Last week I mentioned I was going to go see the Rogue One costumes at Star Wars Celebration. Several weeks ago, I mentioned what you should be looking for in terms of references. Today, I’m going to talk about how to shoot photos of costumes that are ideal for references. For your enjoyment, I’m going to be using the Rogue One costumes to illustrate my points.
The modern world has started to give us costume people more and more information. These days, you can buy books on favourite tv shows and movies that often have pages devoted to high quality photos of the costumes and, if you’re lucky, interviews or tips from the costuming department. If you’re really lucky, they may release sets of the design photos with notes to help along the way. However, nothing really beats being able to see it with your own eyes.
If you have the opportunity to see a costume in person, then it is worth your while thinking about what and how you need to photograph it. First off comes general photography skills.
Make sure your photos are in focus
You want sharp pictures. Slightly blurry photos will end up with you furrowing your brow, trying to decide if its just a fold or an actual pocket for hours later on.
I actually tend to delete anything that isn’t 100% sharp simply to avoid this. This does mean you may need to check your photos as you take them so that if you only have one shot of the back and its out of focus, you can take another.
Try to represent the colour truthfully
Colour can change depending on a lot of factors, including some that are out of your control like the lighting that is on the costume. However, the biggest changer of colours is flash photography. If you can get non-flash photos, you will have a truer representation of the colour. Of course, this can be compared to images on screen, but remember that those may also have been colour washed or filtered by the video department and may not be accurate either.
Get top to bottom shots
Most people already do this. Most images you see are of about 3/4 of the costume.
But you need full length. There’s nothing worse than realising that you’ve photographed everything in detail, but now you’re home and realise you have no idea what those shoes looked like.
Get close up detailed shots
I actually go ahead and use my zoom lens. Yes, it is designed for making that person who is an auditorium away a lot closer, but you know what? It makes those details really pop.
This is your best chance to really find out the details of a costume, so take it. Is there stitching? Take photos of it. Is there a funny looking panel? Take photos of it. Is there what appear to be cape slits? You know the drill.
Get shots from different angles
The simple fact is you can’t see everything from just one angle. If you only take photos from one angle, you will miss details.This is especially true if you’re trying to figure out how something works.
This is a series of shots I took just to figure out how the slit in the back of cape worked. You can’t even really see the slit from the first picture, but by the last its pretty obvious. Is it crazy to take 8 photos of the same thing? Not if at the end of them you have a good idea how it all gets put together and works.
Take as many photos you can, in as high a resolution as you can.
There really is no such thing as too many reference photos. Sometimes the camera focus will change slightly from one to the other and you’ll notice something. Higher resolution photos mean that you can zoom in later on to answer questions.
And if they are nice enough to give you a blurb about the costume, photograph it. Trust me, you won’t remember the exact combinations without some kind of reminder, and a photograph is faster than writing it down.
The best way of thinking about this is as a puzzle. How is this costume put together? How does it all come together? What are the proportions like? The more photos you have, the easier you can put it all together later. Hopefully, by the time you’re done taking photos, all your questions will be answered.