Cosplay Photography – Some Tips Before You Shoot!

So, I’ve been noticing a lot of sketchiness when it comes to photographers and cosplayers lately, and wanted to write something about it. (Seriously, a lot of photographer-audience cosplay articles come off like pick up artist articles!) Have a lot of thoughts to organize, so apologies if this ends up being sort of disjointed.

First, a little background. I’ve run my own business for over 2 decades, and many years of that was in the fashion industry. (As a designer, I dealt with models, photographers, pro shoots, etc) While I’m not a lawyer, I’ve run the business side of my husband’s photography business for years, dealing with contracts, copyright, arranging photo shoot logistics, and more.

As a cosplayer AND business owner, I understand that having someone express interest in you and your work can be exciting… but please exercise a little caution in proceeding!

Before the Shoot:

– Before agreeing to a shoot, familiarize yourself with the photographer’s work and personality. Do their photos look professional? Do they conduct themselves – and present their photography business in a professional manner? Would you feel proud to have your image on their site, or is every second image of the exact same poorly-lit pose, across multiple photo shoots? If every shot is aimed straight at the chest, and/or down the cosplayer’s shirt – and that’s not what you’re going for – it’s probably better to find a photographer with a different .. uh.. artistic vision .

– Get references, preferably from people you know. Ask how the photographer was to work with, and how happy the model was with their photos.

– ASK QUESTIONS… ideally, in writing. Email is great!

– Have a clear idea of what is expected of the shoot. Is there a theme? Does the photographer have a clear idea of what they want, or is it a “Let’s just go out and get some pics somewhere” type thing? Will they be bringing professional lighting? A clear plan is best, obviously!

– Ask about your photographer’s experience with the planned shoot. As an example, outdoor shoots can be challenging, from a lighting perspective. Certain locations may require a photography permit – has the photographer looked into / obtained any necessary permits, or at least know how & when to?

– Be clear on what is expected in terms of payment. Are they paying you? Are you paying them? Are they “paying” for your time with images, and if so, will they be high res?

– IF A PHOTOGRAPHER IS ASKING THAT MODELS BE 18+, THERE IS PROBABLY A REASON FOR IT. Ask what that reason is. It could be that they plan to be raunchy with the photos, it could be that they have certain plans for the use of the photos (see next point!), or it could be that they’re just very inexperienced and don’t have plans for a parent to be able to sign a release for a minor.

– Get a contract. Any legit photographer will have a good contract prepared. READ IT. Pay special attention to usage rights (both yours and theirs) and compensation. Do not agree to anything you are not comfortable with. I’ve seen / heard of way too many instances of people signing away their rights, and only realizing it when they hear of their image being sold on, say, body pillows. Don’t be that person! Make sure you both keep signed copies of the contract.

– NEVER go to a photo shoot alone. Have a friend with you for the duration of the shoot. This is sound advice for any shoot, but is especially important when it comes to cosplay. Restrictive costumes, ridiculous footwear… it can make a cosplayer an easy target.

On the day of the shoot:

– If your character has any signature poses, be sure to print out some photos to help out with posing!

– Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Bring all of the makeup you need for your character, and extras of everything – tights, bobby pins, etc. If possible, bring a repair kit. DEFINITELY bring a sensible pair of shoes, if you’ll be walking between different locations, or on weird terrain. Bring bug spray and sun screen, and plan for the weather!

– Bring some snacks and water. Take breaks. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated, etc!

After the shoot:

– When the photographer provides you with a CD of digital images, make sure that you also get a signed print release with it. Without it, you may not be able to have the images professionally printed.

As a final note:

Remember, you get what you pay for. Photo shoots take a LOT of time, much of which is time you don’t see. Planning the shoot, preparing contracts, selecting and packing equipment, hauling and setting up lighting… packing it all up, hauling it back, and post production. While helping someone build a portfolio can be fun – and MAY net you a few decent photos – don’t overlook a photographer because they are actually charging for photos.

For talented professionals, time is money – and you’ll likely see a huge bang for that buck. Paying for a shoot usually means the difference between getting photos from a point and shoot camera (and/or onboard flash), and getting a professionally lit final product. The difference is night and day (sometimes literally so!)

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