My Cosplay Studio Photo-shoot Setup

Hello, once again Geckos!

It’s been too long. How are my fellow and fine scaly friends?

The lizard queen is here today to bestow her amateur photography knowledge! I’m here to share what I do for my photoshoots at home. I’m not a professional photographer in any way. But as someone who had to figure it out on her own, this tutorial will help if you are just getting started, on a budget, and may or may not have to shoot solo!

Since I moved from Florida to the remote boonies of Kansas, I’ve needed to step up and shoot my own content. Unfortunately, there is an absence of photographers where I live, so I’ve invested more time into shooting my own work.

Below is my beginner noob photography setup. Many a youtube tutorial and advice from others, but here is my recommended main original set up. Also, all links listed below are Amazon affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the items below, please feel free to use my links and help a lizard out. You are not charged any additional, and I get a small commission on the sales. 🦎

First, let’s start with the camera I use!

  • I have a Canon Rebel T6i with the standard 18-55mm lens: https://amzn.to/2EPYXhz
    (Now I bought mine refurbished on Black Friday from the Canon website so I saved about $300 dollars and got an additional lens, so keep an eye out for deals)
  • I also have the Canon EF 50MM f/1.8 STM Lens ( I purchased this one as it was the same price as just the lens, but came with additional accessories for the same price: https://amzn.to/2WaB1LB
    • *Disclaimer* If you already have a DSLR and say it’s not canon… I highly recommend looking up some 50mm Fixed lenses for your brand. 50mm is a good starting point for full body portrait photography. The reason being is they really focus on the subject, giving you a much crisper and sharper look. And if you want a blurry background or forefront, it’s super easy to achieve. Also, you don’t have to spend thousands either right off the bat. I bought this cheap lense, and when I decide to upgrade to a fancier one, I know the resale value on it will be similar to what it is now, which will help me save some money. Also, definitely search for used, or refurbished lenses, you can save quiet a bit of money, and if you do purchase anything used or refurbished from Amazon, it can be a safe bet to purchase an extended 2-3-4 year warranty, and the lens will still be cheaper and covered for a longer period of time than a brand new one.

My next planned lens purchases will be a fixed 35 and 85mm lenses, as those are also good for portrait photography and fairly reasonable in price. I do plan on purchasing a nicer Zoom lens in the future, but I’m definitely going to use a higher price point for those.

If you are shooting yourself solo, I highly recommend these products to make your life easier:

  • Amazon Basic Wireless Remote Control for Canon Digital SLR’s (Check to make sure your model works, but this one does for the Canon Rebel T6i.): https://amzn.to/2ENjxyS
    Also, this may sound funny, but, if you need to take a shot with your hands both full… Just step on the clicker!
  • Amazon Basic Tripod: https://amzn.to/2HUOfbz (This is good in general if the photographer helping you has shaky hands.)
  • Canon Power Cord: https://amzn.to/2MoXMvs *Disclaimer* There are cheaper third-party ones on the market, but you pay for what you get. I’ve read one too many horror stories about the power cord burning out the cameras. The cheap cables also may just be dead on arrival or die shortly after purchasing. I say, play it safe and get the officially licensed power cable for your model of camera. The reason I recommend this cable, is if you are going to be doing long shoots solo, and your battery dies, your camera will turn off and lose all the settings you may have already set. But also, having saved presets for your DSLR is also a great idea, and your camera manual should have the instructions. Or you can easily find a step by step tutorial for your model and make of camera easily enough on youtube.

Next, LIGHTS!

  • Here is a fantastic starter set: https://amzn.to/2WlocTu
    • This kit comes with two rectangle softboxes, umbrella’s, carrying cases for the softboxes and umbrellas, clips, and 3 backdrops (including a green screen which can be helpful for composite photography.) It’ll take some time and getting used to how much light you want to use, or where to position them, and even how many lights you want to use. Honestly, 99% of the time, my two rectangle lights are more than enough, I don’t use my umbrella lights at all. Having these LED lights continuously on is way cooler and lower energy use. I would say stay away from flash photography until you can get the hang of using these cheap lights first. Plus for indoor shoots, it’s nice to just have it set up somewhere and leave it that way.
    • If you want to get into shooting outdoors and at night, that will be a different tutorial for a different time about how to start with flash photography.
  • 2 6ft Extension Cords with multiple 3 prong ports: https://amzn.to/2WFSFLl
    • These are crucial for my light set up. I find having the flexibility to move and adjust my lights is crucial. Also with the additional ports, I can plug in a continuous battery for my DSLR, floodlights, Christmas lights, microphone, or anything else electrical I may need.
  • I do recommend some extra clips, as some backdrops you purchase will need the clips to keep them held up, or you can use the clips to attach flowers or other items: https://amzn.to/2WjtaA3
  • Extra goodies: Colored LED Floodlights: https://amzn.to/2Wkikdn
    • *Disclaimer* I originally bought the 50W lights and they weren’t bright enough for my liking. I ended up keeping them and I now use them for my Twitch streams, but I went ahead spent the extra money and purchased two of these 100W ones and absolutely love them.

