Playing Dress Up: a cosplay photoshoot

Last month I got the chance to do the sort of photoshoot I’ve been wanting to do ever since I started out as a photographer: a cosplay shoot. Cosplay is dressing up as a character with as much authenticity and attention to detail as possible (see Chelsea Rebecca’s Game of Thrones costume creations for examples of incredible detail) . There are hundreds of themed events and conventions all over the world for which attendees are encouraged to turn up in cosplay, the most famous being the Comic Cons which are mainly themed around comic book characters.

Those of you that know me in person will know that I have two key obsessions: Disney and Studio Ghibli. So when my friend and fellow Ghibli enthusiast, Katy organised a Disney/Ghibli themed birthday gathering whilst staying with me in Sheffield, I jumped at the chance to do a photoshoot with her in character before the party. The wizard Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle is one of her favourite Ghibli characters and she already had his coat from a previous fancy dress, along with a cutesy felt version of fire demon Calcifer I’d made her for her last birthday. We just had to hope it would stay reasonably dry for us on the day, and we had the makings of a great first cosplay shoot.

As luck would have it, the weather held out. We used Endcliffe Park in Sheffield as our setting, as it provided plenty of options for backgrounds and suited the windswept countryside landscape that Howl’s Castle favours in the film. Katy was the perfect model; being part of theatre groups meant she could switch into ‘brooding powerful wizard’ mode on request. Fuelled by her passion for the character, Katy posed and leapt and braved the cold while I snapped away.

This passion for the characters is what I love most about cosplay. A perfect example of this is Adam Savage building a Totoro (another Ghibli character, and my favourite) costume to wear to Comic Con. Click here to open the video in a new tab to watch later and see what I mean. He is so genuinely excited as he creates. I couldn’t help but grin the entire time I was watching. And then the reactions he gets when he wears it to the Comic Con (click here for that shorter video) are just so wonderful! The creativity that comes from such passion for characters, films, series, books…is incredible. There’s also a theatricality to it which appeals to my love for stage photography. It’s no wonder I’m eager to do more cosplay photoshoots!

Howl cosplay photoshoot, Studio Ghibli inspired Howl's Moving Castle cosplay

I played around a bit more with the editing of this one, using elements of screenshots from the film to really put Katy in the world of Howl (spot Turniphead in the corner there?)



Wizard Howl and Calcifer cosplay photoshoot


Howl's Moving Castle cosplay photoshoot with Calcifer


Howl's Moving Castle Studio Ghibli inspired photoshoot, cosplay


Wizard Howl cosplay, photography edit transforming into bird

In the film, Howl transforms into a giant black bird at one point so I gave myself the challenge of really testing my editing skills with one photo to reflect that transformation. Pleased with the results… but keen to work on improving the more fantastical side of my editing skills!

Howl and Calcifer cosplay photoshoot Sheffield

Head over to my Instagram @heatherbelphoto and Facebook page to see a few more of the shots from this shoot. Use my contact form from the menu above or email me at if you’ve got an outfit, an idea, or a passion you’d love to discuss capturing!

Read about my other passion, theatre, in my blogost here.


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