I’ve been attending Science Fiction and other genre conventions for about 20 years. For half of that time, I’ve been engulfed in photography as a hobby. I am constantly striving to improve my work, but I will agree that the quality of my photos are pretty good. You can learn the technical stuff in school and through research. Yes, you should understand the rule of thirds and a bit of color theory, but one thing that will improve your photography is to make a connection with your model. It sounds cliche, as this theme is constantly repeated when learning portraiture, but it holds true every time.
Ask and you will receive.
People who dress up in costumes in public usually love to have their photo taken. They have put a lot of work into their outfits, and want to show them off. But I said usually. It’s not always the case. I’m shocked to this day that so many photographers simply don’t ask permission before shooting someone. That connection you’re trying to establish begins with saying hi and asking if its alright to take a photo. Sometimes you will get turned down, and that’s alright. You are a stranger to them, and they may not want you to take their photo. Don’t take it personally.
Take your own damn pictures.
A lot of amateur photographers (and some professionals too) get into the habit of jumping on someone else’s shot. I’ve been guilty of this, but it’s really not right and is actually kind of rude. If you see a photographer working with a cosplayer, model or celebrity and they have set up a specific pose, look or scene, don’t stick your camera next to the photographers head and snap your own photo. First of all, it’s rude. Second of all, the subject isn’t connecting with you, so they may be caught looking off camera resulting in an odd photo. Finally, you might be distracting the subject who may move thinking the shot is over when they see your flash. At conventions, there’s not a lot of time, so re-shooting until you get it right isn’t always possible.
Manage Group Shots.
The same sort of issues occur when shooting group shots. Everyone is lined up and you take the shot. When you look at the photo, everyone’s eyes are pointed in a different direction! This happens to me all the time. The remedy is easy, but you have to open your mouth and make sure everyone hears you. Clearly let everyone know that you’ll be shooting multiple photos and point to one of the photographers and have everyone look at them. When they’re done, point to the next photographer, and work your way down the line until everyone who wanted a shot gets one and has the attention of all the participants at the moment the shutter clicks. Everyone will be more grateful in the end.
Here’s a quick checklist you can follow to make sure your photos come out better!
1. Have your camera ready. Turn on your flash and dial in the appropriate settings (or just set your camera to Auto). Be ready to go!
2. Be patient. You don’t want to be rushed when its your turn. Don’t rush others.
3. Ask for permission. Don’t be a creeper. Be courteous and professional, even if you’re turned down.
3. After the photo, share your card (So many people have told me they have tons of photos taken, but rarely ever see any of them).
4. Take a photo of their business card right away if they give you one. Later, you can match up the photo to the person.
5. Don’t forget to follow up with an email to thank them and include a copy of their photo (or link to your album).
And of course, feel free to leave your experiences below. I’d love to hear from both the perspective of the photographer as well as the cosplayers in the community.