I was scouring the interwebs and came across a post called “Convention Do’s and Don’ts” and it inspired me to write a little post of my own about cosplay photography.
Before I get started, I would like to say I’m not a ‘professional photographer’, nor am I a seasoned cosplay photographer. However, the bulk of my photography work has been in the cosplay convention world; I’ve spent some time talking to cosplayers, other photographers, and feel as if there should be some “Do’s and Don’ts” for the photographers.
DO show up early: Depending on the con, there may be limited ‘ideal spots’ to do shoots. Show up early and find which spots are going to be the most diverse for the type of cosplays expected to show up. Analyze the lighting of all the areas you can shoot, and figure out where the best spots are throughout the day.
DON’T interrupt a shoot: It’s rude to interrupt a fellow photographer’s private shoot. If there is a cosplayer being photographed that you would like to photograph, wait patiently for the shoot to end, find the cosplayer later, or move on to photograph someone else. There are likely hundreds, if not thousands of amazing cosplayers to photograph. Don’t miss an opportunity to shoot something great
DO ask permission: Always ask the cosplayer if you can photograph them. Most cosplayers are more than willing to be photographed and are sometimes flattered by the request, so be polite and ask prior. Which leads me to my next point…
DON’T be mad if they say no: There are more to cons than just cosplaying and taking pictures; there are panels, merch, dances, games, etc. Also, these costumes can often be uncomfortable, heavy, or hot, and therefor can ware the cosplayer down over time. The cosplayer has every right to say “No way!” if he or she so chooses, and you need to respect that. Remember, photographing a cosplayer is your privilege, not your right.
DO be courteous: Be aware of the cosplayers mood before even asking them if they want to be photographed. Many cosplayers feel obligated to do shoots; if a cosplayer looks upset or put out, not only will that emotion show through the picture, it’s really just polite to move on to a subject who is more likely to want to be photographed.
DON’T be a perv: It’s shameful this even needs to be said, but I’ve seen photos on flickr of cosplayers that are inappropriate, and clearly taken from far away without the cosplayer’s knowledge. Many of these cosplayers are probably minors. NEVER take a provocative photo of someone under the age of 18, and NEVER take a photo of ANY kind without the consent of the cosplayer. PERIOD.
DO strike conversation, if appropriate: If the cosplayer isn’t busy, try not to “shoot and run”. At the very least, compliment the cosplayer and give them a genuine “Thank You” before just walking away.
DON’T get in someone’s way while shooting at a gathering: I’ve seen people get really upset about this before. If there’s a gathering and all the photographers have found their “spot”, don’t lift up your camera obstructing the view, or stick your head in front of their lens. Gatherings are really hard to photograph because of the large amounts of people shooting, and the large amounts of people in the shot, and the limited space available to shoot. Be courteous. If you can’t find a spot, politely ask the people around you if you can get by.
DO have fun editing: It’s ok to photoshop and edit photos. Color correction and detail enhancement are all critical parts of photography. It’s even ok to play with the environment a bit (you can see I’ve done that quite a bit myself). I think, artistically speaking, placing the cosplayers in environments that match their cosplay or the show their characters are from is a great way to pay homage to the cosplayer’s efforts.
DON’T modify the cosplayer: I’m frankly disappointed to see cosplay photographers use the ‘liquify’ effect on cosplayers to change their appearance. It’s not flattering to see your body modified in a photo. Be respectful; use color correction, lighting adjustments, environment enhancements, even minor airbrushing is ok from time to time, but never EVER change the appearance of the cosplayer. They deserve your respect.
DO share your photos with the cosplayer: Many cosplayers appreciate photographers’ efforts just as much as we appreciate their art. If anything, cosplayers deserve to see the shots you’ve taken. If they like the photo, they may choose to share the photo and your work! However…
DON’T ask for free promotion: This is something I’ve seen many photographers do…too many cosplayer photographers seek praise rather than creative fulfillment. In doing so, the photographer will ask the cosplayer to do them favors to promote their work. This type of behavior is alienating and inappropriate.
DO be prepared to fail: Let’s face it, especially in the beginning stages, your photography probably won’t be the best. Hell, I often look at my photos from time to time and wonder if I’m doing the cosplay community justice, and would be completely understanding if a cosplayer asked me to remove a photo. Be prepared for negative feedback, be willing to take a photo down if a cosplayer doesn’t like it. Once you do, try and find out what you can do to improve.
DO have fun: Photography in general shouldn’t be about seeking attention or praise. Photography, like cosplay, is an art form – it is a creative outlet. So get creative and have fun.