Let’s take a sidebar on the use of backdrops! These are honestly all optional, but I really find having an interesting background can really help bring a character to life. And I do get tired just having the same bland background for every shot. And, for me at least, it’s a ton of fun trying to make a scene!

For my backdrops I use a variety of things:
Photography Backdrops
Curtains
Tablecloths
Bathtub Curtains
Sheets
Holiday decorations (Streamers, tablecloths, etc.)
Christmas lights.
King/Queen sized blankets.
You can make your own backdrop on cardboard, wood, a wall, etc…

The sky is the limit on this, it all depends on your creativity and budget. There are a ton of ideas via Pinterest as well! I plan on making some DIY tutorials in the future for the more complicated prop setups I do. But for my time and sanity, feel free to use your Google-Fu on this one.

A big help for modeling shoot ideas is to use cheap holiday themed tablecloths for backgrounds, the only issue with using those cheap plastic tablecloths is, they are generally transparent. The way I get them to work is to actually have a second backdrop stand with just a white or black plain background. The second backdrop stand has also been very helpful if I want to hang lights, flowers, paper decorations in front of me or behind me. It helps me significantly.

Here is an example in video form! You can see in my close up shots around the ~1:20 mark my second backdrop hanging with lights.

Here is a photo example of the second backdrop holding flowers in front of me:

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So with all of that said, here is the second backdrop stand that I purchased: https://amzn.to/2MlGqzz

*ANOTHER DISCLAIMER* This set comes with “weight bags” not weights. If you are shooting indoors, you don’t really need them. If you plan on taking this set outside, you will most definitely need them and they need to be heavy at least 10lbs and if a windy day probably more, make sure you have a way to keep these bad boys down.  I made this mistake and took them outside with only 5 lb weights. Little did I expect to have the backdrop act like a giant sail with the wind. Unfortunately, we have no control over this… because where you set up your backdrop will be where better sunlight is outside. And if you have a perpendicular wind to the sun… You are SOL. What happened to me… My set blew over, and bent the tiny metal piece on top, and now I can never screw them back down. Lesson… LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES… 

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Once this thing bent… My stand was practically useless. I now have a glorified vertical stand to stick stuff on…

Jumping back from my side rant… For weights… DON’T HAVE WEIGHTS?! NO PROBLEM! Use some Ziploc bags and fill them with sand! You can then put them into a homemade weight bag (Plastic grocery bags or canvas bags you have lying around), or you can buy some empty weight bags. Here are some you can purchase: https://amzn.to/2JYzAyj

Also, the best part of sand, you can find some free just lying around. Like the image below! Make sure to tape the Ziploc bags closed because you don’t want the Ziploc back to burst open (Ask me how I know.)

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Finally, we are nearing the end of the article! My last recommendation would be, that you purchase, a sturdy step stool.

Here is a cheap one from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3120Cdd

Step stools are very beneficial to have and severely understated in my opinion. Without my photographer on one, I’d never have gotten these shots:

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That’s it for now! If you have any questions as to what I could elaborate on, please feel free to let me know!

Lastly, here are some examples of the steps above in action!

For this video/shoot I used my two softbox lights, shower curtains I found at the Dollar Store, and my two flood lights pointed at the bottom half of the curtains in a pink neon color. Point the lights half way and down gave a cool gradient effect you can see in the video above and the left photo below.

We then threw the curtains on the floor with jelly beans to get the second shot below.

file_90f394fa68_original.jpg

The Christmas video below had a backdrop (https://amzn.to/2IO312I), paper birthday streamers (https://amzn.to/2EP531w), and a purple led Christmas tree (https://amzn.to/2IkdfaS) all 3 of which I purchased from Amazon. The ornaments I bought at Walmart on clearance the year before. I highly recommend grabbing stuff on clearance you may want to use in the future. 🙂 The little extra background details didn’t cost much (except the tree), but they gave a little extra cherry on top for the shoots.

Well, that’s it for now, please let me know if you have any questions! Also, make sure to check out my other social media sites and give them a follow, especially my youtube as I will be doing a video tutorial shortly, and am trying to get partnered on the site.

Feel free to share this article as well with someone you know is trying to get started with home shoots! Tried any of my steps? Please tag me and let me know! I love to see when my tutorials are used and if they help people.

This is Leaping Lizard, leaping off.

💚 Liz 🦎

 

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I adore this lady’s videos. Check out her amazing work.

