Go Back   Cosplay.com > Cosplay Photography > Photo Tutorials

Reply
Thread Tools Rating: Thread Rating: 17 votes, 5.00 average.
Unread 02-12-2010, 02:55 AM   #1
Elemental
I do that photo thing...
 
Elemental's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,156
Tips and Tricks for shooting at a convention

As a lot of photogs here have learned (or already knew), shooting at a convention is one of the toughest things to do. The lighting is bad, the location is crowded, and usually the space is pretty ugly. Here’s a list of things I’ve found that make it easier to get better photos at a con. Please add in your own tips and tricks as well!

1: Get to know the hotel/con centre and scout out locations beforehand.
I love arriving at cons on Thursday when possible, but even early Friday can be a huge help figuring out the layout of the con and where most of the traffic is likely to be. This is the time I find any neat nooks and crannies, staircases, green spaces and everywhere that isn’t a hallway to take photos in. The earlier I can have a mental list of places to go, the sooner I can start shooting in them. (And as the con gets more crowded, I want to take photos of the cosplayers, not look around at the architecture.)

2: Anywhere people aren’t is a potential location.
I usually don’t want random con-goers in my photos if I’m doing a specific shoot, which means moving out of the main halls. If I’m using portrait lenses I usually need space to step back from my model too, so positioning them up against a wall and shooting close isn’t always an option (or a good photo).
I love shooting in parking garages,
emergency staircases (if the door doesn’t say ‘alarm will sound’ you’re good to go),
staff access corridors,
bathrooms,
indoor pools,
outdoor pools,
giant piles of dirt at the outdoor construction site outside the con,
silly tiny green areas,
storage rooms,
banquet halls,
hotel restaurant and bars.
These shots come from cons that range in attendance from 1000 to 25000 people, so it doesn’t matter how crowded the con is – you can find dead space.

3: When all else fails, go for a blank wall.
Sometimes (often) at a con, I’ll be shooting a costume that really just doesn’t fit the location. A blank backdrop can showcase the costume, without being too incongruous. ‘Blank’ backdrops don’t have to be a plain white walls either – hotel paintings, floors, metallic walls, grass, strange sculptures and when the con has ‘installation’ things they’re useful too.
I also adore concrete and textured walls. A lot. One of my convention staples are simple concrete-backed portraits.

4: Look up, look down.
Some of my best photos have come from looking at the floor I was walking on, or the ceiling above us. The trick is to make sure I watch the angle the cosplayers are at, to prevent things looking awkward.

5: Learn your flash, Learn your camera.
When you have an additional (swivel-head) flash, practice bouncing it of walls and ceilings to get more flattering light on your cosplayers (and using a diffuser helps). If you’re using on-camera flash, learn how to adjust your flash, or compensate for lack of light. Know how to adjust your ISO, your Aperture and your Focus if possible, so you can use your camera best in any situation/location.

6: Carry a flashlight or a bright cellphone.
Often places not quite a part of the con are too dark for my camera to focus in. I often put a cellphone next to my model’s face (or use a flashlight) and then lock the focus to that while they hide the phone. It works wonders (and lets me get shots in areas otherwise way too dark to be usable.)

7: Blotting sheets save Photoshop hours.
Seriously. A small pack of these are always in my camera case, and anytime I start to notice shine I ask if the cosplayer has powder to touch up their makeup. If not, I’ll hand them a few of these sheets. They remove a lot of shine without messing up makeup and help save me the time in PS fixing the problem.

8: BE NICE
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be super, obnoxiously polite (but firm) at a convention. I’ve been allowed to continue shooting in more spaces, been shown how to get to places that are off limits, and have even had security block off a hallway so I could finish a shoot simply because I’ve presented myself as willing to compromise and being unwilling to cause any harm. When shooting in a space that people need to walk through I always keep an eye out for traffic (or have spotters to warn me when people want to walk through). Now that I use a ‘professional looking’ camera, I find people are more likely to wait for me to finish before passing though. This can be a problem if I plan to use a walkway for the next 20 minutes. I take the shot if it’s set up – but then thank the people waiting and assure them they can go on through. When they apologize, I assure them I’m in their way, not the other way around, and when they’re clear I go back to shooting. (This means any con staff who are considering kicking me out because I’m causing problems can overhear that I’m not, and often leave me be.)

If security starts hanging around, I snag a few photos but then go talk to them – I ask if it’s all right that I snag some photos here, and promise not to cause any trouble/mess/issue. I make sure I’m not shy about it, just firm and friendly. Often I get security who’re extras hired for the con who aren’t sure of the rules and like to default to ‘no’. If they hesitate, I stress I’m just taking a few photos and won’t be any trouble at all. Pair that with a smile and nod and 9 times out of 10 I find I’ve been allowed to continue what I’m doing without being kicked out of spaces I should not have been in. That said, if security comes yelling or screaming, or are already in a foul mood for us sneaking where we shouldn’t be – I just take it in stride and leave. I always have backup places to shoot in (re #2).

(There was the time at ACEN security thought they had a suicide jumper because we were doing shots on a ledge... or the time a hotel security guard told us how to get around the pool lock so we could shoot at the pool area we didn't have access to otherwise. You'll always get both sorts.)

