Starting this week, Oscar of OscarC Photography will be writing a “Better Cosplay Photos” column on weeks when there’s no photographer interview.
The #1 myth among many cosplay photographers is that their photos would look better if only they purchased more fancier/more expensive camera gear. The truth is that most photographers are limited by their ability to make the most of their existing camera gear.
So if you are a cosplay photographer interested in improving your photos, the best and easiest way to accomplish this is to learn how to use your camera to its full potential. Yes, that means reading the manual. If the manual is poorly translated or just too boring, see if there is a book published about it; many popular cameras have them. For example, the Canon 60D has titles ranging from “Canon 60D Digital Field Guide” to “Canon 60D for Dummies”.
As you read the manual or reference book, familiarize yourself with all your camera’s various modes, and learn to use them when appropriate.
Some people shoot in “Auto” or “P” mode all the time; they might be surprised to learn that “Auto” is not “Automatically Awesome” mode, and “P” is not “Professional” mode. In reality, these two modes are the training wheels of digital cameras and are designed to take average looking photos. Generally they’ll rarely take terrible photos, but they’ll also rarely take above-average photos. If you want something other than mediocre results, you will need to learn (and use) your camera’s other modes.
Camera phone users, this also applies to you! Modern camera phones now have a variety of settings and options in the menus; learn what they are and what they do.
I will discuss your camera’s various modes in more detail in a future column.
The other thing to learn about your camera is its strong points and weak points. Every camera, from the simplest camera phone to the most expensive DSLR, has both! Once you discover them, use your camera in a way that maximizes its strong points; avoid using your camera in a way that highlights its weak points.
For example, perhaps you have a camera with a very weak flash. If so, you should try to shoot as much as possible in places where you can turn off the flash; if needed, alter your camera settings so that the flash isn’t needed. (I will discuss how to do that in a future column.)
While it’s true that more expensive cameras have fewer weak points than a cheap point and shoot, even the most expensive pro camera has weak points.
One major weak point of pro cameras is their bulk; I can’t carry a ten pound camera everywhere I go. Also, it is hard to get candids with it.This is one advantage my camera phone has over my expensive DSLR — I can use the camera phone to take spontaneous photos of my kids wherever we go; even if I were to bring my DSLR, my kids would see it, stop whatever they were doing, and pose unnaturally for the camera.
Another weak point of pro cameras is that the photos they take generally require post-processing to make them look their best. Less expensive cameras are more likely to take photos that don’t require any post-processing.
I encourage you to learn to take full advantage of your existing camera’s settings and capabilities. If you do, you will see a big difference in the photos you take.