cosplay

How to get pictures at a Comic Con

How to get pictures at a Comic Con

Introduction

If you’re new to cosplay and going to your first convention you’ve probably seen cosplay photos posted on social media and wonder how people go about getting pictures like these. If you’re new to this or not sure how things actually work then this article is for you!

Comic cons attract lots of photographers who attend the event to take photographs of cosplayers and their creations. First an important note, there are different types of photographers present at cons and I’ll explain what they are because it’s important to know.

Types of Photographers at Comic Cons

As mentioned earlier there are many types of photographers at cons and it helps to know who they are.

  1. Press Pass – these photographers will be wearing an lanyard with the con name on it. They are responsible for documenting the event and will be wandering around the venue all day. They usually have a list of events they need to attend to take pictures of. Most of the photos taken are for the use of the organiser in their advertising and promo material.
  2. Freelancers – these photographers are usually roaming inside and outside the venue including the roads leading up to the venue. They will be taking photos of cosplayers in public, waiting in queues and anywhere in the venue. The will only grab a few shots and move on. You will occasionally see them loading pictures onto their laptop, this is because they will be uploading them to various stock image libraries for sale/editorial use e.g. Shutterstock, iStockPhoto, Dreamstime, newspapers etc. You may see these pictures in the media but you will not receive a copy of the picture.
  3. Professional/Event Photographers – some larger events will hire a professional event photographer to set up a studio and offer photoshoots with the option to purchase either a print or digital files after the event. You often see them at events where guest signings are taking place.
  4. Cosplay Photographers – most of these are well known on the convention circuit with many having a large social media following. They will often be running photoshoots which you need to book or just looking around for cosplayers to photograph while walking around. Most of them will post images back to various Facebook groups/Instagram after the event. These are your best option.
  5. Snipers – these are so called “photographers” who do not understand the rules around cosplay photography. They can be seen stepping in front of another photographer who is engaging with the cosplayer, hanging around in line of sight of the photographer trying to sneak a shot over the photographer’s shoulder. The worst examples are those that take pictures without asking permission first and also shouting out instructions and disrupting another photographer’s shoot. If you come across one of these during a shoot do not acknowledge them, tell them to ask permission first or even turn you back to them. Do not encourage this behavior.
  6. Members of the public – most of these are just taking pictures for their own enjoyment and will either use their mobile or a more advanced camera. You will rarely get any pictures back from them.
  7. Creeps with Cameras – they are the lowest of the low and only there to try and take indecent pictures of young ladies with or without consent. If you see one report them to the event staff!

Getting a shoot

In the lead up to an event you will see posts on either the Facebook cosplay groups or events page where photographers attending will post that they are available for shoots. You will also see posts from cosplayers asking if there are any photographers attending the event.

Some photographers run a slot booking system where they will camp out in a particular area and offer shoots that last from 10-20 minutes per person. Some photographers may just be walking around “free flow” and shoot anything that interests them while others may attend cosplay meets for specific fandoms and do group photos. If you are booking a slot most photographers will want to know what day and time slot you want and who you will be cosplaying as so they know who to look out for and look up character specific poses in advance.

On the day of the event set yourself a reminder to make your way to where the photographer is located in good time. It’s easy to lose track of time when at a group meet and not know how to find your photographer and end up missing your shoot. This is bad for you as you miss a potential photo opportunity but also bad for other cosplayers who cannot get a slot because the photographer is fully booked.

Please bear in mind that in certain venues wifi/mobile coverage can be poor to non-existant making communicating with the photographer/cosplayer difficult.

If you haven’t been able to book a slot with a particular photographer do not worry as there are plenty of them around. Just walk up to one and ask if they can take you photo. Also ask where they can see their photo and if the photographer has a card with their details on it. Keep hold of them as you’ll need them later!

How to ask for pictures if you are shy/self-conscious or have anxiety

For the majority of people attending events, getting pictures & selfies taken at events are a normal activity. However, what do you do if you suffer from shyness/self-conscious or an anxiety disorder? Anxiety in any form can be a debilitating condition that can create undue distress from ordinary situations.

You’ve invested time and money into getting your costume ready, you’ve bought the tickets to the event and to top it all you’ve traveled there either alone or with friends and made it to the event. And once you’re there you may want someone to take a picture of you in your costume or someone approaches you and asks if they can take a picture of you.

If you are part of a group see if one of them who is more confident to go up and ask a photographer if they can take their pictures, ideally together as a group as well as individually.

If you are on your own you could look around for any photographer’s who are not currently shooting and politely ask them if they could take your picture. Explain to the photographer that you are shy or suffer from anxiety and they should be more accomodating towards you.

