The idea for this post has been floating around in my head. I hope to write several blogs on this and maybe a couple of videos.
When I say “cosplay noob” I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with being new to cosplay. I’m using the word the way I used it when I gamed. If I called you a noob it pretty much meant that you were stubbornly ignorant and really didn’t care to be better. It is one thing to make honest mistakes, but quite another to continue to make the same mistakes over and over, despite the fact that you should know better.
First off I’m going to discuss photography because this is the number 1 cosplay sin. I’ve committed photography errors and I see people do it so often. This is a semi comprehensive guide to photography in cosplay and I encourage photographers to add to this.
Step 1: How to find a photographer?
So you spent months on your cosplay and you show up at the con and you are sad because you aren’t being surrounded by the paparazzi. How do these cosplayers find/meet photographers? How do you get good shots? If there is a scheduled shoot for your fandom, go! Not only will you meet other fans, but it is a great place to meet photographers. Occasionally there are other photographers who take pictures at cons of just about anyone.
Also check any group pages for cons you are attending. Frequently photographers will advertise their availability as well as rates. Rates can vary from free to hundreds of dollars for an hour shoot. You may be lucky and find a high school or college student honing their craft and will shoot you for next to nothing.
Step 2: Who owns the photos?
Unless stated otherwise, the photographer ALWAYS OWNS THE PICTURE. Repeat after me…THE PHOTOGRAPHER OWNS THE PICTURE. While it may be you and your hard work in the picture, it is the photographer’s art that has created the masterpiece. Don’t crop their picture and apply a filter on Instagram (guilty of this in the past). ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS link back to their website or facebook page when you share the picture. Most of all, never remove their logo.
Why is this important? Again, the picture is their art and craft. While they may capture you, lots of time goes into editing to make the picture perfect.
At my wedding I didn’t understand this and I went with an old man who let me retain copyrights to all my images because he didn’t understand why new photographers thought it was so important to retain rights to someone’s memories. Let’s compare one of my wedding pictures (of which I hold the copyright) to one of my cosplay photos.
So this is a picture from the professional photographer at my wedding. Can we just see how bad the shadows are? I could do this on my phone. The generic church bridal suite made for very dated photos, and that’s what I got. I also had a lot of unprofessional behavior because this photographer did not value his art or craft enough to retain copyright. I paid for his time to be there, but not for him to do much special with the photos. When I got my photobook, it was a mess. I expected this gorgeous heavy glossy photobook and what I got was a mess that I can’t even stand to look at because he kept forgetting to give it to me.
Let’s compare this with a professional shoot at a con. This was done by COTC Photography. Can you see the amazing difference? This photographer isn’t just pointing a camera and shooting cosplays, he is creating art. He takes time getting the light right, takes time editing, and we are left with a high quality image. I’ve seen similar levels of photography at my friends’ weddings and I’m jealous and feel silly for not listening to advice to invest in a photographer. While I saved money and own rights to my wedding photos, I have pictures that are nothing special.
3. Be patient, but know when you get screwed over.
Photographers are people. They get sick. They have emergencies. Their computers break. A good photographer will communicate this with you. If you are paying a lot of money for a shoot, I would recommend having some sort of written agreement on how many pictures you will receive and how long it should take. However, life happens. If you are paying on the lower end for photography, most likely it is a hobby and the photographer is looking to supplement their income. Be patient. If your photographer is communicating with you and saying, “My computer crashed.” or “I moved” then be patient. Wait before you start posting all over local pages that so and so scammed you. If they are willingly communicating with you and offering a reasonable explanation for a delay, be patient.
4. ALWAYS CREDIT
I’m beating a dead horse here. If you take anything away, always credit your photographer.
5. Stop with the exposure crap
Like I mentioned, you get what you pay for usually. I know plenty of photographers who will shoot for free. You can find students willing to shoot for free. However never ask anyone to shoot for free and then tell them that it would be great exposure. If you scheduled a shoot and your photographer has come a distance, treat them to lunch, give them a tip.
6. Be prepared
There are some great photographers who give wonderful direction.
This picture of my Poison Ivy was taken by Anthony from Alt Media Pros. This is also the first professional photo taken of me in one of my cosplays. He is phenomenal at giving direction and just taking a fantastic shot in chaotic situations. However not all photographers can do this. They can do all the editing and have the best equipment, but not all photographers have the ability to know everything about your character. Have poses in mind that you want to do. Look at still images. Help find a fitting setting. Know where you want to go and what you want to do just in case your photographer doesn’t have any ideas. Do your own research and work as well and you will have excellent photos to remember your time at cons!
7. Be happy with what you get
This may sound weird. You schedule an hour shoot. You know your photographer took 100’s of photos, and you end up with 10 photos back. What gives? You probably don’t want to see the derp shots. Actually forget the derp shots exist. Not every photo is going to look good. Understand that your photographer knows best and appreciate their hard work.
8. Be on time!
After talking to some photographer friends over the weekend I can’t believe I have to add this. Be on time to your own shoot. It is disrespectful to show up late when you have booked a shoot. Don’t be shocked if your photographer refuses to shoot you if you are late.