This is the main lessons I’ve learned as an amateur photographer at cons. Let me lead with saying I’m not a photographer. I like to play with images and try to take half decent images mainly to use as personal stock or just to keep a memory. So I wont be talking about the equipment or teaching you anything technical. This is more about your approach to cosplayers and the con life. which I hope will be just as helpful, especially if you’re a bit of introvert like me.
Being introduced to cons a couple of years ago, made me realize that this is a way for me to improve taking photos of people with out embarrassing myself or feeling like I was pretending to be a photographer. Nothing irritates me more than someone claiming to be a professional photographer then producing blurry, badly framed shots. Producing a decent shots takes practice and patience and skill. That should be respected. If you are aspiring to be that and learning, then great but if you’re not don’t expect me to get excited you can point a camera. Cause I can do that. Put some effort in. Most of the time even if the picture isn’t the best you can see when people try. That was my pretentious rant. On to the actually content.
Without further ado here what I’ve learned photographing cosplayers.
For the most part they love their photos being taken. Notice the fact I said ‘for the most part’? Well there is a time and a place for photos. While they are wondering around outside or away from the stalls is usually the best time to ask. I remember the first time I was at a con I was so shy about asking but as the day went if I realized that they genuinely don’t mind, most of the time cosplayers love photos. Just make sure that you’re in a space that’s okay to pause in and take the photo without inconveniencing anyone around you or the cosplayer.
Also Bear in mind your equipment or camera settings, at this point. The cosplayer doesn’t want to wait 5 minutes for you to set up, be ready to go quickly. Also make sure that they aren’t busy, sometimes they may be chatting with friends or having lunch and might not want to take a photo there and then, this is also where the asking comes into it. If they say No, there’s tonnes more cosplayers to photograph, so don’t sweat it.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve every had a cosplayer say no to a quick photograph, I’ve had them ignore me because they were doing something else so it wasn’t rude but they’ve never say flat out no. One year I got very excited there was a guy dressed as Kenshi from Samurai X and I squealed when I saw him, no shame there, I asked for a photo and didn’t realize that he had a bunch of shopping bag. Now, bless his soul, he passed them all to his friend and pulled an awesome pose for me to snap. This is such a silly memory for me but it’s one I do cherish. It also shows how willing some cosplayers are to have their photo taken not just for them selves but for others too!
Don’t be afraid to ask for contact info, in fact do it!. Most cosplayers and photographers have some sort of social media just for their cosplay life. They like seeing themselves in cosplay, so show them the photos you’ve taken! This something I am really bad at doing. I post images for my friends to see as most of photos tend to be of their cosplays anyway but I struggle with identifying the rest. Me moving forward for that is that I am going to pop together something that I can give out so people can find their own images on facebook or whatever I decide to post them.
Lighting is god in photography. Constantly check your lighting. With all the moving around it’s easy to get this wrong and I still do, more often than not. I look at some photos I’ve taken and everything else it great but the lighting has screwed it. Eventually it’ll become second nature to see where a good light source is coming from but with so much going on it can be missed. If the lights not right just ask the cosplayer to move around with you. I’ve started do this more but still not enough. All you are doing is getting your photo looking good which means the cosplayer will be looking good too. It’s a win win. So as long as you aren’t blocking anything off or taking the cosplayer off the direction they are going they are okay with working with you.
Don’t be afraid to give cosplayer a bit of direction. So if you need to ask them to pop their prop on the other shoulder cause it causes a shadow over their face, do it. I might not ask them change their whole pose because a lot of cosplayers plan their poses before hand so they can do quick shots but help them enhance that pose for your photograph. Somehow at one con I was roped into being a photographer for spiderverse meet. Mainly because the actual photographer didn’t show up and I was the only one not in cosplay and had a camera, and my friend thinks I take some decent shots of her when we are out and about. I was embarrassed about it. It was fun and some of the shots came out okay but I know what I could have done better. If I’d bitten the bullet and actually instructed them how to pose and what I wanted to see from them, then I know I could have got some really good photos. I was really unprepared for it if I’m honest, there was more people than I’ve ever had to shoot before and I didn’t know any of them so it was daunting. I forgot the main thing is that these guys wanted me to show them at their best and I didn’t. It was a massive learning curve for me.
The last main thing I learned is don’t forget you have a phone camera. Your mobile camera is a great tool for your progress throughout they day and for personal memories or social media. And lest be honest if you see a great shot but cant get the main camera in time, camera phones are pretty good quality nowadays. Luckily I usually go with a friend who always uses her phone so that reminds me to use mine. My selfie game is still weak though, but check out my instagram to see progress.
I asked a few cosplay friend what were the things they wished photographers would do with them at cons and the answers surprised me. For the most part they just wanted the photographer to be professional. They’d had experiences of the photographer actually touching them and generally saying provocative things to them simply because they were in cosplay. I wasn’t going to say this originally but because of the their responses I will say explicitly, Do Not Touch the cosplayers and treat them with respect. Do not say or do anything you wouldn’t like someone to say/do to you. To quote a well know cause, Cosplay is not consent.
I also did do some digging on the net for general tips that maybe I’d missed but I didn’t find too much that just dealt with approaching cosplayers as a photographer, at least for an absolute beginner. I’ll add some links here for some of the more interesting articles I found.
Photo Etiquette – This one is for the cosplayer picking the photographer
Photography sharing Guidelines – Great article about sharing photos over social media.
Dummies Guide to cosplay photography – This talks a lot about the permissions and similar to what I talk about.
How to shoot cosplay with one light – Talks about the challenges of lighting at con.
cosplayphotographers.com – In general a great site for cosplay photographers.
What have been your expeiences photographing cosplayer or posing for photographers? I’d love to hear other people views from either side.