Photographers are an important part of the convention experience for most cosplayers. Whether it is a prearranged photo shoot or a photog wandering the lobby of a convention, it’s important that cosplayers realize that the photographers are artists too. There are rules of etiquette that should be followed while working with photographers if you want to get the most out of your shoots.
Photographers will shoot dozens of cosplayers throughout the day. Unless it’s a planned shoot and they know you well, it helps to have a label to remind them of who you are. Asking them to take an extra shot with you holding up your badge or a small sign with your contact info can help them identify you later. Business cards help too, but photographers can have a hard time identifying you when they are sifting through a stack of cards a few days later, especially if your photographed costume does not appear on your card.
Know your Character
Photographers cannot be experts in every character that appears at a convention. It’s up to you to know your character and have some appropriate poses ready for photographers in the hall and on private shoots. If a private shoot is happening, tell the photographer a little about the character so they can capture the mood correctly. Pro Tip: Never shame a photographer for not knowing your character. Duh.
Be Patient & Relax
Photo shoots take time and a lot of adjustments. The photographer will probably change the settings on their equipment, move around to different angles, and may even ask you to move or adjust your pose. These things do not mean that you are doing a bad job! Most often, they are working to optimize the lighting or the background of a shot. Let them know upfront if you have a strict timeline, but otherwise, be patient while they practice their art. You wouldn’t like it if someone sat next to your sewing machine looking annoyed that you weren’t going faster!
Have some Ideas Prepared
If you’ve hired or asked for a shoot with a photographer, be sure that you have an idea of what you want from the pictures. Have some locations in mind and schedule it for a time with good lighting. You don’t want to waste time wandering around looking for a spot to shoot, or waiting for the light to be right.
You are the photographer’s partner during the photo shoot. Be respectful, but contribute to the process. If there is a side that you don’t want them to shoot, if you’d rather they only get full body shots, if your costume is damaged somewhere and you don’t want it in the shot, or if you are running late, let the photographer know! Most of them are really amazing people and will do their best to make you happy.
Know your Rights
In most cases, the photographer owns all the images that they take. Unless you hired the photographer and have a contract saying that you own the images, you will need to get the photographer’s permission before using the picture for prints, using the pictures to sell products, or for use by third parties like magazines or TV shows. Most photographers don’t care if you put the images on personal blogs or social networks, but you should check with them first. (Read this great article by BGZ Studios for a full breakdown of the laws and how they impact photographers and cosplayers.)
Credit the Photographer
No matter where you post or share an image, you should make sure that the photographer is credited with either a watermark on the image or with a caption of some type attached to the picture. There is no excuse for not giving credit to the artist who made the image possible. Be especially careful of this when you share images on Instagram since watermarks sometimes are not able to be fit in the square limit of the pictures! Add a tag and credit in your text!
The picture is the property of the photographer. Just like you wouldn’t want someone repainting your car without asking, it’s not right to Photoshop or alter images without the permission of the photographer. This includes cutting out watermarks, changing backgrounds, tweaking the colors, or adding your own watermark. Talk to the photographer before you do any of these things. BEWARE OF INSTAGRAM! The filters and picture proportions there can significantly alter an image.
Change a Planned Shoot without Asking
There is a lot of prep work involved in setting up and planning for a photo shoot and changing details without talking to the photographer can really mess up the final product. Changing a location can completely alter the lighting that a photographer sets up and changing your planned outfit or the number of models in a shot can change what lens a photog needs to use. Don’t make changes without giving your photographer some notice.
Leave them Hanging
Life happens. Make sure that you have a way to contact your photographer in case something happens and you will be late or miss a shoot. Wasting their time during a busy convention is one of the fastest ways to insure that a photographer will never shoot with you again.
Ask for Raw Photographs
The photographer has made the pictures look a specific way because that was their vision. It is their art and you should respect their vision. Don’t ask for the raw pictures so that you can edit them a different way. If you’re not a fan of their style, then be polite but don’t shoot with that photographer again. Note: This is not the same as asking for larger file sizes for prints, etc.
Crash a Shoot
A photographer with a nice setup draws cosplayers like moths to a flame. However, it is very rude to interrupt a shoot to see if you can “be next,” or to stand right next to the shoot talking loudly or tapping your foot. Move a little way off and wait patiently. When you see the shoot finishing up, politely ask if the photographer has any openings to shoot that day. Be understanding if the answer is no.
Go off Alone with a Stranger
Most convention photographers are totally legitimate professionals and hobbyists, but an impressive camera does not always mean that the person has good intentions. Never go to an off-site or secluded location alone with a photographer that you don’t know well. No professional photographer will object to you having friends tag along to make you comfortable and help insure your safety. TRUST YOUR GUT FEELINGS ON THIS! If something feels off or if a photographer is trying hard to get you alone, STAY AWAY!
Do Anything that makes You Uncomfortable
If you feel uncomfortable with the actions or attitude of a photographer, stop the shoot. Pictures are not worth your pride, or the humiliation that might come later if the photographer is taking advantage of the situation. You are partners with the photographer and respect goes both ways.
Thank you to Photographers Sonny Meas, Deborah Kountz, Dwain Linden, Mike Rollerson, Eddric Lee for their input and contributions to this article. Special thanks to Sam Balcomb for the uncredited images in this article, and to Andrew Ho and Cesar Vivid Photography for appearing in those pictures.