If you are standing near a photographer and they ask if you would like a shoot say yes. Thank them for taking the time to do a shoot with you and as before explain that you are shy/self-conscious or suffer from anxiety. If there are any things that you are not comfortable about in how you are photographed ask the photographer for their advice.

Not able to get a shoot/Don’t want to be photographed

Sometimes a photographer may not be interested in your character or fandom and decline a shoot and this can be a blow to your confidence or simply confirm your thoughts that no one wants to take your picture. While this may be a hurtful experience for you, the thing to remember is that there are plenty more photographers around and that you can always ask again. It may not be easy to do but you should not let your condition stop you from enjoying yourself.

There may also be times when you just don’t want your picture taken. Perhaps you are feeling “under pressure” and need some quiet time or you are just not in the mood. Don’t be afraid to simply say “No thank you.” when the camera is too much. You know your own limitations, and it’s OK to listen to them.**

Lastly, photographers can also suffer from shyness or anxiety when asking people for pictures at events so it’s worth keeping in mind how you act towards them and how they might be made to feel.

The Shoot, what to expect and how to prepare

On the shoot you’ll meet you photographer and have a brief chat about what happens next. They will probably get you to stand in a spot and may describe or demonstrate how they would like you to pose that suits your character and start shooting. While most photographers use flash if you suffer from photosensitive epilepsy or don’t like flashing lights let them know in advance as the last thing you want to have happen is suffer a seizure which would ruin your day. It might mean that they have to use the light inside the venue which may not be the best or use an LED light instead or just plain daylight.

Not all photographer’s know every character and pose so if you can practice some poses and have some reference photos (e.g. Pinterest) on your phone you can show them what your character would pose like which can be a great help to the photographer on a very hectic day. Try to have 3-4 poses that you can switch between to add some variation in the shots as you may be doing a lot of them throughout the day.

At the end of the shoot the photographer should show you some of the pictures taken on the back of the camera and they may hand you a card with their details on it. Try to keep hold of them as there’s nothing worse than having a great shoot but you can’t remember who the photographer was or find them later!

One suggestion is to add the cosplayer/photographer details to your Social Media account right after the shoot. Although sometimes this can also fail if they have lots of adds as by the time they start editing they might have forgotten who it was they were shooting with. Another potential solution would be to carry a card around with you with your cosplay page/Facebook/Instagram details and let them take a picture of you holding the card (a bit like a police mugshot) so they can tag you later.

I should mention that in some cases having a shoot with a photographer does not guarantee that you will receive any pictures back. It might be that your images are being used for other than editorial (media) content and possibly as advertising material for other clients without any payment or credit to you! If you’re approached by a photographer don’t be afraid to ask what the images will be used for and of you can have a copy of them and feel free to decline a shoot if you’re not happy with the response.

You need to keep in mind that there are many factors that come into play when shooting at an event, such as weather, poor lighting, overcrowding that can have an impact on the quality of pictures you may receive. Sometimes the dynamic between cosplayer and photographer just isn’t there and it can show in the final images. As with everything we all have our good and bad days.

Feel free to ask when the photos will be ready and do not hassle the photographer 5 mins after the event has ended (this does happen!). Cosplay photographers do not get paid to take photos and have day jobs and lives outside of photography! While a cosplayer’s work starts before the event, the photographer’s work starts after the event is over and they get home. Depending on how they edit it can easily take weeks before photos are ready and despite what some people might say we don’t just slap a filter onto a picture and call it a day!

Getting your photos back

How many pictures will you get back? When will I get them back? Well that depends on each photographer. Some photographers do “con dumps” of all the pictures within a day and others can take weeks, even months because of the sheer amount of editing that might need to be done. Personally I like to take quite a few shots to make sure that we have some good variations in poses and have enough to cope with the “blinkies” and other shots that could be unflattering moments. This means that there are a lot of duplicates of the same shot so I may pick anything from 1-3 shots to give back if its a quick shoot.

A lot of photographers post albums of images to the main Facebook cosplay groups e.g. UK Cosplay Community and some others depending on which ones they subscribe to. They also sometimes post albums back to the event’s page however depending on how big their editing backlog is the page may be deactivated by the time the images are ready.

Most people are just looking for a photo they can post to their social media so one from a Facebook album is usually good enough. Some cosplayers prefer high resolution copies, one preferred method is to send Dropbox links for the images to each cosplayer however this can be difficult to manage if more than 10 people are involved.

Personal Safety

While attending cons and getting your picture taken can be fun please be sure to follow some basic safety advice.