Hope this helps give you some ideas for shooting at cons – and I hope the other photogs will add their input too.

Last edited by Elemental : 02-12-2010 at 01:07 PM.
Elemental is offline   Reply With Quote
 
Unread 02-12-2010, 03:04 AM   #2
Tenchi Fan
The PENTAX guy
 
Tenchi Fan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 633
Tenchi Fan is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 03:59 AM   #3
Hexlord
The N. Meister
 
Hexlord's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 187
I love your tips! Mainly because you took the trouble to compile all the information into one easy to understand post. ^^
__________________
Black Rabbit Photography
Blog | DeviantArt | Facebook | Multiply
Hexlord is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 04:48 AM   #4
ivondudley
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 5
You've linked to some of your pictures there, they're really good
ivondudley is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 12:16 PM   #5
Sorge
Plush Maker
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 13
Thanks for the tips!
Sorge is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 12:40 PM   #6
TykeJack
envisageu.deviantart.com
 
TykeJack's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 500
I think you've covered everything very well. I will add that it is also worthwhile to be patient for a cosplayer to get the shots you want. If I find someone I want to shoot at a con and they are currently posing for the bazillion photographers near the area, I'll stand next to the photographers and wait until they are all finished. Afterward, I'll ask if the cosplayer will be willing to take a few pictures with me and ask if they don't mind moving to another location. I have easily waited over 20 minutes but it is worth it to get the photos you want.

Usually I just take them to an area within 30 feet or so because I don't feel like I want to impose on them. My question to you, Elemental, is if you meet someone at a con do you arrange an appointment to shoot at a hotel or do you convince them to follow you back there? I'm just not certain how people will respond if I ask them to walk half a mile, especially since I'm just one out of hundreds of photographers.

Also, be sure to bring extra batteries and an extra memory card.
TykeJack is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 01:29 PM   #7
Elemental
I do that photo thing...
 
Elemental's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,156
Quote:
Originally Posted by TykeJack View Post
...I'll ask if the cosplayer will be willing to take a few pictures with me and ask if they don't mind moving to another location. I have easily waited over 20 minutes but it is worth it to get the photos you want.

Usually I just take them to an area within 30 feet or so because I don't feel like I want to impose on them. My question to you, Elemental, is if you meet someone at a con do you arrange an appointment to shoot at a hotel or do you convince them to follow you back there? I'm just not certain how people will respond if I ask them to walk half a mile, especially since I'm just one out of hundreds of photographers.
What I usually do is approach and ask if they'll do photos with me, and then ask if they won't mind moving over 'here' (a small distance away to a blank space). We do a few shots, and I show them the photos. If they seem interested in the photos, I'll introduce myself and ask if they'd be interested in maybe moving to a nicer location. Having a photo of the space in mind on my camera is always helpful too.
The trick is to be reasonable - I always work in the hotel the con is attached to or inside, and only suggest outdoor locations if it's on the hotel/convention property (when it's a cosplayer I don't know). So, "Lets go to the hotel lobby and shoot by the piano, your friends can come too' is usually better received than "Let's hit this creepy alley two blocks away, your friends can wait here".

If they don't have time right now, I often give them my cell # (not the other way around) and say that they can text me when they are free and we can schedule a shoot then. This is a lot less 'creepy' than asking for their number off the bat too.

Since I often attend cons and see the same cosplayers, I can do a 'safe' piano shoot the first time we work together, but maybe next time I see them they know who I am (and have seen the published photos) and are more willing to go further for cooler photos.

(It helps that I have such a big body of work on coscom these days and do my best to get my name out on dA and other venues - because word of mouth means I can sometimes just tell someone who I am, and they already know they can trust me because I've shot their friends. I'll admit being a girl helps too.)
Elemental is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 03:08 PM   #8
mrgetalife
Foxkeh Says Hi!
 
mrgetalife's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 596
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elemental View Post
6: Carry a flashlight or a bright cellphone.

7: Blotting sheets save Photoshop hours.
I carry a flashlight usually myself but more to look for things I drop. But I think all DSLR's have a AF-Assist light built in the body these days and I rarely shoot in a range where that doesn't reach.

And Blotting sheets. Had to be a girl that brings it up J/K I have a pack in the bag after i kept seeing a coworker constantly using them and found out what they were used for.
mrgetalife is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 03:18 PM   #9
Ginny
Bad Wolf
Special Agent
 
Ginny's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 1,051
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elemental View Post
What I usually do is approach and ask if they'll do photos with me, and then ask if they won't mind moving over 'here' (a small distance away to a blank space). We do a few shots, and I show them the photos. If they seem interested in the photos, I'll introduce myself and ask if they'd be interested in maybe moving to a nicer location. Having a photo of the space in mind on my camera is always helpful too.
The trick is to be reasonable - I always work in the hotel the con is attached to or inside, and only suggest outdoor locations if it's on the hotel/convention property (when it's a cosplayer I don't know). So, "Lets go to the hotel lobby and shoot by the piano, your friends can come too' is usually better received than "Let's hit this creepy alley two blocks away, your friends can wait here".

