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Testing Your Limits- 5 Steps to Taking Great Lara Action Photos

By Jenn Croft
So, you finally did it: You made yourself an excellent Lara Croft costume. Perhaps you have already modeled it for a studio shoot or outdoor modeling photos. You look great, and have done all the tough, sexy, and innocent poses that are signature to Lara Croft, but there is still something missing from your Lara cosplay gallery; something that would put you completely into the shoes of Lara Croft herself: great action photos! Lara Croft is an action-adventurer, therefore it makes sense for a great Lara cosplayer to want at least one solid action photo in her portfolio. In this article I will cover 5 major steps to creating a great Lara Croft action photo.

The first step is to find a stunt to do: Ideas are all around you in a good location. Work with your environment. In the wilderness there could be trees, boulders, stone walls, streams, waterfalls, cliffs, or even vines. In urban environments there may be pipes, building or wall features to climb on, ledges, ladders or stairs, to name a few. These things can all be used as motivation or tools for an action photo. The first thing I do once I get to a shooting location is scan the entire place, looking for things I could interact with. Things I could climb on, jumping she could to give her an advantage, so try to keep that in mind when looking for ideas off, swing from, or even shoot at. Out in the field, Lara would be using any.

This picture shows that you can make any location work in a photo if you use your surroundings. (Anastaysia)
After you have found the object you want to interact with, you need to figure out exactly what you are going to do with it. What will the stunt be? For this step I strongly encourage that you be unique. Is this something that you have seen in dozens of look alike photos or is it something brand new? This is something I encourage a lot, since it will set you apart from the rest and make your photos memorable. Perhaps there is an action photo from another cosplayer that you really admire and would love to do yourself.

You could use that move and add something new to the mix. Have it photographed from a different angle, or add a bad guy, animal, or prop into the shot. Get creative with it by doing something that we haven’t seen Lara do before, but something that she would do. Use your surroundings for stunts that people wouldn’t expect you to do. For example, have a photo of you jumping off a ladder instead of just climbing it, or hanging outside a car window shooting your gun instead of just driving it, or jumping out of a kayak into the water instead of just paddling. Each of these things will make a unique and interesting action photo.

This is a perfect example of using an object in a unique and different way. (Julie)

Once you have an idea of the type of stunt you want to do, it is important to ask yourself if this move is photogenic. We have seen countless photos of girls shooting guns with their arms covering their face or a tree branch in the way and we have seen action shots where you only get to see the girl’s backside. Each of these things can ruin a great stunt, rendering your hard work obsolete. If anyone can look at the photo and know it was you, then you are doing something right. Also keep in mind that there may be poses or stunts that are fully functional in real life, but may not exactly look pretty on camera. For example, shooting one gun is most effective when using two hands, but if you’re going to be in mid air, it would look much better if you used one hand to hold the gun. Make sure to constantly review each shot or few shots with your photographer. You won’t get the best battery life out of the camera but at least you will be able to correct mistakes and improve each shot.

Luce demonstrates a kick done in a great photogenic way. Her face is fully visible, her facial expression is perfect, and she is presenting her body to the camera.

Sari Croft shows us a popular stunt but done in such an angle that you can see her face. With a little better lighting, this would a perfect action photo

Yet another beautifully photogenic stunt. Julie’s face is visible, shooting arm is straight, and she is presenting her body towards the camera. She makes flying through the air look as natural as sleeping.

The next thing I will cover is believability. Obviously it isn’t practical to be fully believable and realistic in your photos without looking bland and boring. After all, Lara Croft is about style and grace. You do, however, want to maintain a healthy balance of style and practicality. Is this a stunt that people look at and can picture it happening like a video? Is this something that Lara would actually do? There are times in a photo where it is appropriate for Lara to be looking at the camera and there are times when it is not.

Very rarely in an action photo is it appropriate for Lara to look into the camera, unless you cleverly play into the whole ‘the photographer is the victim’ scenario. If you are in doubt of when or when not to look at the camera, just try it with both. Chances are, though, that you will find the picture of you looking elsewhere to be the better photo. When handling guns, it is important to demonstrate proper gun handling techniques to the best of your ability. Arms should be either locked straight or close to it, and your eyes should be looking towards what you are shooting at; not 1 meter above it or below.

