Better Cosplay Photos: Where Can I Shoot Cosplay? Part 2

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

Studio-style shot from the Spring 2012 NorCal Gathering. Cosplayer: Rose. Photo by OscarC Photography.

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:

Natural light shot from the Spring 2011 NorCal Gathering. Cosplayer: Bekalou. Photo by OscarC Photography.

  • 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…

Natural light shot from the Summer 2011 NorCal Gathering. Cosplayer: Bekalou. Photo by OscarC Photography.

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.

Environment-lit shot from the Winter 2011 NorCal Gathering. Cosplayer: Angelx624. Photo by OscarC Photography.

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.

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About OscarC Photography

Oscar has been a convention and cosplay photographer since 2001. You can follow him on Facebook as OscarC Photography and on deviantArt as ocwajbaum.
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5 Responses to Better Cosplay Photos: Where Can I Shoot Cosplay? Part 2

  1. Pingback: Where Can I Shoot Cosplay (part 2): Cosplay Gatherings | Somewhere In The World

  2. darkpierrot says:

    Well said! I really enjoy the private shoots we get with photographers at cons. However, I often find it difficult to book photographers who is near me/ or at the con I’m going to. Are there any database other than cosplay.com’s advertisements that let you review a photographer’s portfolio and availability?

    I also feel bad changing locations at shoots because photographers are always carry so many things with them >.<

    • Yunie says:

      You know, I’ve been wondering about that myself. I’ll have to look around and see, but maybe Oscar may know. 😀

    • Some photographers will advertise their shoot availability on their Facebook pages, dA, or other sites like that, but many others (myself included) usually won’t, because it frequently leads to a flood of requests from people who end up flaking.

      The key to booking shoots is to build working relationships with photographers whose work you like. Look at their site/page to see what conventions they went to last year, and message them privately if you want a shoot at a convention that they may be at. Don’t be discouraged if they say no — most cosplay photographers I know get many more requests for shoots than they have time for. Once you do a shoot with a photographer, it’s usually much easier to book a second shoot, assuming the first went reasonably well.

      If you can’t find a photographer near you on Facebook or dA or at a gathering, walk around a convention looking for photographers doing shoots. When they’re not in the middle of a shoot, ask them if they have time to do a shoot of you. Again, don’t be discouraged if they say no — they have another shoot to go to, or they may need a break. Keep looking!

      if the photographer is OK with changing locations, then it shouldn’t be a problem. It never hurts to ask! Unless I’m tied down for some reason, I don’t mind moving to a new location if it will result in better photos! (And I think most cosplay photographers feel the same.) Shooting everything in one location gets boring too.

      • darkpierrot says:

        Thank you so much for the in depth reply. I have found some photographers I really like, however, it is always a challenge to find new ones when the ones you know are not present at the events you attend. I wish there was a social network for photographers that could show their con/event schedules and possibly portfolio at the same time.

        Thanks again,
        Your answer was very helpful! 😀

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