  1. If a photographer you do not know asks you to go to another location e.g. outside the venue, make sure that you take a friend or adult (if under 18) with you. If there is any objection from the photographer simply walk away or just say can we just shoot inside please and leave it at that.
  2. No photographer should touch you in any way or make improper/sexual remarks, ask you to pose in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or cause you to reveal more than you want to show. If they do stop the shoot and walk away. Ideally report the photographer to one of the event staff at the event or use the events phone app (MCM have one to report issues/harassment).
  3. If you are being harassed by someone or feel threatened call out for assistance or go up to one of the event staff and report it.
  4. If you see something suspicious e.g. trying to take indecent images, harassment etc., and have you smart phone to hand take a video or picture to use as evidence and present it to either the event staff or the Police if outdoors.
  5. If you see someone who looks like they are being harassed walk up to them (especially if you are in a group) and ask if they’re OK or having an issue with someone. If they say yes or give you any indication that they are not OK call for assistance from one of the event staff.

Credits/References

* https://www.wikihow.com/Get-over-Being-Camera-Shy

**Main picture credit: Darren Wood RAWPhotography

Saying Goodbye to Instagram rant

Goodbye Instagram

Goodbye Instagram

Like the saying goes “All good things come to an end” well I don’t know whether Instagram was *ever* good but their recent changes in the algorithm have made getting my work seen by people feel like a whole lot of effort for a whole lot of nothing.

Read more “Goodbye Instagram”
events

Getting Your Images back from an event

Getting Your Images back from an event (or why your pictures are not on social media an hour after it finished)

As an event photographer one of the things I’ve begun to notice is the race to be the first one to upload all of the pictures taken at an event within an hour of it finishing. Another side effect of that are people contacting the photographer asking “where are my pictures?” without any consideration for the photographer.

Read more “Getting Your Images back from an event”
events

February Update

February Update

Well it’s February and con season is about to start. So it’s time for an update on things happening here. After hiring a Nikon 24-70mm for the Doki Doki Festival last year I felt that I needed to get another lens so Christmas came and I blew my bonus on getting a used Nikon 85mm F1.8 lens (I can’t afford to drop £700+ for a used zoom lens) which I’m looking forward to giving it a thorough testing. The next lens I’ll be after is a 35mm f2 AF-D as it’s cheaper than the G version and it is still usable on my D800.

Nikon 85mm 1.8G

I’m also looking forward to getting back in the studio as I have a couple of private shoots scheduled which should be hard work but fun.

As for which cons I’ll be attending I’m looking at trying to go to some different and larger cons than those of last year. The important thing for me is to keep it fun, keep it fresh and mix things up a bit.

This time I will be creating an event for each con that we’ll be attending and possibly putting up a booking form to confirm who wants a shoot. I’ll be running the mini photoshoots again as they were well received as it give me more time to shoot with someone and try and get some better shots than the typical con type shots depending on the venue and weather.

And last but not least I have some new business cards featuring some of my most recent work. A big thankyou to Solopress for getting the cards printed so quickly, I love how they look.

Michael Wlach Photography New Business Cards
Model Credits: Left – Bex Lendon, Centre – Demi Hughes, Right – Tann-Marie and far right – Sebastian Holmes
cosplay

I’ve been published!

I’ve been published!

Well it’s nearly the end of 2018 and what a way to finish it. I’ve had one of my images published (with permission) by Cosplayzine which is an international magazine featuring cosplayers and photographers from all round the world.


A few weeks ago Miss Marvelite Cosplay contacted me about submitting a photo I took of her way back in February 2018 at the YCC Minicon in Stockbridge just outside of Sheffield. I was quite surprised that someone thought that my work was good enough for publication. Naturally I supplied a release form allowing her to submit the photo for publication and supplied hi-resolution copies.

I’ve ordered my copy of the magazine and I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival in the New Year. What a great way to end 2018 with! Thank you so much for your support this year.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you at events in 2019!

 

photography

Upping Your Game

Upping Your Game

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post but quite a few things have happened recently and I figured that this would be a good time to share some of my thoughts and experiences.

The one thing that grabs the attention of all photographers is that of the prospect of new gear. Since Photokina 2018 there has been an explosion of new products and camera models, some good, some not so and some where they have completely dropped the ball… (we all know who “they” are!) While many of us will be lusting after yet another lens, body, gadget or doo-dah in the hope that it will take our photography to another level. However, in all honesty all that we’re doing is acquiring stuff to solve a problem we believe we have.

Maybe it’s time for people to start thinking about upgrading the photographer rather than new gear every year. (Stacey K – DPReview.com)

When you have a limited budget (Like I do!) you need to make certain that your purchases are going to give you the best bang for your buck so to speak. There’s no point in buying something that will only get used a few times a year! When it comes to gear what you need is a solid workhorse which is usually not particularly glamorous or shiny. I recall someone saying on a forum that a professional photographer compared his camera to a toothbrush with the statement that “it gets the job done”.

