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ColossalCon 2011 Pictures

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Really sorry for the delay everyone, but I’ve been really busy the last few weeks and just haven’t had the time to get around to post-processing the images I took at ColossalCon. I switched over to shooting RAW this time and was a lot more conservative with pictures so that’s why there are not as many as previous years. I also didn’t get to take very good masquerade pictures since I was doing double duty – taking pictures and writing the post. My laptop is very old which means I pretty much had to be next to an outlet at all times which put me in the back against a wall at the far right side of the room. In the future I may just decide to not do the live blog post in lieu of getting better images if I’m doing this alone.

Direct link to the Flickr images

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ColossalCon 2011 Live Blog – Cosplay for Beginners

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This panel is run by five people, including Axelious, LuckyGrim, and two Sams.

Wigs are an excellent way to bump up your cosplay. Some good places for wigs (in order from ok to best quality):

1) some eBay site (didn’t catch the name)

2) Cosplay.com

3) Arda Wigs

Getting a custom color is a pain. Easiest way to do it is to get a silver white wig and then use sharpie (which takes forever). If you wash a wig wash it with mild Dove hand detergent which is the same stuff they use on animals in oil spills. Get hair conditioner for “sassy black ladies” which will get out any tangles. To store your wig you should put it in a clear ziploc bag and press it flat in the bag to get out most of the air and then store it out of sunlight. Build-a-Bear boxes are handy for carrying a styled wig and a wig head. Always wear a wig cap unless you’re bald. You need to bobby pin your hair to the wig cap and then put the wig on. This will prevent the wig from slowly falling off. The process only takes about 5 minutes.

AndSewingIsHalftheBattle apparently has a tutorial on braiding long hair to put under a wig cap.

Underdress

Supposedly about 30% of the time planning the cosplay is spent deciding on what to wear underneath everything. Swimsuit bottoms are good to wear if you’re wearing a short skirt or something similar for a variety of reasons. For guys wearing skin tight clothes wear compression shorts.

For materials you’re not familiar with start with making something small. Also if you’re starting out go to Goodwill and modify the clothing since it’s much simpler than making something from scratch. “You have to start out somewhere.”

corsetpattern.com – you put in your measurements and it’ll spit out how to make it. If you buy it from eBay make sure you get steel boning – plastic is prone to breaking and can hurt more. You can use a combination of spiral and solid steel boning. Spanx and shapewear can help you feel better about yourself if you don’t have the most flattering figure and it also helps the costume lay better.

corsetsupplies.com is where you can get steel boning.

Binding

cosfu.org has a Dante open shirt binding where she uses ace bandages and puts latex over it and airbrushes muscles on it. Don’t use open shirt binding unless absolutely necessary since it can be dangerous. If you’re bustier you can use compression vests. Another tip is to put some vaseline on and then bind or else it will be fairly painful.

Fabrics

Ones to never use – shiny satin is a no no. Sign up for Jo-Ann mailing list. Hobby Lobby is great, Michael’s got caught stealing peoples’ credit card info so don’t go there. Home Depot is great for a lot of things. She buys Scotch Guard by the bucket and dips all her cosplays in them so they’re spill-proof. Try to avoid PVC vinyl and latex unless you’re really experienced. Industry people use stretch cotton and spray a sheen on it. For Wonder Woman she uses a high grade non sheen satin and lines it in muslin to make it really stiff.

For every different type of fabric you should change your needle and thread. Your sewing machine will only do so much. A lot depends on the needle and thread. Buy a Teflon foot for your sewing machine so it won’t stick on fabrics like the metal one can.

Hand sewing needles are usually not as sharp so stay away from shiny fabrics and high weave fabrics. Hand sewing works for a lot of things. There is no way to avoid hand sewing even on the most advanced costumes.

Snaps are your friends. You can make things removable and it just makes everything easier. As a judge, LuckyGrim says well done basics are more impressive than huge things with some things not done well.

Patterns are your friends. Don’t get Simplicity patterns since they use an odd measuring system. There’s a lot of free patterns online. McCall’s patterns are easy to use. Patterns will teach you the basics of sewing. Patterns are very helpful especially if you haven’t made it before.  LuckyGrim says that she keeps a long list of formulas in her sewing room. This is somewhat counter to what I’ve heard about seamstresses where math is more or less irrelevant.

Pin everything. It’s easier to do everything right the first time than having to rip it apart and redo it.

