COSPLAYERS AND PHOTOSHOOTS 101
Cosplay. Everything about it is getting big. The costumes, the events, the photo concepts, the egos. With the growth of our Peter Pan Syndrome-inducing hobby and Facebook cosplay pages on the rise, some (please let that word echo through your head) cosplayers think they can run the show as they please when it comes to photoshoots. We get it. You spent "alot of time and money" on your costume and you're the feature of the shoot. Woo-hoo. Let's not forget that you chose to spend the money you spent and make the costume you made. You're a grown adult playing dress-up. Calm yourself.
After much pondering and approximately two people requesting that I write a blog with some advice for cosplayers during photoshoots, here we are. With nearly 10 years of cosplays under my belt, 7 years in front of the camera, experience as a professional stylist, and having so many friends make photography their career, I've seen and heard it all. I know what works and what shits photographers. Now the tips I'm about to give you may seem a wee bit to-the-point. They are. I'm blunt with my writing and I don't like sugar-coating around things, and I know you don't need that shit. You're a tough potato sack; you'll be fine. Some of this advice is to protect you aswell. Alot of cosplayers fresh to the scene may not know how things roll, so it's best to be prepared.
Off we go!
ARRIVE ON TIME AND READY Cosplayers have a stereotypical reputation of always bailing on booked photoshoots, or at the very least running extremely late with no explanation. Worse is when you're running late and you're not prepared in any way, so the photographer and the team have to wait even longer until you're set to go. This is extremely rude. Put yourselves in their shoes- think about how you'd feel if a photographer did the same to you.
Always arrive on time, or better yet earlier so you can triple-check everything for the shoot. I often get to locations early or even scout the day before for particular spots I like or practice my poses. If you are running late, let your team know in advance so they can work around it. Some things of course cannot be helped, but be considerate of others.
I hear alot from cosplayers saying that they rely on their photographer to guide them into poses. While this can work with an experienced photographer that you're relaxed around, other times it will kick you in the teeth. Some photographers are just that- photographers. You need to have backup plans. You need to be inspired to be your character or you'll look stiff in photos and the experience will be bad for both of you.
Save a file of poses that you like on your phone. I use Pinterest and have specific files for a character's personality or weapon choice. I have albums full of sexy and provocative pinup references, and others of how to work with swords and other weaponry. Also check out facial expressions while you're at it to get the perfect portraits.
Practice these poses during and after the progression of your cosplay. Find the limitations of both the costume and yourself. Make sure you communicate these with your photographer well in advance so they can either find their own ideas or work around you.
BRING A KIT WITH YOU
Makeup kit. Sewing tools. Glues. Tapes. Batteries. Bring it all with you. It's inevitable that something in your shoot will break down and you want to be able to have a quick fix at hand.
IRON AND BRUSH OUT YOUR BLOODY COSTUME
Yes, Photoshop is amazing. No, not everything can be about working around your laziness. Iron and pack your costume accordingly well in advance of the shoot, and make sure your wig is tangle-free. Spray it down and keep a wig comb on you so you can quickly fix things up in-between shots.
These are the biggest pet peeves I hear from cosplay photographers. Having things neat shows you care about what you're doing. If you want close-to-perfection shots, make sure you look close enough even before the photo is taken.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
Even if they're one of your close mates, discuss everything you want to do on the day and what your limits are. Let them know if particular things make you uncomfortable, or if you actually want to test yourself. And of course you can request to fix little things like a little makeup cleanup or fixing your skin, but keep this in mind.....
MAKE YOUR REQUESTS REASONABLE
When you're not paying for a shoot but you both have a planned outcome, it's what we call a TF (aka. "Trade For"). You trade your time and experience for theirs. This can only be done in my personal opinion if you've made a written agreement, and/or if you've worked several times before with success. In saying this, a photographer owes you little. Don't ask too much or have ridiculous requests like changing a wig colour or shape entirely, or adding CGI caricatures in that would take days to model. They don't even owe you an original file. IF they do give the files to you and you plan on selling posters, give them a cut if they want it.
Now if you have paid the photographer or have another kind of financial agreement (eg. larger profit cuts from selling posters, buying the image rights after editing, etc.) then you can request a bit more work depending on the rice tag. Talk to your photographer and see what's available.
DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT FREEBEES If you have no financial agreement or you're not even shouting lunch or travel, you'll get a photo that the photographer wants. Tough luck. Most go out of their way to make a sweet portfolio and have as many top-notch images as possible, but some just want a quick snap. You'll find this mainly at conventions where they just want one simple shot of your outfit to upload on a massive Facebook album. Now I have found that I can edit the image with the photographer's permission or they'll tweak it for me if I want to feature it on my page, but even if they say no then that's totally fine. They don't owe me shit.
Some photographers don't have the time to edit everything they want. Just like us, they work busy lives and only do these things on the side for fun or experience. Don't go on a rampage because they forgot to edit your zit out.
YOUR CREW'S NOT INVITED.
Can one or two people come along to help out and to give you some security? With advanced notice to the photographer, absolutely. Can a whole bunch of mates pop along to sit and giggle around and do jack shit? It's an annoying and rude distraction.
Honestly what is the point of doing this? You could be there for hours, moving from location to location with a bunch of people waddling behind you. Do you really want company when you're so pre-occupied? Or are you hoping your photographer will automatically start taking photos of them? If it's the latter than this is a pretty disrespectful move. Yes, this happens, and you're bitched about if you do this.
Your boyfriend/girlfriend want to come along and won't let you go unless they do? They want to control everything about the shoot? They can fuck off. You don't need them. If they can't trust you and respect your space, they sound like heavy baggage anyway. Run.
If your photographer insists that they only want to be with you in a private area and you don't know them at all, DO NOT go with them. While rare, there have been cases of sexual assault- to both female and male cosplayers. This is never acceptable and it's never your fault, regardless how little or how much you're wearing (this stereotype exists even in 2017).
If you're unsure, it's very easy to do some research on the person you're working with. Check their portfolio and style. If their messages seem perverted or creepy, get a second opinion. Fortunately the cosplay community are pretty vocal when one bag egg steps out of line, so if there's something really bad, you'll know.
Again, this is very rare. Do not mark every photographer as a perv. A professional will make you feel comfortable and safe, and are always happy for someone to come along if you need reassurance for something specific.
THE CON FAUX-TOGRAPHER AND YOU
This is probably the most egotistical tip out of all of these, but there is certain lines that people cannot cross. This is out of respect for both you and your photographer.
I'm talking about the lurkers. The snipers. The thieves. They take on many names, but these are the guys who sneak in to take a shot of you while you're occupied with another photographer. I often immediately cease all poses and tell them to bugger off, or pay no attention to them at all. It depends on what mood I'm in that day.
CREDIT, CREDIT, CREDIT.
I can admit I was an ass with crediting in the past. Now I understand how vital it is for a whole new audience to find either you or your team. When you credit, it shows the respect you have for the people that helped you pull the end result off. If you notice that someone hasn't done this, call them out on it. Cosplay "fan" pages are horridly notorious for ignoring this.
The best way to bond with your photographer and team is to relax, chill out, and have a ball. Take some stupid candid shots so you got some fun memories of the day (I also find these help to ease nerves). It'll help build your reputation in the community as someone who's great to work with and that you appreciate the people you're with.
If I have missed anything, please let me know and I will add it to the post. Big thanks to everyone who let in their voice for this.
This post is not meant to complicate things. Alot of it is simply common sense and you probably know all this. I hope that either way it helped as a little reminder or gave you a bit of a smirk. Cheers!