I would like to get around to making some of my own cosplay tutorial makeup videos, but in the meantime, enjoy Kleiner PixeI work.

❤ Liz

EVA Foam Cutting for beginners.

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to share with you this awesome beginner tutorial for cutting EVA foam by the talented Andrew Cook aka Da Frontline Trooper. I highly recommend checking out his work. 😀

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Full Length Portrait Tips by Ian B Photography

Full Length Portraits Tips by Photography by Ian B

Check out this stellar posing tutorial from Photography by Ian B.

Fabric… A simple in-depth guide for cosplayers. :D

This article was featured here! I’m just repeating it here for good measure. 😀 Please check out the amazing website The Word of the Nerd Online.

Where to start when talking about fabrics?

Well, they are necessary for making your own cosplays. 😀

Fabrics


A little background:
First off, Hello everyone! My name is Liz and I’m a cosplayer going by the handle Leaping Lizard Cosplay. I live in the beautiful city of Key West, Florida. The thing about Key West is, it’s a tiny island. You can imagine when it came time for shopping around I had difficulty finding a store with a wide variety of cosplay materials. So, I had to start ordering my fabrics online.

Once I had committed to purchasing fabrics online I though to myself, “Wellllll…. Where does one being in such a process?”

Thus my quest to understand fabrics began!

The next logical step was to figure our what type of fabrics I needed. In the past I would go to my local fabric store and look at their selections and pick the fabric that seemed right for the job. Now, doing things in the digital age, I do not have the ability to physically see or touch the fabric. I cannot hold it in my hands and get a feel for weight, thickness, how it looks or drapes, or its flexibility. You can see the dilemma I am in.

I realized two things. First, I really didn’t know anything about fabrics; second, I had to learn. Then it occurred to me, “What about the clothes I own? What are they made of?” I went to my wardrobe and looked closely at the tags. I noticed that my shirt had two separate things listed on it and percentages. I would come to discover that these were the fibers that made up my fabric.

****Side Note****
When you first start out sewing it can be pretty intimidating. I first started sewing by hand. Then, I started using a machine. My projects at first were simple; buttons, pillows, curtains, and tablecloths. Once I got a feel for my sewing machine, I tackled harder projects and have been slowly expanding my skills. Just like learning Calculus, you first need to learn how to count, then add, then multiply, etc. My point is you don’t turn on the sewing machine and expect it to do magic.

Back to the main subject. FABRICS! 😀

Let’s start with what makes up fabric. Fibers.

Fibers:
synthetic fibers
Fibers are the base materials combined in composite layers to make a fabric. They give a fabric it’s properties such as:

Care: On a t-shirt, this would be what the tag on the collar says for maintaining your fabric. Should it be machine washed, iron settings, dry cleaned?

Durability: This is how well the fabric maintains its stretch. How it shrinks or fades after washing.

Texture: How the fabric feels and maintain it’s shape. Also known as the hand of a fabric.

Weight: Pretty self explanatory. Is the fabric heavy or light?

Fibers classify by 3 categories:

1. Natural:
Natural fibers break down into 3 categories; animal, vegetable, and mineral. For clothing we really only use animal (e.g. silk, wool, hair), and vegetable (e.g. cotton).

  • Pros: Being a renewable resource, natural fibers are 100% biodegradable. Meaning they are eco friendly. 😀 They “breathe”, or allow air to flow; they are easy to dye, and hang loosely.
  • Cons: Natural fibers shrink when washed, but over time they stretch out. Natural fibers also wrinkle and fade.

2. Man-Made: Man-Made Fibers break down into two categories:
Regenerated fibers and Synthetic fibers.

 -Regenerated: For clothing we really look at a subset of these fibers that are called Cellulose Fibers. These fibers are regenerate from Cellulose. Cellulose is an important structural component of a primary cell wall in plants and algae. Examples are Acetate, Acrylic, and Rayon.

-Synthetic: Made from refined petroleum or natural gas. Examples, Lycra, Microfibers, Nylon, Polyester, Spandex, etc.

  • Pros and Cons: Depends really on each fabric. I plan on expanding this section in another article.

3. Blends: A combination of two or more fibers. This could be natural/man-made, or natural/natural, or man-made/man-made blends.

  • Pros: You get the best of both worlds or the pro’s of both fabrics. A great example would be a cotton/spandex blend. For athletes, you get a loose fitting garment that breathes and retains it’s strength and shape over time.
  • Cons: You get the worst of both worlds as well. The point is, it’s best to know what your getting yourself into before you commit to a fabric blend.