I also want to stress facial expressions: When it comes to thinking about what to do with your face, keep the phrase “less is more” in mind. It is better to have too little facial expression than too much. In action photos, it takes a lot of practice to master certain facial expression while in mid air, so if you are just a beginner, try to relax the face as much as you can. Remember, Lara’s “grr” face is more about the eyes and less about the mouth.

The last thing I will mention in this section is that the key to nailing an action photo is to have confidence! Even if you aren’t comfortable with the trick, you only have to pretend for a split second. Lara is all about confidence and strength; you need to demonstrate this while in your stunt. Your poses should be strong and look natural to you. Doing all of these things will make it easy to capture the true spirit of Lara Croft in action.

Anastasya shows us a great facial expression that is appropriate for the costume she is wearing. Traditional Lara probably wouldn’t smirk while shooting someone, but this sinister look embodies the doppelganger in this stunt perfectly.

Safety will be the last thing I mention in this article but it is an important one. We all love stepping into Lara’s boots, motivating us to do something daring or dangerous. As with all activities and in life, I have a motto: “If you’re going to be reckless, at least be safe about it.” This means that if you are going to do something dangerous, at least take all the safety precautions you can in order to minimize the risk of injury. Lara Croft may be an excellent free climber, able to operate without the aid of a rope. Most of us mortal humans are not.

Your photo will still look good if you use a rope to climb and usually it makes Lara look even more interesting and sporty with all the cool gear hanging off her. If you are going to attempt stunts such as hanging off a cliff, I STRONGLY recommend investing in what’s called a “mountaineering harness”. It is similar to a rock climbing harness but is low profile enough to fit underneath Lara shorts or pants. With this you can attach a loop of nylon webbing and anchor it to a tree or a boulder and with a creative angle is easily concealed in a photo. I strongly recommend consulting rock climbers or rock climbing books/sites if you are new to building safety anchors. I in no way condone free solo climbing or hanging from a cliff taller than one story without the safety of a rope, nor would I do it myself.

I also want to cover safety hazards in a shooting location. Let’s face it: nature is dangerous. There are loose rocks out there, wild animals, sticks, fast-moving water, among other things. These things can and will injure or kill you if you aren’t careful. Make sure that if you climb on something, it is firm and sturdy and has been weight tested. I have personally seen people take large falls by not adhering to this rule and the results were not pretty. When photographing in urban locations, please be weary of abandoned buildings/houses/structures.

These places contain safety hazards such as loose pipes, broken floorboards, loose steps, or rusted frames. If you want to hang from that pipe or ladder, test your weight on it first and just be cognizant of the fact that it could break while in mid stunt. Don’t allow yourself any surprises. Last but most important, please don’t do dangerous things alone. I know there are some cosplayers out there who don’t have a photographer and do their photo shoots with a tripod and a self timer.

Please minimize the danger in your stunts when you photograph alone, make sure someone knows exactly where you are and when you will be back, and always have a cell phone or radio on you, in case you have an emergency. Keep in mind that in the end, it’s just a photo; it should never mean life or death. Make sure you are competent with your tricks and safety rigging and make sure you always have an emergency plan.

The use of safety systems will not hinder your Lara action photo; in fact, it makes it a lot more interesting, realistic, and can widen your range of photo opportunities.

Remember that great shots usually don’t happen on the first try. Be very patient because this takes lots of practice and hard work. It isn’t easy for anyone. Remember that the most important thing out there is fun! After all, that’s why we cosplay, and with all of these 5 steps, you don’t have to be athletically talented in order to make a great Lara action photo. The spirit of Lara Croft is in us all. Good luck out there!

Note: JennCroft has been doing action modeling for over 10 years and is proficient in firearms, rock climbing, base jumping, skydiving, screen fighting, basic tumbling, motorsports, and more. Should anyone have any questions or need advice they can email her at jenn.croft@yahoo.com

Photography Credits- Anastasya with photographer AlexCroft.ru, Julie Peugeot and photographer Merlin, Luce and Aoshi Studios Photography, and Sari Croft

All photos belong to each look a like and are copyrighted. You are not to use any of these photos without permission from the ladies themselves.
Special thanks to Jenn for letting us repost this article.