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Getting killer cosplay photos an easy thing, and sometimes the hardest part is just finding an awesome location to work with! Especially if you want that really cool, “pure light behind you” sort of look that every character ever gets just before they do something awesome. There are studios you can rent which have all the lights you need to do it… but why spend the money when all you need for a great photo is a nice window and a cheap light?

To start with, here’s the image that I got using the setup I’ll show you down below. I have been meaning to cosplay Six from Battlestar Galactica for over a year now… ever since I got this KILLER red latex dress. It wasn’t a perfect match to her dress, but… it was latex, and honestly I feel like Six would rock the hell out of this thing.

Six’s trademark photo is here walking between two walls with pure light streaming behind her. So I set out to recreate that.

Setup for photos at your window

There are three things that made this shoot work:

  1. The window
  2. The sheer curtains
  3. The ring light

Let’s break them down one by one.

The window

Any window will do, but you want to try to get a nice big one that gets a lot of light through it. In my case, the sun was on the opposite side of the house, but since I live in Arizona and it’s always sunny, there was plenty of light to go around that afternoon! The bigger the window and the more light, the better.

The sheer curtains

The sheer curtains may not seem super important, but they actually help a ton! They help break up the harshness of the sunlight and give it a nice, solid looking background.

Any sheer curtains will do, but if you want the ones that I used, you can find them here on Amazon. (I like this link, too, because it gives you almost every length & color option!)

The ring light

Now, any light will do just fine, as long as it’s bright enough. A cheap camera flash, a softbox, heck even a floor lamp as long as it’s got a good light bulb in it!

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But if you don’t mind spending a little money, I highly, highly recommend picking up this Ring Light from Amazon. It’s super high quality and gives a nice, soft light. It also has an adjustable setting so you can control it’s brightness! Ring lights are very versatile, easy to store or transport, and very lightweight! I really love mine.

So why the extra light? Well, to counter the effects of the sun behind you, you need a little light in front! Check out the difference between these two photos:

Without ring light
With ring light

It makes a huge difference! Even with the light from the window being so strong, the ring light makes the photo really pop. Very important to have some kind of light handy. You can also see it’s placement – a few feet away, just a little off to the side.

Camera settings

One of the trickiest parts to getting good photos in your window is the camera. You probably won’t be able to do this with a cell phone camera, but who knows, some cell phones have a lot of manual controls these days! Still, you’re probably better off with a proper DSLR. I used a Nikon D3500 for my photos

This part is just a little technical, so please bear with me, but I promise to break it down as nicely as I can. And please note, there’s never going to be a “one setting fits all” approach to cameras here. Every camera is different, every lighting situation is different, so your mileage will definitely vary. But in order to turn your boring window into a beacon of light, set your camera up like this:

  1. Open your aperture as wide as you can get away with comfortably
  2. Go with a lower shutter speed than the camera suggests you need
  3. Set your ISO up a bit, too. Not so high that you get super grainy photos, but not it’s lowest setting either. Somewhere in the middle.

You’ll definitely need to be shooting in “Manual” mode for this. The camera’s automatic settings will try to adjust for the sunlight too much, so you have to force it to take in way more light than it wants to. For the cosplay photos I took, I wound up at a 4.5f Aperture, 1/80 Shutter Speed, and an ISO of 800. Those are the settings my camera liked. I’d suggest starting with those and fiddling from there until you are happy.

Here’s the difference between the Automatic mode, vs the Manual settings I gave it:

On Automatic, it tries to adjust to the window’s brightness
With my manual settings, the window becomes a beacon that calls Gondor for aid!

And that, my friends, is how you get killer photos from your window. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

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