There are four location types for shooting cosplay photos. Each has its own style, and each has its pros and cons.
The types are:
- Convention Hallway photography
- Convention scheduled shoot
- Cosplay Gathering shoot
- Non-Convention shoot
I covered the first two types in my previous post. This week I’ll cover the third, and my next post will cover the fourth.
Cosplay Gatherings are events where a group of cosplayers decide to meet up at a local park, zoo, or other area attraction. Frequently, these social gatherings are held at scenic locations that make great backgrounds for photo shoots. For photographers, they’re great places to meet and shoot with cosplayers away from the craziness and stress of a convention.
In many ways, cosplay gatherings combine the best aspects of convention hallway shooting and convention scheduled shoots. Like with hallway shooting, you don’t have to know any cosplayers in advance, and it doesn’t require any preplanning or scheduling. Like with scheduled shoots, you have a much better choice of backgrounds, and you can spend more time composing each shot.
Because of the informal nature of most gatherings, there are several ways you can shoot them. Some of the gathering shooting styles I’ve seen include:
- Candid photos of cosplayers having fun.
- Quick, hallway-style shots of each cosplayer.
- 5-10 minute mini-shoots. Most photographers do these with natural light or a reflector, but, depending on the location, some will set up mini-studios in one corner of the gathering, complete with umbrellas or softboxes.
- 30+ minute full shoots, where the photographer and cosplayer walk around the venue taking pictures in various pretty locations. If you’ve never done a non-convention shoot before, this type of gathering shoot is a good way to learn the skills you will need.
Safety Warning: Do not go someplace alone with a cosplayer you don’t know! Bring a friend along! Yes, even if you’re a big strong guy! (Then you can put your friend to work as a lighting assistant too!) Cosplayers, this also applies to you too! Almost everyone you meet at a gathering would never do anything bad, but it only takes one bad person…
Gatherings do have a number of downsides. Because gatherings are in public, some types of costumes are inappropriate. Also, many cosplayers will save their best (and usually most uncomfortable) cosplays for large conventions. Gatherings, being social events, are usually for less complicated and more comfortable cosplays. Gatherings also have much smaller attendance than most conventions; for example, Northern California gatherings usually have 60-120 people, as compared to Fanime’s 15,000. Finally, while gatherings are usually held in scenic locations, you’re still limited to the selected venue; for example, finding a good background to shoot a robot pilot cosplay in the middle of a park can be a challenge.
Finding a gathering near you can also be a challenge. Gatherings are usually not as well advertised as conventions, and depending on where you live, there may not be any near you. Generally, locations with large cosplay communities like Seattle or San Jose will have regular cosplay gatherings; people in smaller communities will have fewer options. Gatherings are usually advertised on regional cosplay Facebook groups, on cosplay.com and other cosplay-oriented websites, and on the forums of regional anime conventions.
You should choose the gear you bring based on the shooting style you plan on using. For example, when I was planning on doing mainly full shoots, I brought a portable softbox and a fast (large aperture) prime lens. When I was planning on doing studio-style mini-shoots, I brought my preferred studio lens, studio strobes and a large battery pack. The key is to bring the equipment to match the style you’re going to shoot, and then shoot in a style that matches your equipment.
I highly recommend that all cosplay photographers with nearby gatherings should go and attend them! If you don’t, you are missing out on a prime opportunity to take some great photos, meet cosplayers, and learn from other cosplay photographers.
In my next post, I’ll wrap up this series on shoot locations with a discussion of non-convention shoots.