While I have recently upgraded my own gear and moved away from a Panasonic Lumix GX-80 (Micro Four Thirds) to a Nikon D800 (Full Frame) camera along with the significant increase in cost I decided that it was also time that I “upgraded” myself and invest in some training to enhance my skills and try out different shooting styles.

To that end I paid to attend several workshops in studio lighting and portraiture at Richard Bradbury’s studio. Now I’m not drinking from the Jason Lanier kool-aid in that when I hear someone say they are a “natural light” photographer I reply with “oh that’s just because they don’t know how to use flash” because if you look at the history of art, all that the artists of the day had to work with was natural light be it sunlight, moonlight or candle light. There’s always been a sun in the sky (except when it’s night!) and it seems like a good thing to use when it’s in the right position. But natural light does have its limitations… and that’s where flash comes in!

Studio lighting was something that I have wanted to learn about for probably some 30+ years but for one reason or another just never found the time to get around to it. I recently set up a small home studio using speedlights and a few modifiers to create something that looks more pleasing to the eye and where the conditions are under my control (unlike live events). I’ve had good results but even after watching countless YouTube videos on lighting I was eager to learn more in an environment where I could see the different approaches that can be taken, and for this reason photography workshops can be ideal.

In addition to workshop training I also took advantage of a recent offer on Facebook and signed up for membership of The Photographer Academy which is run by Mark Cleghorn. I’ve seen a couple of videos by Mark on introduction to studio flash as well as his promo videos for Elinchrom and he comes across as an easy going but very knowledgeable working photographer. I’m looking forward to going through the content and seeing what I can incorporate into my work. I also use Serge Ramelli‘s turorials along with CreativeLive as additional resources because you can never have enough 😉

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy new gear (providing it does what you really *need* it to) but before you spend a load of cash on some new gear consider setting aside some cash towards investing in something that will have a greater long-term effect on your photography and that is training!

photography

What I want in my next camera…

What I want in my next camera…

Since I recently sold off my Panasonic Lumix GX80 to raise essential funds for potential University accommodation fees I have been wondering what features I would like in my next camera. The decision to sell off the GX80 was quite an easy one to make as it wasn’t getting as much use as I would have liked and in the time I owned it (just over a year maybe 18 months) I discovered some operational issues that made things harder than they needed to be. Read more “What I want in my next camera…”

photography

I’m not dead… at least not yet anyways…

Well it’s been about a month since my last post and with this being Mental Health Awareness week I thought I should give you an update on how things are with me. In the last week or so my mood has lifted somewhat from the realm of despair I have been stuck in, probably has something to do with the recent spell of sunny weather we’ve been having! I’m still convinced that the problem may be more deeply rooted than that but for now this will do.

“Latte’s may come and go but photos last forever!”

While things were not great I forced myself to complete some image editing I did at my last shoot with @Ukiyoproject. I spent several nights editing with my headphones plugged in and listening to some relaxation music from Tycho which I was really enjoying. I’ll post up a mini album of some of the shots on my Facebook page.

Photography wise I haven’t picked up the camera since “that” convention. I just wasn’t “feeling it” and it did feel like I’d lost my mojo.

I spent some time reading up on other peoples experiences on this and what things they tried to recover from a slump/burnout. I’ll be honest in that for a while I was seriously considering selling up all my gear and calling it a day, and I had been wrestling with these thoughts for a while but the thing is that I still love photography! I just need to find a way to get energised about it again… Sadly at present “Real Life™” is currently getting in the way with my car being out of action and trying to save up some serious cash to help with my eldest going off to University a year later than originally planned but that’s another story! I was planning on going to Oldham Comic Con 2 but unfortunately the car had to take priority. It’s still not fixed so I’ll be under the bonnet again this weekend cursing German “engineering”.

Because of the current situation I’ve had to drastically cut my convention schedule back because it is so expensive and with little in the way of donations through Ko.fi it’s hard to justify going to conventions when all you get is a “like” or a “sick pic bro lol” comment on an album of pictures you’ve worked on for several long evenings.

Which brings me to something that’s been bugging me for a while now. Recently there has been a number of Facebook posts circulating on how to support people without buying anything. Now while giving a “like” may give you a warm misplaced fuzzy feeling, you’re not actually doing anything that has any tangible benefit for that person e.g. paying for travel, tickets, food etc. I can appreciate if you donated to every photographer who took your picture at an event you would be broke, but spare a thought to the fact that you are getting a picture that is better than any smartphone can take using gear that costs more than you could afford for free. My personal view on free photographs are that they are not “free”, there is a cost involved which the photographer has to carry on their own. You wouldn’t hesitate to spent £3 on a posh coffee at Costa or Starbucks but baulk at paying the same for a picture. Just think of it like this… “Latte’s may come and go but photos last forever!”