Cosplay Photography at Conventions: Our Etiquette Guide

When you attend a comic book convention in cosplay you’re almost certainly going to be asked for a picture with someone. Some will be fans of the character and want a shot to show off to other fans while others might be professional photographers covering the event for a publication. Regardless of your experience level as a cosplayer or a photographer there are rules that we all must abide by. Behave in the correct way and you’ll both reap the benefits.

Man in school girl costume with camera

Image Source: quandom2

Cosplay used to be considered niche a few decades ago but it’s very much a mainstream hobby now. With the surging popularity of fan and comic book conventions came an increasing number of attendants wearing a costume. Seeing as the majority of people have a camera in their phone now the number of picture requests you’ll probably receive if you’re dressed in a costume has also increased. I’ll get to the point. If you’re in cosplay at a convention expect to be asked for your picture to be taken…. a lot.

I’m writing this guide to offer advice to both cosplayers and photographers. If both parties co-operate in a professional way we can all benefit. Here’s my list of advice for both sides.


Cosplayer Etiquette and Advice

Girl in cosplay posing for the camera.

Image Source: Ardella Cosplay

Most of us will know at least one person who’s had a negative experience when they’ve had pictures taken of them in their cosplay costume. Take it as a huge compliment that someone would want their picture taken with you or that a photographer wants to feature you on their blog.

  • A simple one to start. Be polite. If you don’t want a picture taken of you be honest and politely decline the request. If the photographer reacts negatively and starts to bother you report the incident to the event organisers or security.
  • Take charge. If you’re not into putting your arm around someone or having them do it to you take charge and tell them how to stand. Ask them to put their arms by their side and position yourself around or next to them.
  • Setup an email address and Facebook account just for your cosplay. Keeping your personal life and hobby separate is very important if you’re an active cosplayer. It allows you to retain a level of privacy and control the interaction that you have with fans.
  • Establish yourself with an alias or cosplayer name. This follows on from the previous tip. It’s about keeping your hobby and personal profiles apart.
  • Pass out flyers or a business card with your social media information on them. If you want a copy of the picture that’s been taken of you you’ll need to get in touch with the photographer or they’ll need to contact you. If you have a stack of flyers with your Facebook fan page and website link, twitter user name and email address on them photographers and fans can contribute their shots to you.
  • Know your character. It goes without saying that someone who knows their chosen character will likely portray them better (though this certainly isn’t always the case). Act the part and know how to pose. As a photographer I love taking shots of people who know how to pose. The shot looks infinitely better and is much quicker to get a picture I’m happy with. You might not get much time with each photographer so make every shot count.


Photographer Etiquette and Advice

An old camera

Image Source: ~The-KaBe-Art

Taking pictures at busy conventions with in demand cosplayers can be a real challenge. Thankfully it’s a challenge that can yield spectacular results.

The following advice should be noted by photographers from simple camera phone snappers all the way up to professional level.

  • Be polite. If you want to take a picture of someone in cosplay ask them nicely and they’ll likely agree to it. If they reject your request say thank you and move on.
  • Your approach is very important. If you wade in and demand a picture with someone you’re going to make a bad first impression and likely get your request turned down.
  • Be patient and wait your turn. If the cosplayer you want to photograph is talking with someone, being photographed by someone or being interviewed by someone else be respectful wait your turn.
  • Taking non-consensual shots won’t win you any friends. Nobody looks their best while they’re shoveling a burger into their mouth or jiggling up and down in the toilet queue. Leave your subject to finish retouching their makeup or chatting with fans before you take their picture.
  • Offer to take their picture after the event. No I don’t mean on a date or a trip back to your hotel room. Conventions can be really difficult places to get quality photographs due to the limited space and lighting. Instead a hotel reception area or a conference room make for perfect studio spaces. Invite a cosplayer to shoot later in the day and you might get better shots than at a convention centre.
  • Preview your shots. Once you’ve taken a picture of a cosplayer show them the image on your LCD display (if you have one on your camera). If they’re not happy with how they look they might want you to take another picture or two.
  • Take a stack of business cards with you to a convention and pass them out to the people you photography. Make sure that the website address of the place you intend to upload your pictures to is on the card. This way they can share the link with their friends and provide your site with extra visitors. If you haven’t got any business cards jump on your computer and print off 8-10 labels on an A4 page stating your blog address. They might not look as professional but they’ll do the job.


The Final Word

If you think that I’ve missed any important advice that should be included in the guide please do leave your own additions in the comments box below. I will moderate these so that we don’t have any repetition.

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About the Author: David Hayler

The owner of Otley Run Fancy Dress and a fancy dress guru. He's also an amateur photographer who has experience with cosplay and costume photography.

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