How Cosplayers look Better in Photos
“Why don’t you look like your photos? Why does she look so good in photos but when I met her in person she looked so bad?”
“Why do photographers edit the photos so much the people don’t even look like how they do in person anymore?”
“There’s so much Photoshop and fakery!!”
There’s a lot of editing hate going on around in our local cosplay circle recently, with lots of rants going on about how “s/he looks nothing like his/her photos!” “s/he’s fake and his/her photos are too edited!” and so on. It’s been a common rant in the anonymous confessions section, and while I have my feelings on this, I feel people are too quick to attribute it all to Photoshop.
It’s not just Photoshop that makes a photo look much better than how the person in them looks like face-to-face. From taking photos of other people and my own self, I can tell other things that make a photo instantly look better. So don’t be quick to blame it all on PS.
I don’t think enough people observing the cosplay community know about the power of makeup.
Some of the prettiest cosplayers I know locally actually don’t have perfect skin when I meet them up close. And then, I think, like many others, “Oh, she doesn’t look exactly like her photos” but then I pull out my camera to take a photo of them and voila—their skin, for some reason, looks smooth and gorgeous on my camera.
A great concealer and foundation goes a long way in cosplay make-up, and for cosplay photos. There are makeup that are made exactly FOR photos that give off a blurring, airbrushed look or attract the light in a certain way to make you look much smoother in photos or from a good distance. It’s a powerful tool to utilise and learn about, and a lot of cosplayers invest in finding the ones that work for them.
Remember that scenario I said earlier? Say, I met someone, she looks “different”, then I pull out my camera and she looks just like her photos online?
Another OBVIOUS thing (that isn’t so obvious to others) is my distance to the person. When I meet them for the first time, I am probably up-close face-to-face with them, and I we might even exchange kisses on the cheek as a casual greeting. OF COURSE in such an up-close scenario, I’ll probably notice every little thing on her face if I was looking—under eye circles and that concealer job.
And then, OF COURSE, I am not going to lean in THAT close to take her photo. I will probably take a good step back and include that pretty top she’s wearing or something.
If anyone is also familiar with the “living doll” trend makeup where people line their waterline beyond the normal and attach falsies beyond your actual lash lines, this look totally looks like crazy creepy shiz up-close. This is a look that is meant to be photographed from a good distance. Most cosplay make-up take elements from this makeup trend (since anime characters have big eyes and doll-like as well) so it makes sense that if you saw it in person, you’d probably not get it. (This is why I avoid that look for conventions and only use it for photoshoots.)
Here is a “subtler” take on the living doll make-up without the extreme lower lashes and all. It looks cute in photos and makes your eyes look more “animated” like animu but it looks pretty heavy and odd in person.
YOUR CAMERA’S RESOLUTION
One of the reasons people are so obsessed with “selfies” is because front “selfie” cameras on mobile devices have much lower resolutions than actual cameras, thus blurring your skin out a bit when you snap that photo.
The same principle applies to taking cosplay photos. No matter how fancy-schmancy the camera is, when it takes a good step back, it won’t be able to capture exactly what your eyes see when you are face-to-face with the person. Pair it up with blurring/photo makeup, and that’s instant better skin overall.
For the makeup transformation that I do for fun, I do a little cheat and that is to make sure that there’s enough light hitting my face. I turn on all the lights in the room and then make sure one is hitting me from every angle lelz. There’s so many things that a good light can do to evening out your skintone.
There are so many things bad light can also do, like highlighting your under-eye bags. That’s why good photographers are always asking you to step into the light and know their light source.
Tinted light also does wonders, so now you can stop wondering why people like taking photos so much in hotel rooms where there’s yellow-orange-ish lights.
In photos, I can totally control what angle I am presenting myself to you in. I can find an angle that suits the character I am cosplaying—or maybe the only angle that works for the character, haha.
My face is totally oval-ish and a bit fat-looking up-front. I always try to balance it out by cutting my wig in a shape or style that flatters my face shape, and even using spirit gum to make sure the strands properly frame my face. This means that characters with sharper facial features only work in certain angles of mine.
I wouldn’t do a full-frontal
nude angle when trying to make a transformation into a guy; I stick to angles where the lines on my face look sharper. I could jut my jaw out to make it more prominent, angle my face so my nose looks sharper, etc. I also tend to open my mouth to give the illusion that I have a longer face.
The environment and the circumstances
There’s this big thing that plays into factor for how I can’t look exactly like my photos when we meet face-to-face in conventions. Especially in Philippine conventions. There’s the environment and circumstances we are in.
Most conventions here are held in malls, so that means I will have to do my make-up in a public restroom for around five minutes when I’d really like to take my time at it and take one hour in front of my vanity. Even if I do it at home, there’s the fact I have to travel for hours to the convention center, so my make-up isn’t fresh.
The poor ventilation probably melted off half my makeup, haha.
Most people end up not being able to sleep the day before cons, from excitement or working on a prop that still needed some touch-ups. Even the most popular cosplayers can be seen with under-eye dark circles every now and then.
I’m in the flesh and right there, so I probably don’t and can’t control what lighting or angle you see me in, and how up-close. My face may be sweaty or oily, and I can’t help it.
There are things that I can avoid or control if I was taking photos, say, at home or in a private photoshoot.
This is also why I envy the cosplayers in other countries where they book hotels that they can prepare from that are near the convention centers. Less stress getting things prepared.
Left Photo: This is how I look, edited but it does its best to stick to how I truly look, chubby cheeks and all. Right Photo: This is too much Photoshop and looks nothing like me; I slimmed down the face and gave it big eyes and made it look animu but that is NOT how I look… Oddly tho its my most faved photo of this cosplay. I guess it speaks lots of how people expect their cosplayers to look like lol
I did write down all these factors that make cosplayers or j-fashion enthusiasts look “different” from their photos, but something else I really wanted to appeal to by writing this is people’s expectations or thoughts on another person.
People are quick to label one as “fake” and judge someone for how they look outside their costumes and on simple days where they can’t be bothered to dress up. I don’t think this is healthy.
Some people rant that they no longer want to get to know or be friends with some cosplayers because they met them and they look different from what they expected. That they are “fake”.
Of course there are a lot of people there that really do edit themselves to point of unrecognizable to make themselves appear like some goddess and try to earn fame blahblahblah, but for the most part, people just want to look their best and put their best face forward.
If I was friends with or admired someone over the internet, I wouldn’t want to judge them based on how they looked when we met—rather based on the interaction that we had, and what their personality was.
And if they have amazing makeup skills or some such, I rather admire them and want to learn their techniques and the products they use rather than labeling them as fake… for putting on makeup.
It’s just the same as your graduation photos. A makeup artist puts makeup on you, a photographer takes your photo and touches you up on Photoshop. It looks much different from how you are in person but no one gets flak for it and I have no right to call you “fake” for it.
I wish the factors listed here help you take better photos, cosplay or not, as well as enlighten people over the all the “editing” hate that goes on.