How to get pictures at a Comic Con
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
While attending cons and getting your picture taken can be fun please be sure to follow some basic safety advice.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
**Main picture credit: Darren Wood RAWPhotography