Some good starting projects – vests, circle skirts. No two people sew the same. LuckyGrim says when she judges she can tell a lot about the costume based on stitching, type of thread, etc.

If you’re not a good seamstress don’t worry – just commission it. A good reliable site is Etsy.

Makeup

Use foundation, even for guys. It’s important to start with a good base. It’s like a primer for your face, protects your pores, and evens out the tones. Buy makeup brushes since it’s more efficient than sponges. There are makeup tricks for making you look thinner or any other look. Look at the reference images to look at the makeup to make sure it’s not overdone. A way to get 5 o’clock shadow is to use something similar to steel wool and mix it in with foundation.

For special effects makeup make sure you know what’s in it and how to remove it. Get barrier spray especially for red dyes or else that area of skin will be red for a few days.

Props/Accessories

For Keyblades you can go one of two ways – if you’re going light you can use balsa wood. She then uses a hand drill to sand it down.

Another way is to use expanding foam and spray it over a cardboard structure. Then wrap it in plaster and sand it and paint them.

Another way is to use dowel rod or PVC pipe and use a variety of materials over it. Her favorite is Krylon spray paint. It sounds like they use spray paint without a respirator. I would NOT recommend this. I wear a respirator for pretty much everything since I value my lungs.

Never spray paint over foam. Paper mache it first. Flour, water, and newspaper. One way to get some shading on a super shiny finish is to use a rag and wipe a bit of black acrylic paint on it.

A popular material is paperclay – it goes a long way and is pretty much like paper mache.

A few techniques on armor:

Wonderflex. It’s expensive but it goes a long way. It usually gets purchased in bulk so it can be used to make a lot of things. Cut a practice piece out of foamie and then use it as a guide. Buy a heat gun to work with Wonderflex and heat it up until it gets floppy. It will cool hard and then you can just cut it out, sand it, bondo it, and then paint it.

Foamies also works and there is the famous Amethyst tutorial. Put elmer’s glue or gesso over it and then you can paint it.

Resin casting is excellent but is hard to work with and expensive.

One way to make pauldrons is to blow up a balloon, paper mache it, then use a product called friendly plastic and you can put it over it (can be purchased from cosplaysupplies.com).

You can make your own vacuum former for $20 and it’s good for making armor.

Photography and Cosplay

Every person is different. What may look good for one person may not look good for another person.

Look in the mirror to practice your poses. If the character has a signature pose learn it and perfect it. However, don’t do the exact same pose every single time. Practice your facial poses. Don’t smile and make it look fake. A tip is to fake a laugh and by the time the picture is taken it’ll look more natural.

Hallway pictures usually are not edited so it may be prudent to wear makeup. The infamous “shine”.

It makes your face look bigger if you extend your neck and tilt your head slightly up. Make friends with photographers and you can pick up a lot of techniques.

If you’re larger turn to the side and bring your arms out a bit.

Play with different angles since posing for your body size is different for each person.

Final Remarks

Make the costume fit you.

Experiment. Try new things. Pick something different every time.

Youtube tutorials can be useful.

Someone out there is going to be better than you. Someone out there is going to be worse than you. Just be proud of what you did. No matter how bad it is as long as you’re proud of it that’s all that matters. Don’t mind the haters.

LuckyGrim’s group is on cosfu and they have reviews on conventions, hotels, and tutorials as well as other miscellaneous information.

Ohayocon 2011 Pictures

Finally got the pictures processed and uploaded. We made the decision to keep all of our convention pictures on Flickr.

Here’s a direct link to the set.

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ColossalCon 2010 Live Blog – Photography 101

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The panelist was about 10 minutes late and said he did not prepare for the panel so it’s a Q&A format.

Basic convention etiquette:

  • Try to find locations that are somewhat out of the way
  • Don’t stop someone in the middle of the hall and take a picture across the width of the hall

For posing

  • Do front, side, 3/4 shot to take better pictures of the costume that show off the craftsmanship
  • For individuals, it’s a lot simpler and easier to work with – you don’t have to manage as many people
  • Look out for extraneous limbs, especially when posing together
  • Look for things that might be awkward later on (ex. this pose didn’t work before, etc.)
  • For groups, sometimes it can be finicky since some people in groups don’t do what you ask them
  • Try to keep symmetry and balance
  • You can do traditional everyone line up or someone kneeling down in front
  • You can also do action poses in groups
  • Still be on the lookout for random limbs or things that look awkward
  • Be way of your surroundings

Point and shoots can get good enough pictures. The biggest thing is being aware of the limitations of your camera, including the flash. I’ve actually been shooting without flash for this entire convention by adjusting the exposure and setting aperture manually. Using flash in the masquerade in the back of the room is pointless. If you use flash in the hall it can be used for fill flash but again, I have read from numerous sources that it’s not necessary. Direct flash doesn’t have good results and usually you’ll have a black border around the subject. To solve this problem it’s as easy as using a piece of tissue paper or using reflector cards. You want to make sure that you set the white balance first.

