Don’t Be a Creeper! – Cosplay Photography Etiquette

The topic of creepy cosplay photographers is reoccurring issue in the cosplay community. I think it’s a topic worth discussing on its own because a lot of people don’t really understand what it is to be “creepy” and what lines need to be drawn. I asked a few of my cosplayer friends for their opinions on the matter so I could get a view from the other side of the Cosplay/Photographer dynamic and with that information, this is how I’ve concluded photographers and cosplayers should interact.

Dont be a Creeper

Creeper alert! – Cosplayers Jean Wan Wan, Danisaurz

Pre Shoot

Being a creeper can start before the shoot even begins. It’s always good etiquette to ask for permission to take a cosplayer’s photo. Whether a photographer is asking online or in person the number one complaint I received was photographers being too pushy about shoots. If a cosplayer says no that’s pretty much the end of the discussion right there. There are a lot of reason’s a cosplayer may decline a shoot, they might be too busy with other shoots, they may not like the photographer’s style or skill level, their costume may have been damaged and they’re waiting to repair it, or they may just not want to shoot at all at the time. No means no and being pushy about it is just rude.

No means no.No means no! – Cosplayer Little Lulu

Sniping is an extension of being too pushy that’s not always very apparent to the offending photographer. Sniping is the act of shooting over another photographer’s shoulder without permission. It’s extremely rude to both the cosplayer and the photographer, the cosplayer didn’t consent to having their photo taken, its plagiarizing another photographer’s work, and its disruptive to the shoot in general. Don’t be a sniper.

We dont need 2 Hanzos a Widowmaker and an Ana okay?No one likes a sniper. Tigershot Productions shooting Jean Wan Wan

In the planning phase for a shoot it’s acceptable for photographers to ask for details about the cosplay and concept or even for photos of the cosplayer in the costume for reference before hand but anything beyond that is just unnecessary. I’ve seen incidents in the past that a photographer asked for underwear selfies prior to a shoot which is totally absurd. As a general guideline, if something isn’t directly related to the shoot the photographer shouldn’t be asking about it. Some photographers do require a release to be signed and it’s important that a cosplayer read through the agreement prior to signing it and ask about anything questionable. Trustworthy photographers will not hessitate to explain their policies. In general both parties should be expected to keep it professional.

No underwear photos necessaryDon’t need to see someone naked to figure out how to shoot them in cosplay. – Cosplayers Jean Wan Wan, Danisaurz

Once there is some kind of agreement to shoot photographers should not specifically ask cosplayers to go to a shoot alone especially to sketchy places like their houses, hotel room, or isolated areas. (Just to be clear I shoot in these kinds of places with cosplayers all the time however it’s usually with cosplayers I know extremely well and almost never with someone for the first time). There’s really no reason for a 1 on 1 photoshoot so cosplayers don’t be afraid to bring a friend that’s willing to help. It’s almost always good to have an assistant, they can be a cape flipper, keep an eye out for exposed wig caps and undergarmets, or just be a voice activated light stand.

Dont go to shady placesSeriously stay safe. (we had 4 other people on this shoot) – Cosplayer Danny Cozplay

During the shoot

The discussion was clear that during a shoot good communication is the foundation of not being a creeper. First and foremost solid explanation of the concept of the shoot makes the shoot go smoother and gives the cosplayer more confidence in the skill of the photographer. Photographers that were not clear with the photos they wanted to create caused the cosplayers to become frustrated with the process as a whole especially if elaborate setups were attempted along with complicated and difficult posing. As a pointer poses can best be explained visually by the photographer reenacting them. Photographers repositioning the cosplayers directly should be a last resort and they should always ask for permission first.

Dont touch the cosplayersDon’t touch cosplayers unless they say its okay. – Cosplayer J Stryker

When it comes to posing and wardrobe photographers should not push past a cosplayer’s personal boundaries and cosplayers should not be afraid to say no to things they are not comfortable with. Every cosplayer has a different level of comfort with the kinds of photos they are willing to take and with whom they are willing to take those photos with. Just because a cosplayer shoots in lingerie with one photographer does not mean they will be comfortable doing that with any and everyone. Posing is the same, some cosplayers may be okay showing off their breasts, butts, or posing suggestively with some photographers and not with others and that’s totally normal.

