Just over a year ago I started working with cosplay photographers and it’s one of the best choices I’ve made. It’s turned out to be a lot of fun and I’ve met some brilliant new people through it. With most things, the first year has thrown a lot of lessons at me, and those are what I want to share with you today.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am in no way an expert on the subject. I am not a model or a photographer. And I’ve only been doing this for a year. This is just a list of things I’ve personally learned in that year which I hope might help other people as well. Working with cosplay photographers is a brilliant thing which I highly recommend people try out.
1. Look through their previous work to figure out what costumes will probably work best with them – each photographer has a different output. Some may be bright and colourful (perfect for things like Disney Princesses or My Little Pony), while others may like to do more action poses (works well for various superheroes and baddies) and others may like to do a lot of effect edits (Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra characters, for example, could get good pictures from this). When you’ve found a photographer you like the look of, take a little look through their work and have a think about which of your cosplays their style may work best with.
2. If there’s a particular photographer you want to grab and you watch their Facebook page, you can set up notifications for when they make a post. Of course you will need to be in a position to receive Facebook notifications when they announce their shoot slots, but this is worth doing. Some photographers fill their spaces really fast, so you’ll need to get in quick, and setting an alert on your Facebook post for any updates they make can be a handy to help you with that. On a side note, doing this will also mean you receive updates for every post they make, most of which I imagine will be photo posts. Which I consider a great bonus because I love seeing everyone’s work.
Oh, how do you do it? Simple. Head on over to their page, hover your mouse over the ‘Liked’ tab and then select ‘Get Notifications’ from the drop-down menu which should appear.
3. Confirm your details – it’s handy just to confirm the time and meeting location of your shoot either the day before or on the morning of the convention. It can also be a good idea for a photographer and cosplayer to trade phone numbers to keep in contact with each other, both for confirming details and to easily reach one another should there be a problem. Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp can be handy for this too, but not everywhere will have good internet access. I’ve been to conventions where any wifi/3G/4G signal was shaky at best and sometimes non-existent, so it was much easier to have photographers numbers to text them instead.
4. Listen to their advice – a lot of the photographers I’ve worked with must have the patience of a saint because they often had to keep telling me to lift my chin. It’s now something I try to keep an especial eye on. Listen to posing advice like this. They’re trying to get the best out of you for your photos and are in the best position to do this, as the person looking through the lens. It can be a little frustrating to think that you keep falling back into whatever your little habit is but with some practice you will get better.
5. Not all your experiences will be positive – but hopefully they won’t be too negative either. Hopefully the worst thing to ever happen to you is you won’t get on with how the photographer works, don’t receive your pictures back, aren’t able to make the shoot for some reason, or something like that. For most things, you’ll just have to accept that it didn’t go that well and move on. There are plenty of other photographers out there who you will find you like working with.
6. Stay safe! – you will see this on every cosplay photography advice post but it’s important enough that you’ll see it on this one too. Please, please stay safe. Make sure other people know where you are. Have other people with you if you can. If a photographer wants to take you away from the convention environment and you’re not sure, don’t go. If a photographer doesn’t want anybody to come with you, that’s hella sketchy (on the flip side, anybody coming with you should just sit on the sidelines and wait and not interrupt the shoot – unless they seeing something very not okay going down). If a photographer starts making you uncomfortable in any way, end the shoot and get out of there! Thankfully I’ve never had this experience as I’ve always worked with photographers already known and liked within the UK cosplay community. And please don’t let these warnings put you off entirely. Photographers are some of the loveliest people I’ve met at cons and so, so many of them are 100% legit. Those who aren’t tend to get called out and pushed from the community pretty quick. Take care of yourselves.
7. Work with different photographers where you can (if you want) – You may have your little list of photographers who you enjoy working with and will try to shoot with when you can (like me). You may also want to keep an eye out for new people to work with for a new experience and maybe to shoot with again in future (also like me). Both are perfectly fine. I personally love to try to work with new photographers if I can grab them, but this doesn’t take away from my enjoyment with those who I usually try to book a slot with. It’s all down to you on this one.
8. Have a good handful of pose ideas in mind – some photographers will come to a shoot with ideas for poses you could do and some won’t. It all depends on the person and possibly how familiar they are with the character you’re cosplaying. Some will know the character and series you’ll be cosplaying from. Others won’t. Even if it’s a popular show such as Star Trek or Doctor Who, not everybody watches them so don’t go into a shoot expecting the photographer to know exactly how you should pose. While many photographers all have their own visions of what they want their work to look like, a lot of them want to work with you to get photographs that you want as well. So come into a shoot having a good idea of some poses you want to do. Write them down or print off pictures or save them on your phone to show them if you want. If you know where you’re shooting, having a few good ideas of how to incorporate your environment into your pictures can work really well too.
9. Thank your photographer – this is more a case of manners than anything else, and helps build good relations. Always thank your photographer after the shoot. Then once they post your pictures, comment thanking them again. If you had an especially good time and they have a Facebook page, maybe even leave a review or a comment on their wall saying so.
10. DO NOT ALTER THEIR IMAGES – I’ve not done this, but I saw some cosplayers post apologies to photographers on this issue before I did my first shoot. So that’s how I learned that this is a no-no (not that I would have, my Photoshop skills are… well they’re not). Each photographer has a different style of output and a vision they work towards for their photos. Do not take and further alter their work without permission. Some may offer to make any edits for you or some may let you play about with it to a certain extent. It all depends on the individual photographer, but never presume. For a start, it’s their picture.
11. Always ask about what their reposting policy is – most photographers won’t mind if you repost the photos to your cosplay page, Tumblr, Instagram, etc, as long as you credit them and don’t remove any watermarks. Always message a photographer just to double check what they do and do not mind. Like thanking your photographer, it’s just good manners to make sure. And when you repost, ALWAYS make sure that credit is there. You wouldn’t have those lovely cosplay photos if it weren’t for the photographer, so make sure people know who made that picture possible.
And that’s about it from me on this. A personal thank you to all the lovely photographers I’ve worked with during 2015! You’ve come back at me with some utterly gorgeous photographs and I adore every one of them. If anyone was thinking of working with photographers, it’s something I highly recommend. They’re crazy talented and a lot of fun as well.