Really good zoom lenses allow for shallow depth of field since it lets in more light. With a lower aperture number the depth of field is more shallow since it means that the lens is open wider.

The panel seemed to be half run by the one guy who ran around the con taking pictures on his Canon Mark IV with the flash and reflector.

ColossalCon 8 Live Blog – Cosplay Photography

First off, some of the cool cosplays I’ve seen – Rorschardt, Shy Guy, Prinny, and the turtle from Love Hina.

This talk was given by Elemental who does both cosplay and photography.

Composition

One of the first things is the rule of thirds. Where the lines cross is where the points of interest are. You can focus on the face to get the distance correct and then recompose the picture so the face is at the top of the image.

In the middle of the panel there was a Bleach photoshoot which Jon and his girlfriend Emily was in.

When I got back she was showing off some pictures that she took, which were really well taken. Some of the photos are taken from extreme angle such as kneeling or climbing on something. You can also take a picture from the ground. Some pictures can have lines which will draw in the viewer such as using rails and walls.

One important piece of advice that she gave is to practice a lot. If you only go to five cons a year and only take pictures at cons that means you are only getting practice about five times a year. Sometimes it is useful to just go out with friends and practice. The speaker said that she gets a lot of opportunities to take pictures of people since she is from Toronto which has a really big cosplay scene.

Wide angle vs telephoto (Stand back, zoom in).

To take a better flattering shot you should stand back and zoom in. If you are close that means the face might be 6 inches away from the camera while the ears are about 9 inches away. At this scale the ears will seem much larger than if it was taken from a farther distance. Sometimes the wide angle shot is better, while other times the distortion is not good. The wide angle shot might be good to accentuate some of the things such as a longer arm. If you walk back further and zoom in you can sometimes eliminate the background. Hotels are wonderful locations to get a picture of a subject alone if you just walk 15 feet away.

Posing People

If you will be doing a photoshoot as opposed to just snapping a quick picture, the first thing to remember is to not touch the person. You can give verbal instructions which are just as useful. For guys, make sure to explain properly when using the rule of thirds. Focusing on the face and then moving the camera down can be misconstrued as taking a picture of something slightly lower. Sometimes people who hold bags might lean a certain way in which case you should ask them to put the bag down first. If people stand in a very static pose then it would be good to ask them to maybe shift around or move their hands into a better position. Having the hands straight down sometimes results in an unflattering picture, but if you can actually see the hips and arms there is more of a contrast and the picture will come out better. Even putting the arms on the hips or crossing their arms will be dramatically differently. Getting someone to pose by taking one foot back (so they are at an angle) will make their midriffs thinner while tilting their shoulders is useful for the aesthetic curve seen a lot in Greek sculpture. Action shots are also good, but there are sometimes pitfalls associated with having a weapon. A long staff should not be pointed directly at the camera, but if ther shoulders are dropped or raised a bit it can result in a much better picture. The facial expression is also sometimes important since it should look at least somewhat menacing. Another tip is for long swords to be slung across the back, but make sure they are not grasping the blade of the sword with one of their hands. For facial expression you can have them look towards the camera or towards your shoulders. You can have them look off to the side, but make sure the eye is still visible. Having the subject not look at the camera will make it look less like they are just posing.

Don’t take a picture of someone making out. It looks better if you take the picture of it before or after, but the actual action will never really work.

One last piece of advice is respect the subjects and don’t just batch upload all the photos. The photographer should go through all the images first and sort out any bad images.

Overall this was a really interesting panel especially since I want to start getting into photography. Making the picture interesting is one of the key things about taking better pictures. Taking a straight picture of someone just standing there will often look old and boring so change it up with better image composition, a variety of angles, and working with the subject for a better pose.

I kind of want to stay for the next one which is working with the subject, “Posing and Cosplay Photos” but I need to go back and cook curry so I can make it to the 7 PM Photoshop panel and Cosplay: Friday Edition.