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Advice for new photographers in the cosplay community

I am going to say this straight up now some people might be offended by this and for I am sorry but hear me out, I am trying to help honestly. I see so many people mostly people that started as cosplayers buy themselves a DSLR and suddenly they think they are a photographer. But sorry its not that simple, god I wish it was or photographers that come from other area of photography and have no idea how the community work. both have a lot to learn maybe in different ways

Now I am not the greatest photographer in the world or in the cosplay community or even in Reading, I suspect. But I like to think most people are happy with the result I produce, well people keep coming back so that’s a good sign I suppose. Photography like any skill or craft is a constant process of learning experimenting pulling you hair out and trying to explain to the bank manager why your broke again

Etiquette within the community

So lets start with advice for both. Doesn’t matter how good your equipment or how great a photographer you are if you break the etiquette in the community your not going to be popular and Cosplayers talk about and recommend photographers. word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool in the world

so here we go

  1. Don’t snipe, walk up to the model and politely ask then if you can take some shots, 99% of cosplayers unless they really don’t have the time will say of course. Really don’t take pictures of cosplayers taking a break especially if they are eating drinking or having a smoke. They are entitled to rest too. If you see something that you want to capture in a more editorial way then approach the cosplayers and ask if OK for them to carry on what they are doing while you take a shot , I do this a lot in event photography.
  2. If the cosplay is already working with a photographer then wait if you really want to shoot that cosplay you will wait for your chance.
  3. Don’t touch the cosplayer or the props. some of these cosplay’s have cost a lot of money to create and the props so touching them runs the risk of causing damage also by touching you are invading someone personal space. I know you will see lots of cosplayers hug photographers but this are people that have know each other for a while in 99% of case and they are friends. some might say well I am only touching to get the pose right I am going to call you on that because there are better ways to do this either tell the cosplayer how you want them to position themselves or show them by you doing the pose
  4. Make sure the cosplayers know where they can find the pictures, I hand out cards to cosplayers that don’t know me and tell them approx how long before the pictures will be posted. Most cosplayers I have prearranged shoots with so i know the details to tag them with thou.
  5. Sexual remarks just don’t have a place in cosplay photography or well any type of photography I mean even kingfisher are not keen on you shouting out show us ya under feathers.
  6. Be polite at least give the cosplayer a little bit of time maybe introduce yourself ask them about the cosplay these guys put a hell of a lot of work into the cosplay’s they are proud of them and want to talk about them personally I love this part of the community and I am always happy to hear about how the build went or how they did things.
  7. Its OK to be selective about who you want to shoot but be polite and explain to someone why you might not want to shoot a cosplay if approached by a cosplayer they are human and they have feeling but be polite and respectful. your not hot enough as a reason is likely to get you a bad rep quickly and rep don’t go away. but equally don’t be offended if you ask a cosplayer for a picture and they turn you down everyone photographers and the cosplayers have the right to say no
Darren and Zoe being sniped by me

Lets get Techie

That covers the rules now lets deal with some more technical aspects

first thing first you brought a camera you have no camera experience so rush out and start offering shoots at a con right ? that’s going to make me a photographer if I have a FB page that says so No no No

I own a guitar its a very nice guitar looks amazing with its grim reaper paint job and ghost strap I love it but does it make me a guitarist? No of course it doesn’t the fact i can play 4 chords also doesn’t really make me a guitarist I mean Slash is not knocking on my door asking me to come play on his latest album with him and my phone is not ringing off the hook with the local venue want me to come strut my stuff Angus Young style. I am a man that owns a guitar my purchasing power does replace the hard lines of learning the art or the skills it takes to be called a guitarist so why do people think its different with photography I would never insult someone that take the time to learn to play the guitar by calling myself a guitarist. I was shooting over 3 years before I first called my self a photographer and that was only after I won a local photography contest. And even today sometime I will say I am into photography rather than calling myself a photographer. So what the skills you need to be come a photographer.

I once read that when you can walk into a room look at the lighting know the shot you want and know the manual setting you need to get it then your a photographer. At the time I though oh bugger I will never be able to do that but now I can pretty much I might need to tweak them slightly But I can read the room pretty well now. To me another difference between someone that interested in photography and a photographer is knowing the shot you want and working out how to get it rather than shooting and see what you get.

So my advice to someone just brought a DSLR and want to shoot at con go for it but be honest. also don’t start booking slots for people and calling yourself a photographer before you know how to use your camera and understand what the settings do. If all your going to do is put the camera in Fully automatic mode and press the button you might as well take it back to the shop and replace it with a much cheaper point and shoot camera or just use your phone. If i had a pound for every person that asked me how i get those nice blurred backgrounds I could prob buy the 300mm F2.8 lens I would really love to have! a mere £5688 cheap at half the price! How do I get that blurred out background, harsh as it sound I learn to use my camera,

I learn’t the effect that ISO has on an image as well as the times to up iso so i can get the image I want. but how it will affect the image.

I also learn’t what appature does and how it affects the image why i should use F8 when shooting a group instead of F1.4.

I learn’t what shutter speed I should be shooting at and how to stop the image look out of focus because the lens was shaking and with manual flashes what sync speed was

I learn’t difference between TTL or manual speed lights and how to use them both as well as the pro and con of both.

