Hall Photo 101 – Basic Outdoor Lighting

Hall Photography for Beginners

Part 2: Lighting

Lighting matters a lot in a shot. I can make a person look cute, badass, or evil.  (Cosplayer: Ted E. Bair)

Now that you’ve gone over how to talk to a cosplayer (and if you haven’t, SHAME ON YOU!, it’s time for the actual shooting.  Every time you shoot a picture, the most important factor is the lighting:  how well it’s lit, what color is the light source, and where it’s coming from.

Now for this article, I’m going to assume most of you either have a Point and Shoot or are using a DSLR on “Automatic” (that would be “A” on the menu dial).  It’s ok for beginners or for quick shots.

So, I’ll start with Outdoor Lighting since at some cons and most cosplay gatherings take place outdoors.  Plus, once you get a hang of outdoors, it’s much easier to talk about indoor shooting.

Three Tips For Shooting Outdoors

1) Shoot in the Shade

Shooting in shade helps to even out the lighting on a sunny day.             (Cosplayer: KittyCatChi)


A general rule of thumb is to shoot in places where the lighting is even, meaning the body is lit evenly from top to bottom without any harsh shadows.   Any hair would create shadows over the eyes, noses creates shadows which makes it seem larger than it really is, and skin, depending on make-up, can become overexposed or way more shiny than it really is.

If you want an easy shot, shoot in the shade when you’re outdoors.  Shaded areas block most of the overhead light, making it useful pretty much all day. Under shade, you won’t get any harsh shadows, regardless of the weather.  Another tactic is to find something that will diffuse the sunlight over the person’s face and torso like a glass roof.

2) Don’t backlight your cosplayer

Shooting with bright backgrounds creates a silhouette shot….they can still be neat, but it’s not something you should strive for in hall shots.
(Cosplayers: Jacki, Carladawn, Kimba616, Digital–Love)

If you look at a person with something very bright in the background (the sky on a sunny day for example), your eyes tend to make the person appear darker than the sky.  That’s because our eyes can only handle a certain amount of light entering, causing our irises to constrict and let less light in.  Cameras set to auto will do the same thing with the ISO, aperture, and the shutter speed settings to only allow a certain amount of light.  Theoretically this is to make sure that the resulting shot does not result in a big bright blur.

When you take a picture with a background brighter than the cosplayer, congratulations, you’ve just taken a silhouette shot.  However, when you’re just trying to get a quick shot of a cosplay, generally you want to actually see the cosplayer and not just a big shadow.  With Manual Setting, it can be done as it.  However, there is a way to get around that.

Turn the shot around so that the background isn’t lit up as brightly as the cosplayer.  Have the background be in shade or be a darker wall.  That way the camera will adjust for the cosplayer and not for the background.

3) Weather and Time of Day

Time of day matters when you want to avoid harsh shadows.
(Cosplayer: thesushimonster)

Unfortunately, as hall photographers, you will not have the luxury of shooting indoors or under shade.  When these happen, photographers hope it’s cloudy because clouds are nature’s light diffuser. However, on a bright and sunny day, you’ll have to take the time into consideration.

11 AM – 2 PM
Since the sun is directly overhead, any wigs, hair, hat, helmet, and other natural features on a person’s face will create harsh shadows on the person’s face.  Most of the time, this makes the person existentially unappealing.

Try to take photos in the early morning or later in the afternoon.  The sun is still in the sky, but it’s at an angle where it merely lights up the cosplayer facing it, rather than creating shadows on the person’s face.  Also, the sunset adds a nice golden glow to your photo, which is great whether you’re a novice or a pro photographer.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be shooting some good hall shots.
More on lighting and manual settings for another article.


~ by BlizzardTerrak on October 25, 2012.

One Response to “Hall Photo 101 – Basic Outdoor Lighting”

  1. […] tutorials: Outdoor shooting: https://blizzardterrakphotography.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/basic-outdoor-lighting/ Picking a camera: […]

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