Updated: Jan 26
Wondering how you can level up your cosplay selfies and self-shoots? We've shot over 50+ photo sets without leaving home! I'm sharing some of my favorite tips for creating unique background sets for cosplay costumes in your living room. I recently did the math- Over the last 5 years we've shot more than 50 photoshoots at home, which feels crazy! Some of my regular readers might remember older blog posts where I shared how I decorate photos or light my sets. If you haven't seen those posts, you can find them here: Create your own Cosplay Sets (Check this one out first! It's from 2017 but is still relevant.) Home Studio for Under $400 (This one is admittedly getting outdated. In the 5 years that have passed, you can buy lighting for even cheaper now. I will cover some in this post!) Since we've been at this for a while now, I figured it was time to update this blog with more of my home photoshoot tips and tricks I've collected over the years. Read on!~
Hunt for Free Furniture!
I'm starting here first because furniture is very helpful to creating a space but also one of the most expensive things you can use to decorate a photo space. The vast majority of furniture that appears in our photoshoots was $FREE.99!
Curb Surfing: This is how we've found some FANTASTIC furniture, including my favorite piece- a solid wood bookshelf! If you live a short walk or drive from a residential neighborhood, it's worth checking sidewalks on Sundays. This is where furniture sometimes ends up after weekend yard sales don't move them. It's helpful to have a foldable dolly & go with a family member (advice I am giving because I know first hand that getting furniture home unprepared is ROUGH.)
NextDoor, LetGo, OfferUp, and Facebook: Oftentimes you can find gorgeous pieces of furniture that people are itching to get rid of. Plenty of chairs, couches, loveseats, bookshelves, and end tables can be found on these apps for the low, low price of 'Free! You just have transport it out of my garage.' You can find great stuff using an app or social platform that connects you to your local community- Just make sure to check ratings of listers when available and be mindful of your safety.
Family Borrowing & Hand-Me-Downs: This has been a HUGE source of furniture and props for us over the years. We've used hand-me-down chairs, desks, sofas, and even some trunks that look like treasure chests on loan from family who were happy to let us raid a few attics and basements.
Thrift & Dollar Store Decorations!
After you have some furniture to decorate, it’s time to hunt for inexpensive things you can re-purpose into set props! This is an opportunity to give new life to objects that otherwise may have ended up in the dump & to think outside the box with dollar store items.
Thrifting your Decorations: Before looking at a retail store, make a beeline to the household items at your local thrift store. This is a great place to find a variety of objects you can decorate a set with items like vases, urns, glass bottles, hardback books, tea sets, pewter objects, throw pillows and costume jewelry. You can also find props for costumes sometimes! Before making your purchase, please do consider only purchasing items that are not necessities for people who are on a limited budget- i.e. pass on buying a briefcase that someone could use for a job interview but do buy that pewter urn you can use for a floral arrangement!
Dollar Store Shopping: The dollar store is a great resource for decorating a photo set! You can find fake flowers, candles, table cloths, seasonal decor, and more. The wedding aisle has a number of useful things like paper flowers, bows, pre-made bouquets, and sometimes even material you can use to drape your space in! Hit up your local dollar store around Halloween and Christmas for a number of fun things like cobweb nets or string lights.
Never Pay Full Price for Floral!
I’ll let you in on a secret I’ve discovered when shopping for greenery for my sets- It will always go on sale at the end of a season AND if you know how to use photo editing, you only need to buy one set of those roses you can’t decide between red or pink on.
ONLY Shop Clearance: Michaels has flowers on sale perpetually. Go straight to the floral clearance section. Flowers and greenery from a month ago are usually 70% off. Unless you have a specific type of greenery in mind (like wisteria or palm fronds) you can get all sorts of items for photo set decorating for mere dollars from retailers like JOANN and Micheals, where the home goods and floral sections are on constant rotation.
Generic Greenery: I’ll be honest- I have a set of falling flower petals picture overlays that I change the color of on the fly and slap on stuff. If you buy some pink roses, in Lightroom or Photoshop those roses can become a lovely shade of blue! If you already paid for that software, put it to work saving you some money elsewhere.
Wedding Decor is Your Friend!
Seriously, bless the many Pinterest Wedding DIY posts that have given me inspiration whenever I couldn’t get my creative flow going. You would not believe how much dissecting wedding decoration photos has helped me come up with ways to make a 8'x8' space look different.
Shop DIY Wedding Decor: I have a set of stackable plastic columns that I use for SO. MANY. PHOTOSHOOTS. They are meant to turn a hotel ballroom into a nuptial space on a budget. What they are doing is flanking me when I’m the Moon Princess or Jeanne D’Arc. Check Wedding sections of stores- those decorations are made to be photographed with people in fancy clothing… no one needs to know it’s so you can look lovely as a Love Live character!
Make a Pinterest Account: The brilliant thing about Pinterest is you can make private boards for your project inspo and it is GREAT at recommending related images. I recommend starting with searching Wedding DIY because there’s so much high quality content available for reference. In minutes you can have amazing photo references to help you imagine your home transformed. See how milk crates and lanterns create a rustic decor or how pairing sequined curtains and sheer drapes creates a glamorous space.
Wedding Arches: I have a cheap metal wedding arch that I use to hang flowers, greenery or material from to create height or give my husband something to photograph through to create a sense of space.
LED Lights are the GOAT!
(That’s Greatest of all Time for my fellow olds) It’s incredible to me that I can get a color changing light wand for $58, but I can and did! I actually got 2 of them so we could create more dynamically lit photos in the future.
Color Changing LED Light Wands: These are SO FUN. You can mount them on light stands or hold them in your hand. The wands I have cycle through 9 colors, including a cool white light and a warm white light perfect for portrait lighting. They are rechargeable via microUSB and are small enough to fit in a small suitcase in case you want to use them on a future convention trip! Link on Amazon
Warm/Cool LED Light Panels: If you want stationary lighting but don’t have the space for static lights with a soft box, plug in LED light wands are a very budget and space friendly option. Buying a set that has both Warm and Cool light settings means you can choose the most flattering lighting for your costume. Link on Amazon
And finally I want to highlight our MVP, the most used tool in our arsenal:
A folding step stool. We use it every single photoshoot in some way. It’s good to sit on but more importantly, it allows my husband to get a slightly higher vantage point when taking photos. That vantage point makes the small spaces that we decorate look larger.
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