One of my favorite things to do at any Comic book or Anime Convention or combination of the two like New York Comic con is to photo walk around the show and take cosplayer portraits. These folks are all dressed up and had a place to go. I consider it the performance art of these shows and thing the images should be captured for all to see. Cosplayers put a lot of time and effort into their costumes and accessories. I give them my respect by putting a little thought into how I take their photos. There are large amounts of tips that can be given, but here are the ones I think are the most important.
Have the Right Gear and Make Sure You’re Comfortable With It
If you are planning to create a good quality image, try to carry a decent camera that is comfortable for you. I work with a Nikon D90, which is the right for me. I know the camera very well and its settings are second nature to me. If you want something smaller consider a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Another important thing to consider is your lens.
This year my lens of choice is a Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 because of its Image Stabilization and I can get wide-angle shots and show a sense of depth and size at the large convention. Another lens to consider is the 24-70 mm. With versions made by Canon, Nikon, and Sigma, these lenses are great for photojournalism and events like this. However, one of the best lenses you can use is a 50mm prime lens. These compact lenses are fast, stay out of the way, and cannot be beat. Because I am at a convention, I want my camera safe, so I keep my camera on my BlackRapid RS-7 strap . I keep cleaning gear as well as an extra shirt.
I am not a big fan of a flash at shows, but if I have to use one, I make sure the light is soft with my Gary Fong Lightsphere.
Alternatively, Chris is a huge fan of flash at shows.
Set Your White Balance
The first thing I do when I get into a convention hall is use an ExpoDisk to set my white balance. You can use a white balance filter or grey card or if you have nothing else, a white coffee cup lid, (grab one from Starbucks they work well). These save a lot of time later.
Know (And Pay Attention to) Where Your Lighting Is
Take a look around you at the beginning of the convention and know where your light sources are, front back above, below etc. This can help you set the tone for your images and help you to think about your composition. Because you’re mostly indoors at a convention, most of your light will be coming from above. However, some booths have their own lighting, most likely lower and coming from a side direction, that can bleed into your shots if you are too close.
Look for neutral back ground if you can, this will make your cosplayer stand out. If you have time try to subtly arrange them, so that the shot follows the Rule of thirds or the Golden Spiral Composition Method. We have posts here on the Phoblographer that cover those subjects.
Try to get as much of the details of their costume into the shot, as best as possible. If you are in a crowded area try to blur the background a little by shooting at apertures between 2.8 and 4, if you can. It’s good to have a somewhat shallow depth of field for portraits. This will help keep the important factors popping out.
Avoid Blur From Camera Shake
You do not want to spend a day shooting and have to sift through blurry images. Maximize your time by keeping your images sharp. A good way to do this is by keeping your shutter at a proper speed. To prevent camera shake blur you want to keep in mind that you need to set your camera, at minimum, to 1/focal length, so if you’re shooting with a 50mm lens you want to have your camera set to 1/50th at minimum to avoid camera shake. If you need more light, bump up your ISO.
If you are just taking candid shots, be patient. At a convention like New York Comic Con there is always a lot of activity. If you take a moment and perch in one location, you can get a few great images just with people walking by especially if you are in a popular area. You never know when that crazy image will just appear. Treat New York Comic Con and events like it like a game of chess and think first before you move.
Do Not Stay Behind the Lens
Put yourself into the thick of things. Talk and be social and be in the image. Get the emails of the subjects and send them either links to their image or low-res copies of their image. If you want to use the images for stock photography make, sure you have model releases (or send them later on). Share your work because it can be your best advertisement of your work. We have a Flickr group and New York Comic Con has one as well. Tag your images with the event name and date and it will get views. But the most important thing is to have fun.
Here are some more of my shots from New York Comic Con 2011
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