family picture Marvel costumes

Behind the Scenes: Easy DIY Marvel Photoshoot 2021

On Sunday my family and I did a makeshift photoshoot in downtown Abilene in our Halloween costumes. I say makeshift because we used only our Google Pixel 4a phones as cameras – and the photographers were myself, my husband, and my 5-year-old son (for a few pictures!) All that to say we are NOT professionals!

But our photos turned out amazing! I couldn’t believe how awesome they looked – I even had a few people ask who we hired to take our pictures! – so I thought I’d go into a bit more detail of how we got some of the shots.

First off, COSTUMES!

We are not professional cosplayers – I bought the Spiderman and Captain American costume off of Amazon. I spent about $35 for the Spiderman costume and $75 for the Captain America costume. My costume did not come with a shield, so I found a cheap plastic kid’s version for about $20 (it’s only about 12 inches in diameter). Dean used a suit and tie he already had for his Loki variant costume, but ended up buying a green vest and the Loki horns, which together were about $50. I made his “Loki for President” button by finding an image online and then using a 2″ button maker in the ACU Library Maker Lab. (Buttons are 5 for $1).

I tried to find some black boots to go with my costume at Goodwill, but the ones I found ended up being too big around my calves, so I opted to just wear black sneakers. You’ll notice Calvin is also wearing his usual Baby Shark tennis shoes in the shots. We could have spent more money and ordered shoes that looked better, but we decided it was good enough!

Overall we spent close to $200 on costumes. Since this was our only expense for this photoshoot, we decided this was a reasonable amount.


Dean and I both have Google Pixel phones. Part of why we got them was for the quality of photos they can take. Plus, they have a ton of storage space, so you can take tons of photos until you get exactly the right shot. We also loved using the “portrait mode” to get some great shots – this is a pretty standard feature for most phones.

If you have a smart phone that has come out in the last few years, chances are it will be good enough to get some great pics!


We knew we wanted to take photos either at dusk or dawn, since the lighting is the best at those times – and we all promised we would wake up early on Sunday morning to be ready to leave at 7:30am. (Sunrise was around 7:55am CDT.) We also were hoping that downtown would be pretty empty, and it totally was! Now depending on where you live, you may not get lucky to have an entire downtown scene to yourself (perks of living in a small-ish town!) It was also cooler weather, about 50 degrees, so it was a little colder than most would find comfortable (at least here in west Texas) which helped make sure people were staying inside.

I personally LOVE downtown Abilene. And for a Marvel superhero photoshoot, it was a perfect venue for pictures! There were plenty of alleys and brick buildings that ended up being great backgrounds in our photos!


Sometimes it’s hard to know how to pose since you can’t see yourself as you’re doing it. Look at how your characters pose and try to mimic it. Practicing in the mirror beforehand can be helpful!

Dean and I definitely guided each other on what to do – this sounded like, “move your arm over more” or “grit your teeth more.” We told Calvin how we wanted him to pose – for his “climbing” picture (to the left) we positioned his arms and legs and told him to look back at the camera. I knew I wanted the angle to be looking up in order to give the illusion that he was up high scaling a tall building.

Many times Dean would be very close to my face taking a portrait photo (at least it felt extremely close!) but the pictures ended up looking great. Sometimes a great photo means getting out of your comfort zone.

So, be willing to try new things! Don’t be afraid to look silly, give it your all! I tried to get an action shot of me running, but I kept laughing. We had to figure out where I was going to run and where I was going to look. These shots did not end up being the best, but they were fun to try and helped to get us into character!


I did not use any fancy editing software for our photos, I mainly used Instagram. This is a fine option if you are mostly just wanting to post pictures to social media.

Here’s a before and after editing shot of my Captain America pose:

I used the “Lo-fi” preset filter. I sharpened the photo a tiny bit more and added a bit more highlights. The background was already blurred from using “portrait” mode on the camera.

The one negative thing about using Instagram for editing is that it saves your photos at a much lower resolution quality. Initially, my original photo was 8.5 MB, but after Instagram, it was 250 kB – which is a HUGE reduction in quality. If I wanted to print out a copy of this photo as an 8 X 10, it would not look good!

My Google Pixel has editing features on it that don’t diminish the quality of the photo. I tried it out with a picture of Calvin (below). You can see the original and different versions I ended up with. I need to get more familiar with the editing features on the Pixel – it seems like it can do all the same things as Instagram (editing highlights, brightness, sharpness, etc.), and it also has multiple preset filters you can use. And the picture resolution actually got higher each time I edited it (started at 7.7 MB, then 10 MB, ended at 11 MB).


I am fortunate to have a fun-loving family! Doing this photoshoot was a great experience, we kept it light and casual. The last thing you want is for everyone to be having a bad time, it will be reflected in your pictures. Here’s a few of our light-hearted outtakes, including one that Calvin took (with a few Google Pixel edits added)!

Hope you enjoyed seeing our photos and reading about how we put the photoshoot together. We took over 150 photos and spent about one hour in Downtown Abilene taking pictures. I think we got around 15-20 really amazing shots.

I really want to make this an annual tradition for our family, so come back next Halloween to see what we’ve been up to! If you have costume suggestions, let me know!

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