- Know Your Tools
I assume professional and hobbyist photographers already know how to use their cameras, but if you only bust out that DSLR a couple times a year, or if you’re using your phone’s camera, check out all the features it has available before the convention so that you’re ready at a moment’s notice. The minimum features you should know:
- Turning the camera on quickly: most phones have a quick-swipe in the lower right-hand corner of the lock screen; this is critical, as you don’t want to stop someone for a photo just to waste time opening the camera!
- Focusing: usually just a tap of the screen on the focal point
- Flash: know how to adjust this for different lighting conditions; bright flash can make photos look washed out, so it may be best just to turn it off
- Actually taking a picture: no joke; I’ve seen it happen
- Background Information
There’s only so much you can do about people walking by, but please, for the love of god, spare a moment to check out what’s in the background of the photo! Spilled drinks, trash cans, someone scratching their crotch – these do not make for good photos. Watch out for signs, too, because an ill placed sign can make your photo look like an ad rather than art. Try to avoid having a background the same color as the costume, too, as it will make the edges of the costume appear indistinct.
While there’s often little you can do about it, be aware of backlighting because light behind the subject will not only distract from the subject, but also blur the photo. The view from the convention center window might be a lovely backdrop, but the backlighting will likely lose you a lot of detail from the front of the costume. Whenever possible, keep light sources at the photographer’s back.
- Hold It Right There!
That superhero pose may show off your character’s badass moves, but most people take photos with their phones, which typically can’t adjust shutter speed fast enough to keep up. Even a lot of professional photographers aren’t set up for fast shutter speeds as they walk the con floor, so the subject needs to choose a pose and hold it for several seconds to make sure the photographer is able to get a good shot. It’s also best to look at the camera while the photo is being taken, but that won’t always be possible if there are several cameras going at once.
This advice goes for photographing, too – I’ve seen people take photos while they are still walking, moving their phone, talking to someone, etc. There is no way that won’t come out blurry!
- Face Front
Even if a character’s signature pose is at an angle, standing in profile to the photographer means photos will miss a large portion of the costume. If you have time to do a few poses, great, angle away! But start out with a frontal pose that can show off more of the costume. This goes for props, too: be sure to turn your axe/bag/wand/chainsaw/whatever so that its “good side” is most visible.
- Practice Your Poses
It’s worth it to spend a little time in front of a mirror practicing poses before people are taking photos of you if you want to have good photos. You won’t be able to see yourself during photography, so you’ll need to rely on body memory to hold your pose correctly, position your props, or get the right facial expression. It’s also best to make sure poses look the way they feel: an exuberant hero pose can look like you’re flailing; that sinister glare may just come off as sleepy. Best to check.
- Get Out of the Way!
Conventions are generally packed affairs and everyone attending should be able to enjoy themselves, so please be aware of the people around you and don’t block others. Vendors and exhibitors usually have to pay good money to show their wares at conventions, so avoid stopping for long periods in front of booths unless you’re talking with the proprietor or buying something. For safety reasons, as well as common courtesy, step out of thoroughfares so people can get by and bottlenecks don’t form. If a costume or prop is particularly large or sticks well out from your body, be mindful of that fact and stand well away from people and objects you might accidentally bump into. This has the added bonus of protecting your costume from damage!
- Tag, You’re It!
If you’re planning on posting your photos online (we know you are, don’t lie), ask/offer to tag people whenever possible. Some people won’t want their image all over the internet, others will want to share their work. All artists deserve recognition for their work, and people who run cosplay-related businesses often rely on conventions to advertise their skills. The word-of-mouth advertising social media provides can be invaluable to people with online businesses, so do a friend a favor!