The first convention I ever went to I was around 14 or 15 years old. I fell in love right then and there because of the cosplayers. The people I saw dressed up in the shows that I love made them so much more real to me, that conventions took on this coveted role one might associate with a religious experience. Now through the years I have never once cosplayed myself; my goal has always been to enjoy the cosplayers. Now with the advancements in digital photography it is very easy for anyone to capture and take home the amazing cosplayer images. This article is going to cover the do’s and the don’ts of interacting with cosplayers. I will have a followup article that will cover actual cosplay photography.
Cosplayer Photography Interaction
The first thing you want to remember is that cosplayers are people and they are there to attend the convention as well. If you see a great cosplayer, it doesn’t mean you can just stop them and take a picture. Take look at these bullets below.
Remember your manners.
Be polite and patient.
Ask first if this is an appropriate time to take a picture.
If the cosplayer is on the phone leave them be.
If the cosplayer is eating leave them be.
If the cosplayer is heading into the restroom leave them be.
If a cosplayer is off working with multiple photographers, you are fine to join them but don’t step in front of or give direction until the other photographers are done. The cosplayer will have a hard enough time hearing one photographer over the ruckus of the convention but hearing two will make it impossible to follow.
If you plan on publishing your images on a website, you need to inform the cosplayer of your intentions. You absolutely can not use your cosplay images to sell merchandise! You need a full model release for any such work. This would include compensation for the model.
Always remember to bring a card so that the cosplayer can find their images later. I use paper slips because I can pack more of them into my bag. Believe it or not, actual business cards are heavy and take up a lot of space.
I see many photographers take dozens of images, spending upwards of 10-20 minutes with a single cosplayer. You need to decide how you want to be. I pride myself on getting in, getting the shot and moving on. Does that mean I will have the absolute perfect shot of a cosplayer? No, it means I have a decent shot of tons of cosplayers instead of a very few. I looked over some of the best cosplayer photographers’ works and I see maybe 5-10 different cosplayers in their shots per convention. For an example, I shot nearly 200 cosplayers on Friday at WonderCon in 2015. If you are working with a cosplayer in a multiple photographer area, remember everyone and get your shots and move on. Typically in that scenario you have little control over your background and direction. Also remember if you are looking for something unique everyone behind you is getting the same shot. It might be better to ask the cosplayer for some time a bit later.
Shooting on the floor
Shooting on the floor is a huge difference then shooting outside the hall. For this part, we are going to cover shooting on the floor during the convention. When you are walking the floor you are going to see cosplayers walking all around you. You need to follow a couple of simple rules before taking their pictures.
If the cosplayer is interacting with a vendor do not interrupt.
If the cosplayer is talking to someone else do not interrupt.
Do not stop in a crowded hall to take a picture; speak with the cosplayer and see about moving to a less obstructed area to take the pictures.
When you take a picture of a cosplayer, everyone will want to take the picture so again remember your surroundings don’t cause a traffic jam.
Cosplayers no touchy
Cosplayers have costume malfunctions all the time. Much of their work is fragile and just a little movement can cause them to break. By no means does this give you authority to touch a cosplayer! Recently I attended WonderCon 2015 with my wife where we had been graced with the opportunity to shoot some cosplayers in a more private setting. The images came out great but while we were shooting another photographer stepped up to fix some fabric falling out from the cosplayers costume. The area the fabric was located was on the cosplayers bottom. We could see the distrust, and disgust in the cosplayers face as he touched her. My wife said he set off her full on creep mode. Absolutely do not touch a cosplayer! You can point out the malfunction and if they ask for help offer it but if they don’t work around it. Shoot an angle that doesn’t show the damaged costume.
One last thing I wanted to bring up. If you saw the paragraph above you will agree their are creeps out there. I ran into one on Saturday at WonderCon. The cosplayer was wearing a very revealing costume. In one of the poses she took you could see part of her breast. I didn’t notice this until I saw the back of the camera of the photographer in front of me. This pervert was completely focused on this. I didn’t just shake my head I stepped in and drove him off. I didn’t see him the rest of the weekend. At 6’5 I am sure I have an advantage at scaring people but that doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Please be protective and if you see anything inappropriate notify someone like the cosplayer, security, someone. Don’t allow this behavior to happen especially in front of you. Be the Big Hero!
The one thing I would want you to remember is to be considerate. You have to remember your manners; not just with the cosplayers but the other convention attendees as well. That means thinking before shooting. Ask yourself, is this going to cause problems for convention goers if I shoot here? Is this alright with the cosplayer? Just remind yourself to think of others and you will do just fine. If you see a 6’5 giant walking around a convention with a boat load of camera gear come and say hi.
By: James Rulison Sports and Cosplay Photographer