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Basic Guide to Cosplay Photography

Cosplay, photography, DragonCon
(c) Andrew Michael Phillips Photography

Basic Guide to Cosplay Photography

Cosplay photography is tricky. You never know which kind of cosplay photographer you’ll meet. Sometimes you meet an introspective photographer who has respectful tips on getting that good photograph. Or you may meet that creeper cosplay photographer who needs to be banned from cosplay conventions. Even with years of experience behind me, I still get tripped up. But when I get that photo that captures my cosplay and the feel of the character that I envisioned, it’s worth every misstep I made – which leads me to some basic things I’ve learned about photographers and cosplay photography – from the cosplayer perspective.

TaLynn Kel’s Basic Guide to Cosplay Photography

Before we talk about anything, let’s talk cosplay photography safety.

  • NEVER leave the convention areas with a cosplay photographer you don’t know, especially not alone.
  • NEVER go back to the room with a cosplay photographer you don’t know.
  • NEVER be afraid to ask for a cosplay photographer’s credentials and references, ESPECIALLY if they ask you to leave the grounds. In fact, just don’t leave the convention area with a photographer.
  • DO NOT let anyone touch you unless you ask them to do it. Sometimes I need help posing and I give the photographer permission to tweak my body positioning a little.
  • DO NOT work with any cosplay photographer who makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Cosplay photography is NOT erotic photography – unless that’s what you want but make that VERY clear between you and the photographer before you start.
  • Set boundaries. You know what makes you uncomfortable. Do not be afraid to say “no” to something the cosplay photographer asks you to do.

Cosplay conventions are ideal hunting grounds for predators and if someone sets off your Spidey-sense, walk away. No picture is worth risking your safety and well-being. There have been incidents where sketchy people took advantage of the convention to harass and proposition cosplayers. Pretending to be a cosplay photographer is an easy way to gain trust.

Just remember that cosplay is all about you. Only do cosplay photography that you feel comfortable doing and feel free to end any conversation with someone who makes you uncomfortable. Also, Google searches are your friend and you have a community of cosplayers who you can ask for photographer recommendations.

Types of Cosplay Photography

 

Convention floor

Marvel, Beast, Bishop, Nightcrawler, X-Men, Cosplay , DragonCon, Photography
(c) DragonCon
  • A photographer stops you and asks to take your picture at a convention or event. You will not know the person or skill level and many times you will never see these pictures. Sometimes they offer you a card to their site where they upload their pics, but most often these go into the void. These are also the most common type of cosplay photos. You will see everything from amateur to professional level shots.
    • Pro tip: These pictures are always free. The ONE exception is if someone is sponsored by the convention and has a public price list. Otherwise, if a photographer tries to sell you a convention floor picture and they are not officially part of the convention staff, report them. If you aren’t sure they are part of the convention staff, ask information. Selling convention photography without permission is against convention rules.

 

 

Marvel, Blade, TaLynn Kel, Cosplay, Photography
(c) Bryan Humphrey Mad Scientist With A Camera

Hallway

  • These are almost identical to convention floor pictures, but you will move off to the side of the walkway or hallway with the photographer and use the wall as your background. Same rules, though. You may never see the image and they aren’t supposed to charge you.
    • Pro tip: This is a great strategy if you are looking for cleaner pictures, ones with less background noise than your usual convention picture. This is great because some photographers like to add PhotoShop effects. It is also a free picture if you get the photographer’s contact information.

 

 

Offsite

Marvel, Beta Ray Bill, Cosplay, Photography
(c) Andrew Michael Phillips Photography
  • Some photoshoots are held in areas that have less convention traffic, or more interesting backgrounds. These are often held in green spaces around the event venue or on some public property and landmarks. There is nothing like doing a Justice League photoshoot in front of an archway reminiscent of the Halls of Justice. Talk to your photographer about some ideas you may have.
    • Pro tip: This is where the photography boundaries start to get fuzzy. It’s not good practice to leave public convention areas with people you don’t know, especially if you are alone. Also, some photographers charge for off-site shoots – and this is an arrangement that would have been made prior to the shoot. If a photographer tries to get you off-site and tries to charge you, report them.

 

 

TaLynn Kel, Vampire, Cosplay, Photography
(c) Andrew Michael Phillips Photography

On location

  • This is when you and your photographer have scouted a location and schedule a shoot there. These shoots are a business deal and require a contract. You will have to pay for these, unless the photographer asked you to do this for a personal project. As previously stated, ask for credentials and references, as well as to view the contract prior to signing anything.
    • Pro tip: Choose a cosplay that works with the background. The two should enhance each other. If you have an urban environment, choose a character that’s generally in an urban setting, like Spiderman or Luke Cage. If you are in a cemetery, choose a vampire or a ghoul. If you are in the woods, choose an elf…you get the idea. And talk to the photographer. They will have ideas that may help.

 

CD Comics, Green Lantern, John Stewart, Cosplay, Photography
(c) Andrew Michael Phillips Photography

Studio

  • Studio photoshoots are often considered to be the gold standard. They are held in a private studio where there is climate control and you don’t have to account for the weather. They are the most comfortable shoots for you and the photographer, also, as you have more resources for preparation and rest between poses.
    • Pro tip: This is not really at tip – more like a reminder: check the photographer’s credentials and read the contract before scheduling a shoot. Theses shoots will most likely require a fee.

 

This list is by no means an all encompassing guide on cosplay photography. I am sure there are plenty of other types that I don’t know of.  If you want to read about my personal experience with cosplay photography, check out my blog. In the meantime, this list should help cosplayers just beginning to tiptoe through the cosplay photography garden.

Good luck and remember to have fun!

 

This article featured cosplay photographs by:

Interview with Cosplayer & SFX Artist Sakura Saphire
A Conversation with Cosplayer Kit Quinn

About Talynn Kel

Communicator. Writer. Advocate. Womanist. Cosplay Artist. Creator. TaLynn Kel has been in the Atlanta, Georgia costume convention scene since 2005, when she attended DragonCon for the first time. Since then she has attended many local conventions, including MomoCon, Anime Weekend Atlanta, and OnyxCon and was a model in the August 2014 publication of the Girls of the Con calendar.

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