Not everyone is okay with the butt shotJean probably won’t let you take photos of her butt just warning you. Cosplayer – Jean Wan Wan

When it comes to actual photographs this should go without saying but its not acceptable to take shots that focus primarily on boobs, butts, panties, ZR, or details in general without permission. It’s good for both cosplayer and photographers if the cosplayers get to see the back of the camera during the process of the shoot. It allows the cosplayers to see if anything is grossly out of place on their costume and it reassures them that the photographer is not taking inappropriate photos.

Boobs butt and ZR with permissionI had explicit permission for the detail shots. – Fanservice by Jean Wan Wan

Talking during a shoot is important but keep the dialog on topic. No one likes to shoot in awkward silence but shoots are for taking photos not for prying into someone’s personal life or flirting. Accepting a shoot does not imply that the cosplayer wants the photographer to be anything more than their photographer. It’s okay for photographers to compliment a cosplayer on the quality of their cosplay itself but it is not okay for them to go on about how attractive they think the cosplayer is on an intimate level. Prying for personal information during a shoot is also a no go. Photographers shouldn’t ask about cosplayer’s relationship status or for specifics on where they live or work, that really has no place in a cosplay photo shoot.

Keep it professionalDon’t say nasty things during a shoot! – Cosplayers Jean Wan Wan, Danisaurz

TL;DR

Being solid non-creep cosplay photographer (or person in general) comes down to knowing and respecting boundaries. It’s critical for photographers to always ask permission for anything that may be questionable and make sure that the cosplayers feel comfortable and safe throughout the shoot. It’s also important for cosplayers to stand up for themselves and not to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Lastly none of this is to say photographers and cosplayers can’t be friends, but its important to remember that there’s absolutely no obligation on either side for them to become friends just because they had a photo shoot together.

 

GreatnessGreat photos happen when everyone is comfortable. – Cosplayer Rae Wolfe

7 Replies to “Don’t Be a Creeper! – Cosplay Photography Etiquette”

  1. Great article, but it is missing something. What about the proper etiquette for candid or “slice of life” photography within the cosplay community?

    One can’t get permission before taking a candid photo because it changes the scene and the moment one wanted to capture is gone.

    I think, so long as it is legal, take the photo and then approach the cosplayer(s) to make sure they’re okay with the candid photos.

    What about the “vlogers” at conventions filming/recording everything around and behind them? Do they need to get permission from everyone walking through the scene behind them during their Facebook Live or Snapchat session?

    1. This is a generalized article for interactions between photographers and cosplayers that are not well acquainted. Regarding the candid photos the only difference is in the name, if you take a photo without asking first most cosplayers are not going to like it. If you happen to capture an awesome moment because you’re that good they’ll probably let it slide but if it’s a photo of them with half their costume off shoving a sandwich in their mouth they’re probably going to hate you for it. That being said just claiming the blanket term of being a “candid photographer” doesn’t change the feeling of having your photo taken without permission from a distance. Asking for permission after the fact is a great idea but if that’s how a photographer runs their whole operation they’re going to get a bad reputation pretty quickly unless the photos are good enough to justify the continual line stepping. Also if a photographer is that good at candids then they’ll probably also be well known in the community and it wouldn’t be a matter of taking photos of strangers without their permission because they’d be well acquainted with everyone in the first place and they’d know who they should and shouldn’t photograph like that.

    2. Also regarding the vlogers and people doing lives they don’t need permission for people in the background just like a photographer would never ask for permission for people in the background of their hallway shots. Now if the vlogger or liver were to just focus on one person for a substantial amount of time it would be pretty rude unless the person were actively doing something that they wanted public attention for.

  2. “Great photos happen when everyone is comfortable”
    – this is the best line in the article. I think so many photographers forget the social aspect of being a photographer. You need to make sure the model is comfortable. Well at least mentally, because a lot of those poses are not physically comfortable. .)

    1. Thanks for the input! Mental comfort is probably my top priority when it comes to shoots and I feel like it definitely shows through in the final results. When cospayers are confident in their photographer they’re willing to go the extra mile and take risks to make a better photo.

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