A member asked if I would post up a few tips on taking better photographs of your costume. Please note, I am NOT a professional photographer, but I have done a couple of photoshoots and do know a little about photography. I am sure there are more talented photographers than I on the board, so if you are a photographer, please feel free to add your thoughts as well. Also, I haven't done any photoshoots in almost three years now, but you can see some of my previous work here:
A-Squared Concepts - Costume Photos by Art Andrews
While some might say lighting is the most important thing in photography (and in some sense, photography IS all about lighting and the ability to control light) one of the easiest and quickest things to do to improve your photos is to make sure you background is good and when I say good I mean, it isn't distracting. There is nothing worse than seeing your awesome Boba Fett costume, with your dining room table in the background or your wife's favorite frilly curtains. Try to find as neutral and "blank" a background as possible. An empty wall will do.
If you want to take it a step further, find a photography shop near you and by a small roll of "seamless paper." It is usually about $30-$50 a roll and it is priceless for taking photos. If you are photographing smaller items, you can accomplish the same thing using large pieces of poster board bought from Wal-Mart
I generally like a blue background, black, grey, or white background. Be careful with colored backgrounds, even blue, as they can cause color to be cast on your costume.
Don't stand right against your background! First, it will cause shadows and second, it will generally mean both you and the background will both be in focus. Stand as far away from your background as possible so you are in focus and the background is not.
If possible, use the seamless paper to create a background that starts higher than your head and arcs down and comes beneath you, ending a few feet in from of you. This ensures a single contiguous flow of the background and is the best way to keep the background from being distracting.
Get a tripod. Period. If you want artistic angles a tripod is not the best bet, but for most straightforward photography, you can't beat a tripod. Not only does it allow you to repeat the angle endlessly, it removes most of the movement from your hands, meaning sharper images.
Use the timer. Yeah, I know, you usually use the timer in family photos so you can run around and be in the photo too. In this case, even when a camera is on the tripod, you pressing the shutter release can be enough to slightly move the camera, causing blur. Use the timer to eliminate any camera movement, especially in low light settings.
Get to know your camera. Doesn't matter if your camera is a cheapy or expensive, read the manual and get to understanding your camera! Almost every modern camera has the option for manual settings. Read up on them and learn to use them! I will briefly go over the three most important settings.
ISO - ISO is the camera's sensitivity to light. Remember, photography is all about manipulating light. Set a low ISO, such as ISO-100 and the camera is not very sensitive, meaning it takes a lot of light for something to show up. ISO-100 is considered to be good for still photography which is what you are probably doing. You aren't trying to capture movement, so leave it at ISO-100. Higher ISO's are more sensitive to light, meaning you need less light to get a shot. The drawback is the higher the ISO, the more "grain" is introduced and the less sharp you image will be.
Aperture - Think of your camera lens like your eyeball and aperture (also called f-stop) is your pupil. It can be larger to let in more light or smaller to let in less light. Aperature number are the OPPOSITE of what you would think. And aperture of 2.8 (f/2.8) is HUGE or wide open letting in all available light while 22 (f/22) is a tiny pin hole letting in only a little light. Different cameras and lenses allow for different apertures. There are advantage and disadvantages to high and low apertures. If you use a high aperture (like 2.8, you will have a very narrow depth of field (DOF), meaning only a small part of your image will be in focus while the rest will be out of focus. With a super high aperture, you can get a subject's eyes in focus while their ears are out of focus. While this can make for some artistically intriguing photos, it generally isn't good for showing off you costume. Extremely low aperature's tend to show off color very well, but low apertures have an extremely deep depth of field meaning EVERYTHING, including the background is in focus. Play around with aperature and find what is best for you.
Shutter Speed: If aperture is your pupil, dilating and constricting to allow in more light, the shutter is your eyelids, opening and shutting at the speed to set, again to control the amount of time light is allowed in through the aperture. I always set shutter speed last to compensate for the aperture I have chosen. The main difference in shutter speed is how much the subject is moving. If the shutter speed is long, meaning the shutter is open for a long period of time (measured in fractions of a second), and your subject moves even slightly, there will be blur. If you are photographing something like a helmet, that isn't going to move at all, this isn't an issue.
Distance to subject: To get the least distortion, zoom your camera all the way in as close as it will go and then walk backwards until you have your subject framed as you want. You may not have enough room to do this but generally you want to be as far back as possible and zoomed in as much as possible to get a true representation.
I am not even touching on lighting at the moment but this should get you started. More later!