I fell into Con/Cosplay photography in 2008 at Comic Con International in San Diego. A friend with a Comics based blog invited me for the trip, since he was coming all the way from the east coast so I couldn’t say no. I had seen general media coverage of the event in years past but I did not realize on what scale the actual convention would be. Since that first SDCC I have learned a lot of about cons and some good ways to snap photos of all the Cosplayers. Here’s a bit of information on how to deal with the crowds and lighting so you can have some fun and still be able to have quality photos to share on your social media outlet.
Tip #1: Know Your Camera: Read the manual or watch a YouTube demo, but do whatever you have to do to know the ins and outs of your camera. Be able to switch the white balance and exposure controls on the fly. There are all types of lighting at venues that host Cons. All of them are bad. Even most cell phones have some type of exposure controls so break it out and learn them. We don’t need to discuss the fancy terms here like under and over exposure. Just know how to find the exposure compensation on your device and figure out how to make it brighter if you need to. ISO is also important when it comes to making adjustments for bad lighting- know how to boost it when you need to.
Tip #2 Use The Flash: The lighting is poor in a lot of arenas so use the flash if you have to. For people who only want to use off camera flash contemplate this: A flash burned photo of a gorgeous Supergirl is better than a blurry photo of a gorgeous Supergirl.
Tip #3 Bring Extra Batteries: Nothing sucks more than running out of juice the third hour of a ten hour Con. Using the flash will drain the batteries so have more. In some cameras using the techno features like HDR settings will be energy intensive. There is no need to spend big bucks on a Canon or Nikon brand battery. Duracell and Energizer make reliable camera batteries at about half the cost. Amazon.com has great prices on precharged rechargeable AA’s which are what I order for shoots to power my flash units.
Tip #4 Always Be Ready. There was a great The Family Guy Cosplayer I caught last year in a photo that made its way around the world. Not too many people must have been ready to catch him because when I Google it the majority of the results are my photos. I also caught a few photos of Denise Masino when I happened upon her in the hallway as she was walking by. If I wasn’t ready I would have missed both shots and both of those photos have drawn more hits to my sites than any of my other photos. Have the camera in your hands not in a purse or backpack. If your camera has a slow turn on sequence leave it on so you don’t miss Will Wheaton or Norman Reedus walking by.
Tip #4 Extra Memory Cards: Costco and Wal-Mart sell decent cards for cheap. Have a backup card in case one malfunctions or gets filled. Remember to wipe them clean before you go. People always ask do borrow a spare from me b/c they forgot to download their Walt Disney World family vacation photos.
Tip #5 Photographing Kids @ Cons: If there is not already a large group of people photographing the Speedy and Baby Captain America, ask the adult that is with them if it is okay to photograph the child. No guardian has ever said no to me or my cohorts. At most they parents ask that the child get a chance to put their mask on. Remember to always be polite.
Tip #6 Position Yourself in the Crowd: A crowd will from in front of any of any cool looking Cospalyer. Instead of going elbow to elbow with the other Con Geeks squat low in front and get a different perspective. Superheroes look cool when shot from down low anyway. That’s how they photograph CEO’s to make them appear more “majestic”. Try to get to the center of the crowd to increase your chance of getting the Cosplayer to look at you. It ruins a great photo if lighting and background come together and the character is looking way off to the left.
Tip #7 Lose the Telephoto Lens: This goes for all you DSLR shooters. From amateur to pro leave the 70-200mm f/4L at home. You won’t need it because there won’t be room to step back far enough to use it. And if you try to back up far enough away someone with a point and shoot Panasonic will step in front of you. They don’t do it to be mean; it’s just hard to get out of the way at a con. I’ll end up cutting you off too since I’ll have a nifty fifty or 28-70 2.8. The giant space left in your backpack by leaving the zoom out will come in handy for the swag you can get at Comic Cons.
Tip #8 Practice Makes Perfect: People need to know how to work their cameras before an event. Take time to practice by walking around your home and adjusting your camera or cell phone to all the different lighting conditions. These tips aren’t just for Comic Cons. I use these techniques at Shot Show SEMA and other places. Remember these tips during the upcoming Con season and I hope you find these tips helpful.