Panel Discussion at Comikaze on Taking Pictures of Cosplayers

David Lucchesi speaking

David Lucchesi speaking

Last week, a panel discussion was held in Los Angeles on photography and cosplay. Moderated by Bill Watters, “Event Photography and Cosplay” was held on Sunday of last week at the annual Stan Lee’s Comikaze and featured Al Ortega, Mike Tuffely, Kevin Green, Dave Lucchesi, Geri Kramer, and Ivy Doomkitty. While most of the panelists were photographers, Doomkitty is a cosplayer and her presence helped to provide a voice from the other side of the camera.

One question put to the panel was if they used pictures immediately or of they did post-production on their work. Lucchesi said he does maybe sight color correction, “maybe a crop, brightening eyes or teeth a little, cleaning up makeup.” But, for the most part, most of the stuff he takes, he doesn’t need a lot of post-production work. Green says he’ll do color correction, maybe a little touch-up, but he doesn’t do a lot of post-production. Most of the panel said they used LightRoom, although some of them used PhotoShop when it comes to adjusting pictures. Ortega said he usually has a 12-hour window to submit pics, so he uses PhotoShop, since it’s quicker. Tuffely said, for “the vast majority of convention pictures,” he doesn’t do a lot of post-production, since he keeps an eye on his backgrounds. Ortega advised to never shoot straight into a window, if needed, shoot at an angle. Lucchesi advised that, when adjusting vibrance and saturation that saturation will mess with your skintones, which is bad, while vibrance will keep skintones. As to which types of files they like to shoot their pictures, most of the panelists shot RAW files, unless they are contracted to shoot JPEGs.

Al Ortega speaking

Al Ortega speaking

When it comes to shooting at conventions, sometimes crowds can form and, as a photographer, you need to help a cosplayer, especially those who are more scantily-clad, get back to their booth. Some great advice dispensed was that it is best to ask the handlers of cosplayers to see if there is time for a shoot at a convention – best to let them know that you’re not just after the cosplayer. Ortega said that it is definitely “a best practice to ask the handler, which is a whole process. It’s best to get to know them. Otherwise, it can get really creepy.”  Watters said, “It’s mostly considered ‘run and gun’ at conventions. It’s more of a symbiotic relationship, so I don’t charge for pics at conventions.” Furthermore, said Watters, “Photographers should not charge for pictures at conventions.” Adding to that, Ortega said that “anytime you do it for money/business, the passion goes out”, which is a great loss.

Kevin Green speaking while Al Ortega takes a picture

Kevin Green speaking while Al Ortega takes a picture

As to shooting cosplayers off-site, Lucchesi likened it to a relationship: “we meet, we start to date and then we fall in love. The first 15 minutes of a shoot, we’re just getting to know each other, then you fall in love and they’re great.” To this, Doomkitty, who has been cosplaying for a couple years (since San Diego Comic-Con 2012), added, “It’s so true!” Watters said “There’s always going to be a nervousness and you want to give them direction, but you need time to feel each other out. But, sometimes, models are used to it and used to taking directions.” Doomkitty said that, as cosplayers go, “we each have our standard, basic poses and you start off with that and you research your character. But, for me, I’m always open to direction, especially if the photographer knows that character. I know that if something looks great when I’m posing, but the photographer ultimately knows what looks best from their perspective. I know that they want the best possible picture, because it’s also reflective of their work.”

Watters said that the two main things that he advises the cosplayers of whom he takes pictures: “head positioning and their weapons not being in front of their face.” Lucchesi said that, “when it comes to working with models or cosplayers, when you’re looking for a specific shot, I’ve found that it helps to pose for them and then let them see that pose.” Ortega added that, “it helps to do a pre-meeting” with the cosplayers to discuss what you hope to shoot.

Ivy Doomkitty speaking

Ivy Doomkitty speaking

As to possible monetary arrangements between the photographers and cosplayers, Doomkitty said that “it depends upon the photographer and which agreements you have – it might either be a barter or per photo arrangement. I like to have watermarks on the pictures.” She then added a very important piece of advice: “Always credit your photographs on your social media – there’s nothing worse when you don’t credit the photographer. A lot of cosplayers don’t credit their photographers, which is a problem.”

When it comes to cameras, Lucchesi said that, “with digital cameras now, even with cell phones, everyone has the access to these cameras, but,” he pointed out, “number 1: be familiar with what you’re shooting, know your gear, and know your settings.” Ortega added: “And read the instructions.”

Further advice the panelists had concerned keeping a minimal frame of one’s body and camera when shooting at conventions, especially when there is a crowd, suggesting to avoid keeping elbows out, which could either lead you to drop your camera (or have your shots affected) or to you causing a block in people’s path. They also expressed a warning about the flash on top, because of concern of others walking into them and breaking them (about which they have had experiences and stories). Also, Watters said that, “a busy booth behind you is not good, unless you’ve got a blurry background,” such as with a low f-stop (e.g. 1.2). Tuffely and Lucchesi both like re-creating comic panels, which is an interesting route to go with cosplayers.

In all, I found it educational and entertaining, which was great to take in.

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