I learn’t the difference between spot metering and matrix metering

I also know the difference between Spot focus and group focus and when to use them.

When you use manual focus (never if possible) and when to use Auto focus

I studied and learn’t, read books, asked question and watch so many hours of YouTube on this.

My story try not to fall asleep

You know how I started learning some of this stuff simple I took over 500 pictures of a green bin in Windsor it was a very nice bin and it didn’t complain about staying still or that half the shots was out of focus or really over exposed or under exposed. I have a lot of time for that bin and very fond memories of our photo shoot.

I then found an interest in landscapes and cityscapes don’t tell the bin but they was much prettier. God then I really started to have to learn wow Stops what the hell is a stop well I let you research that on your own but until you understand stops you don’t understand light and until understand light is core to being a photographer, because that’s what photography is capturing light or the absence of light I know that sound pompous, arty and something a 1st year classic art student would spout, but its true. To produce an image the sensor in the camera captures all sort of information about the light colours etc and saves them to a memory card and then a bit of software take this turn it into an image.

Then I met wildlife photography and macro photography and not to forget product photography playing with smoke, drop objects in fish tanks (the bin stopped calling at this point and has never returned my calls its sad but sometimes you have to move on in life and photography). From all these types of photography I lean’t new skills I pushed myself with new challenges. only shooting in black and white, only using a 50mm, lens taping up my preview button so I couldn’t check the image on the back of the camera like the old film days. I learnt what different option did on the camera. I learnt about exposure bracketing and HDR I learn’t to use filters and tripods correctly and then I discovered cosplay and my learn curve started again.

Art for Art sake

so now you know how to use your camera what about composition thou the arty side of an image rather than the technical skills well to be honest some people just naturally have this other have to learn. If your in the learn section like me learn the classic art rules, rules of third, leading lines, negative space and so many more. learn about photography rules like sunny 16, filling the frame, not to crop limbs and most of important when working with people angles and how they affect different body shapes. Got all that good, really important and now the really important bit be willing to experiment on when to break all the rules but you have to learn them first to understand why to break them. complicated yep it sure is now do you understand why buying a camera doesn’t make you a photographer like buying a paint brush doesn’t make you an artist because that’s what photographers are in the main Artist just using a camera instead of a paint brush.

I got my image, job done right well in some case it can be. but well not in all cases it isn’t sometimes a little editing is needed and I am not talking full change the whole image editing that’s more digital art that photography but well lets just balance things a little maybe remove some imperfections. I know a lot of people say I want that raw natural look but if someone got a big spot on there forehead that’s not a permanent feature get rid of it clean it up a spot last a week or two a image last forever. finish the image with a little touching up can make the world of difference.

When I start shooting cosplay I learn’t about about etiquette, about lighting about studio work and how it was different I learn’t I was slightly crazy but above all I learn’t the joy of someone being excited when they got a shot back from me if very worthwhile.

Next steps

So don’t start booking con slot but take your camera ask people if you can take a picture or two or even better find a local friend or a inanimate object to practice on rather than wasting a cosplayer time at a con to just give them if anything back poor photo’s that they will never share and if you tag them in it they may untag themselves.

the one thing that drive me crazy more than anything is a good cosplay wreaked by out of focus images

I see so many pictures posted on Facebook where its not the image is a little soft the image is not even close to being in focus and sometime there is nothing in focus in the shot it happens to us all but you are not doing yourself or the cosplayers any favours by posting it better to re shoot and if its to late to re shoot apologies to the cosplayer and offer to re shoot it another time.

Please hear me out

Now you think I am a complete arrogant idiot that thinks he is perfect but I am not, I have worked hard as many photographers have to learn what i have learn and I am still learning every shoot i learn something even if it as simple as some people still like to eat pizza with a knife and fork ( i know strange people but hey) or that glitter has the half life of uranium. A day I don’t learn something is a day wasted in my view. I still ask photographers I respect for ideas on how to make an image better or how to do somethings and while I really believe there is no such thing as a stupid question if you don’t know the answer the question is not stupid but I do feel so many people expect things to be just handed to them and well no one really learns like that. Go out there research subjects read for yourself and then play and experiment use anything as a subject a can of coke a box of chocolates doesn’t matter play with thing play with your setting play with lighting your learn quicker and be able to reproduce it a lot quicker than hand me your camera and asking me to set it up for you. because those setting might be good for that shot but then the light changes and you have to understand how to take that into account.

Photography is a an exciting dynamic hobby if you want to get serious about it then you have to work at it. If all you want to do is take snap shots of your friends at con that’s great too but don’t start to market yourself as a photographer as with everything in life you get out of it what you want to put in.

Can we Help ?

Toneagraphy as a team offer four way we can help new photographers. we have a mentor program where new photographers shoot under our name with our help and advice helping them improve skills there is an interview process involved in this because we are proud of our reputation and we wish to keep it, currently this program is full but we hope to offer places in the future

we also offer basic camera courses on location or in the studio.

If you want to learn advance lighting we can recommend people that teach advanced lighting and photography skills.

And lastly if your a member of Toneagraphy website then there are forums where you can ask for honest CC. If you have a question feel free to ask us we might suggest you take one of our courses or point you to a source that will help with your question.

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