Now that I have broken down fibers, we are going to discuss the two types of fabrics made from fibers. 😀 Woven and Knitted.

wonvenknitFLAYWHUHPTXFPBT.MEDIUMKnitted fabrics:
Knits are made from one continuous string of fiber.
As you can see in the image below, knitted structures are made with a series of lengthwise loops called ribs and crosswise stitches called courses. Knits are more flexible to body type and generally form to the body.

***There are different types of knits as well.

Woven fabrics:
Made on looms with a similar structure to laying the top of a cherry pie, (image to right and above) fibers are interwoven to make the fabric. The lengthwise fibers are called the wrap and provide stability and strength to the fabric. The crosswise yarns are called the filler, weft, or woof. The fabric itself is very sturdy when pulled along the crosswise or lengthwise parts of the fabric. When you pull on the diagonal part of the fabric (say the corner or the 45 degree angle between the lengthwise and crosswise fibers) the fabric will stretch. This area is called the bias. Knitted fabrics stretch easily, but woven fabrics are more known for their stability. Depending on the fiber content the looser/tighter the fabric will be.

Now that you understand the different types of fibers that make up fabrics, you can better understand how to utilize them. Plus, some of the terms I defined are also used when reading patterns. I will be writing another post on decoding patterns later. 😀

Liz this is all very interesting…. but let’s get to the real question? So why does this matter at all?

I’m glad you asked (self condescending bold font question above).  -_-….
Well because your sewing machine cares. THAT’S WHY! O_O

There are a plethora of things to learn about sewing machines, you can’t just turn on your machine and start sewing with just any old needle. (There are multipurpose needles that can help, but only so much.)

I’d like to compare owning a sewing machine to owning a fancy Digital SLR camera and leaving it on auto mode.

A sewing machine has different features. It needs different needles for different fabrics (for woven fabrics you need a 2020 needle and depending on the fabric the thickness of the tip matters. For example thick woven fabrics need a 100/10 tip). A sewing machine also needs different feet for sewing different articles on your clothing (Ex. Zipper Foot for sewing on zippers). Much like your camera needs different lenses to shoot portraits versus landscapes. Not to mention you have the thread tension, stitch length, and stitch pattern to worry about. Just like in photography where you care about the dpi, iso, and shutter speed.

Here is a picture of some universal sewing needles for woven fabrics:

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I don’t want to overwhelm you all, so let’s just skip this part for a later article post. I promise I will return to this subject later on as part of my continuing blogging about sewing cosplays.

Next, let’s discuss purchasing fabrics.

Keep in mind, if you are working from a pattern, most patterns that you purchase have a list of fabrics recommended for your sewing project.

Purchasing Fabrics:

When you purchase fabrics you order them off of the “bolt.” A bolt is a unit of measurement used as an industry standard for a variety of materials from wood to canvas, typically materials stored in a roll.

Bolts of Multicolored Fabrics
Bolts of Multicolored Fabrics

The length of fabric on a bolt is usually between 40 and 100 yards, but varies depending on the fabric. For example, a bolt of canvas is traditionally 39 yards. The width of a bolt is usually between 45 and 60 inches, but sometimes you can find wider or narrower rolls. Just for good measure, a yard of fabric equals 3 feet, or 36 inches. When deciding how much fabric you will need I always recommend going about 1/2 yard more just in case, and remember any leftovers can be used for future projects. :D

I found an excellent picture breaking down the fabric on a bolt. Take note of this information at the time of purchase, because you will need this information again.

From Sugar Tart Crafts.

Sites I buy fabric from:
Fashion Fabric Club
Denver Fabrics
The Fabric Exchange
Fabric.com
Amazon
Ebay
Etsy

****Side Note****
Ordering online is a quick and painless venture, but mistakes can be made. Some may say making mistakes is part of the learning process. The plus side to ordering the wrong fabric is, I now have a stockpile for future projects. So please keep it in mind, not all is lost. :D

So you have your fabrics?! Let’s get started! WAIT!!!!!
Whenever you purchase fabrics, you are always going to have to pre-wash and press them before you ever turn on your sewing machine.

*****Trust me on this one! It will save you heartache!*****

Before you do any sewing make sure to wash and iron your fabrics before cutting/pinning them. Machine wash, hand wash, machine dry, hang dry depending on the type of fabric you are working with. This is a necessary step if you plan on wearing this outfit again in the future.

gothamlaundry19
Gotham Laundry by Zillabean

If you are buying your fabrics online, the site should have the care instructions. If you are buying your fabrics in store, you should be able to get the care instructions off of the bolt. (Remember the picture from Sugar Tart Crafts above?) If not, a quick google search of your fabric type will help you out. Now you have pre-washed your fabrics and pressed them, you are finally ready to begin sewing!

On that note, it’s been a pleasure and I hope you took something away from this. 😀

Thank you guys again for reading! Please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments behind. 😀

❤ Liz (Leaping Lizard Cosplay)