no ridges. If you just press and pull along the side though you'll be able to pull out any dried foam.
It should easily come out in one piece.
Now do the same for the other end.
And one more time for the nozzle that's attached to the can. Then just reattach you cleaned nozzle/tubes and its ready for use!
My Photographer Situation & Tips
Not sure why, but I decided to make a blog post on my photographer situation. Nothing special or anything but I figured "hey maybe this'll give people some ideas on how to go about getting photos of their own cosplay (or whatever)!"
There's a couple different ways shoots can happen. You can be paid to do the shoot or pay someone to shoot it. I guess it depends on who contacts who. There's also one where it's free on both ends; the photographer takes photos therefore gaining more experience and shots for their gallery and you get photos of your cosplay ~there's an actual word for this but I forget.
Most people seem to try out different photographers and usually settle with one or two or something ~do your research, don't go alone and check references. Personally, I'm not exactly sure on how these things work out, who pays who or if it's a swap/free thing. I don't work with "actual" photographers, so none of these things ever come up.
How do you go about shooting cosplays if you don't work with photographers?
I don't work with "actual" photographers. I just have friends take the photos! And no I don't mean, photographers who are friends or vise versa. I literally just mean I ask someone "hey will you basically be my tripod and help me take photos of my cosplay". So usually and most recently, I just ask my boyfriend.
I don't call them "actual" photographers because they aren't. None of them have had an interest in photography really or are pursuing it as any type of career, the most experience they've had before is a photography class to fill an elective spot back in high school, they haven't done any photoshoot type things before this and I don't even think they own a camera ~we use my equipment for shoots. Honestly, I'm not really sure they even slightly enjoy shooting my cosplays, but they're super nice and helpful so they don't mind :) .
So how do I get at least decent quality photos with people who don't know much about photography?
1. It'll be up to you to do your research! If your friend isn't interested the slightest in photography, then they'll probably look to you as to what they should be doing. So it'll be up to you to learn something about photography.
-Figure out angles. Find what angles look best and flatter both you and the costume.
-Poses. It won't work like a professional shoot, they wont be
instructing you on what to do and where to look, in fact they'll probably be asking you where they should stand! So research your character and look up what poses fit them.
-Instruct! As I was saying, your friends my be asking you where they should stand. So give them these instructions. Everyone's different though so some may go off and do their own thing, but if there are specific photos you would like at certain angles, tell them "hey also get some shots of this ___".
-Take many photos! Ask your friends to snap a few photos of them same shot. This way when going through them you have a few options to choose from in case you blink in one, or don't like your expression in another, or they shot was a little blurry.
-Take your time. Mention to your friend, especially if working a camera isn't their thing, that they may wanna just hold the camera still a few seconds before and after taking a photo and take slight pauses in between each snap of the camera. This is especially good advice if your equipment & setup isn't super amazing! It sucks to have a pose or photo you really like be unusable because it's too blurry. So don't try to rush through it.
-Work as a team. Especially if both of you know very little and are new to photography. Work as a team, give each other input and advice and help set each other up I guess. Share ideas for poses and angles.
2. Have a good camera. Something other than your phone! If this is something you're really interested in then invest in a fancier camera. I use a Canon Rebel T3 ~which was "top of the line" at the time I bought it, just under the Canon Rebel T3i. I've also recently invested in lighting and backdrop setups -they're in the mail!- and will be getting a around 5-foot tripod. Now this is mostly for YouTube purposes but I'll be using it for other small "shoots" as well.
3. Good lighting! I try to shoot in the morning and/or mid-day and outside. Natural lighting is great and makes photos look so much better. Shoot on bright and sunny days. If you're shooting inside try and get as much natural lighting into the room as possible -if you have lighting equipment that works too. Note: Pay attention to shadows and the shadows of the photographer! Try not to have the sun directly behind you as well because that may throw off the lighting and shadow your face.
What about editing?
I edit all my photos. At the end of the "shoot" I just pack up my camera and stuff and later on, at home, upload them all to my computer and start going through them. This may be the tricky part about just having friends take photos. It means you'll have to learn how to edit, and if you're not super computer-savvy it may be a problem. Keep in mind photos don't NEED to be edited. It's all personal preference. I like to edit mine just because I feel like it helps give it a nice finished look.
What do you do when editing?
I mostly just mess with the lighting, contrast, hue and saturation. I'll also clear up blemishes and if need be change my eye color. I recently learned (and am still working on better it) glowing effects. I'll black out the background sometimes as well or shadow it over. I'll also blur the background if I feel it pulls too much focus away from the subject. I'm also working on swapping out the background (I still need a lot of work on this but there's been some photos I'm really happy with the result) and fire-y smoke effects. I use Photoshop Elements 8 by the way.
For background swapping I'll use either photos I've taken or search for stock-photos (giving credit to the creator and letting them know-or follow whatever their guidelines for use were- whenever used).
I've learned most of these from friends who were good with Photoshop (they draw a lot) or from tutorials online (YouTube is a great place to look!).
Why don't you search for local photographers?
There's a few reasons.
1. I'm incredibly weary of online people. So I'd only be willing to work with someone if they already had some sort of gallery and references to look through and contact. Of course I'd bring one or two people to come with me -so they'd need to be okay with that because I won't go alone- and I'd only really want to go if it was either at an actual business place (like how some photographers have a studio) or public (outdoors someplace like a park/forest-y area or beach or whatever's fitting -probably prefer this).
2. Playing into the weariness, social anxiety. It already takes me a LONG time to get into the zone and comfortable taking photos with just friends -my boyfriend even- that working with professionals would end in chaos -,- . In other-words, I'd be really awkward, tense, and uncomfortable working with people I barely know. Now I have done a spontaneous shoot at a convention before, so it's not like I'm never up for it -I prefer not to let anxieties stop me from living & will just bare through it xD. I guess it just makes it harder for me to actually just say "sure I'd totally love to shoot with you!"
3. Control. Control issues? Insecurities? It's just weird and out of my comfort zone to not be in control of the poses or angles or shooting, nor the photo choices and editing. If I'm being honest here, I already have an extreme distaste for my appearance, so it'd be really hard to just trust someone else to take and choose photos in which I'd actually feel I looked okay.
4. Money & Travel. I don't have the money to pay for photoshoots, and I'm not really looking into doing so any time soon. I'd much rather put my money towards bettering my cosplays and have photos taken for free by super awesome friends! And anything that requires much traveling would be difficult-once again gas fair, and I don't have a vehicle. It's not 100% out of the question though, if a really good opportunity ever presented itself then maybe.
Well I hope this may have helped some of you looking to shoot some of your cosplays (or even if you're trying to get into modeling or whatever). I'm sure if you ask nicely friends would be willing to help you out and if neither of you know much about photography well then hopefully I gave you some helpful tips or ways to find more helpful tips (seriously, YouTube and Google will lead you to tutorials and forums-so helpful!). Practice makes perfect! So as you get more experience with it your photos will improve (you may even want to revisit some old cosplay and reshoot). Good luck :)
~Positive outcomes only! :)
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