If they don't have time right now, I often give them my cell # (not the other way around) and say that they can text me when they are free and we can schedule a shoot then. This is a lot less 'creepy' than asking for their number off the bat too.

Since I often attend cons and see the same cosplayers, I can do a 'safe' piano shoot the first time we work together, but maybe next time I see them they know who I am (and have seen the published photos) and are more willing to go further for cooler photos.

(It helps that I have such a big body of work on coscom these days and do my best to get my name out on dA and other venues - because word of mouth means I can sometimes just tell someone who I am, and they already know they can trust me because I've shot their friends. I'll admit being a girl helps too.)
This is also where the being polite is essential. One photographer last AX asked my friend and I if he could take some photos. We said sure and he asked if we'd follow him to a good spot. We agreed. We trailed across the entire main part of the convention, up two stories, trailing my fiance and friend with us. But the photographer kept spotting people he knew and making us stop and wait while he talked to random people. It became pretty rude. Then when we finally got to where we were shooting, he kept answering his cell phone. Double rude.

If you ask someone for photos, let them be your priority until you are done. Find a place, take your shots, done. Don't assume other people have time to waste because you do.
__________________
GinnyMcQueen.com
Ginny is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 04:35 PM   #10
TykeJack
envisageu.deviantart.com
 
TykeJack's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 500
Elemental, I never thought about asking a cosplayer to do more photos at another time. That's great advice and probably the first time I ever pulled anything useful from these threads, WHICH IS AWESOME.

I agree Ginny. I don't cosplay, but I would have told him that he clearly has better things to do and then walk away. Cons have a superfluous number of photographers so when I get a chance to take a photo I really want, I make it my priority.
TykeJack is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 04:54 PM   #11
andyRak
Freelance Photographer
 
andyRak's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 122
Wow very well written. Really appreciate your afford in putting together this article of tips! I'm sure it's gonna be very helpful for cosplay photographers and cosplayers everywhere
__________________
"People buy ideas, they don't buy photographs"

-- Annie Leibovitz

Homepage: http://andyrakphoto.com
DeviantART: http://andy-rak.deviantart.com/
andyRak is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 08:20 PM   #12
ByeByeBeautiful
angels have the phonebox
 
ByeByeBeautiful's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 235
Happy to have a handy bullet-point outlay of your convention talks, Elemental!

Not really ground-shaking tips to follow, but they're useful (mostly to do with care and feeding of subjects. ^_^) -
* Know where the closest water supply is
* Carry granola bars
* Don't bother cosplayers when they are eating. If it's a good costume, you can wait ten minutes.


Quote:
8: BE NICE
a-MEN!

Quote:
Sometimes u get a group of people where a few really stand out to you. and the others don't. And you don't want to be rude or anything.

I remeber last year at the az it was like that for me. I just asked the one girl if i could get her pic. She was polite and said yes. So i got a few of her. THanked her and walked off. Her friend was cosplaying as well but i just didn't like the over all look of her outfit. So i didn't take her photo. But she got snappy with me and said "excuse me" so instead of being rude. I just politely took a pic of her and said. Of i must of missed you I'm sorry. How do u guys keep fron that?
Memory is cheap and abundant. If I'm photographing someone who's got friends, I snag a picture of them too. Doesn't hurt, and keeps everybody happy! Who knows - it may be the only time they've been asked for a picture all day!
ByeByeBeautiful is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-12-2010, 10:11 PM   #13
tfcreate
Behind the lens since 68
 
tfcreate's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 994
Quote:
Originally Posted by ByeByeBeautiful View Post
Happy to have a handy bullet-point outlay of your convention talks, Elemental!


Memory is cheap and abundant. If I'm photographing someone who's got friends, I snag a picture of them too. Doesn't hurt, and keeps everybody happy! Who knows - it may be the only time they've been asked for a picture all day!
There is almost always something good in these photos that you didn't expect.
Every time you get the chance to snap a photo, TAKE IT.

Often you will be pleasantly surprised.
TFC
__________________
~A fool can learn from his own mistakes..The wise learn from the mistakes of others.~ Democritus
It's pointless to brag about equipment.
Repeat what you see in my posts and you'll sound really smart


Rules for life: Rule #7
Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are.
Anime Midwest Anime Chicago Chicago Comicon
Anime Iowa
tfcreate is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-14-2010, 02:21 AM   #14
peiqinglong
Pro Photographer
 
peiqinglong's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 163
A lot of great and useful tips! Excellent work!
__________________
Website: http://cosplayphotographers.com

Become a fan on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.
peiqinglong is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 02-14-2010, 01:13 PM   #15
Av4rice
shameless photo whore
 
Av4rice's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 489
1) Don't forget to eat--you'll need the fuel.
2) Eat when everyone else is eating. You're going to be missing part of your floor time no matter what, so you might as well make it the time when the crowd is thinnest anyway.
__________________
Jon
shotwhore

Last edited by Av4rice : 02-14-2010 at 08:23 PM.
Av4rice is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:34 AM.


Copyright 2002-2013 Cosplay.com, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
All comments and posts in our forums are the opinion of the respective poster.