In Defense Of The Cosplay Photographer…

Recently I’ve noticed a trend of cosplayers coming out of the wood work online crying about “rude” photographers not posting pictures, or photographers who only take pictures of girls. Most recently, the photographer I use for most of the posts here (Pat) came under fire for not posting a picture of two girls from Katsucon, but rather posting just one. The one he posted turned out better than the first. It has nothing to do with who was prettier. One picture turned out blurry, while the other didn’t. While this example is rather personal for me, I have seen this scenario played out countless times. I have been cosplaying for 10+ years. If I had a penny for every time a photographer I knew didn’t post a picture of me, I’d have enough pennies to pay one month of my car payments. There have been times where I have (very nicely) asked said photographer whatever happened to the picture. Since I happen to hang around photographers, I understand when they say “It didn’t turn out right.” That’s cool. I get it.

However, you can’t really take my word for it. Below is the reply Pat gave to a very angry cosplayer about not posting her picture.

“I was at Katsucon hanging out when I saw a Marceline from Adventure Time walk by. I walked after her and tapped her on the shoulder and asked if I could take her photo and of course she said yes. She was with someone else also dressed up as an A.T. character and they both got into their posing positions. I took 2 photos, one of both of them together, and one of the Marceline which is what I wanted in the first place. After that 30 second transaction I said thanks and walked back to catch up with my group. Not exactly an earth shattering event by any means. Anyway later that weekend I edited and posted the photos online. A couple of people in the photos found them on Flickr and were pleased with them and thanked me for taking the photo. Fast forward 2 weeks later and I get this nasty post on my Flickr page under the Marceline photo…

(Edited out)

I was quite taken back by this. I am not a portrait photographer, I do 99% landscapes, just me, my camera, and the streets. For the last maybe 8 years I have at times taken photos of “cosplayers” at various nerdy conventions. In all of that time I have never had anyone become upset at a photo I have taken, or didn’t take. I’m not Annie Liebovitz, this isn’t the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. This is some kids having fun and I am helping them out by taking their photo so they can show their friends online. That being said I do however have pride in what I do. I will not post photos and put my name on something that does not meet my standards. Every photo I post is sharp, focused, and composed. I’m sorry if this does not jive with the camera phone generation who finds taking blurry photos in their mirrors to be acceptable photography. Now since I’m aware these people don’t even know what aperture and shutter speed is I’ll try to dumb this down as much as possible. The shooting conditions in this place was (by photographic standards) was a poorly lit hallway in a hotel basement. I took the photo of the pair of them using a 50mm lens only, no flash, no additional lighting on my part, no image stabilizer. The exit data says the photo of the pair of them was taken at 1/30 of a second at f/4. For those who don’t know f/4 is not fast, f/2.8 or f/2 would have been a more ideal setting to use. So why not use it you ask? Because I need to take a shot with two people, two people who will not be standing on the exact same focal plane, thus I require more depth of field, thus I must use the slower f/4 to achieve this goal (the smaller the aperture the greater of the depth of field aka area in focus). This is simple physics, this is how light works, I cannot control it. The #1 rule of taking a photo of any living creature is to focus on the eyes. How many times have you seen a bad portrait shot that was focused on the nose of the person? So I took the photo of the pair of them doing my best to follow this rule. Then I took another this time just of the Marceline. This time the camera was set to 1/60 of a second shutter speed. For anyone who doesn’t know 1/30 is about the limit of what a person can do hand holding a camera with no image stabilizer. Shooting at 1/30 is taking a gamble, but this is digital so it’s not like I am wasting film if it doesn’t turn out and this isn’t exactly someone’s wedding photos. So now this 2nd photo was going twice as fast as the last one which means less chance of me shaking the camera and ruining the photo. Magically this means the 2nd photo turned out a lot better. And getting back to that whole taking pride in what I put my name on thing I chose not to post the first photo that turned out blurry but that doesn’t mean I didn’t take one. So claiming I only wanted to take a “pretty girl photo,” which for the record is certainly not a quote I ever said, is not accurate in the slightest. I take photos of whatever I want to, and if it is a person I ask their permission. I spent $3500 on that camera/lens combo I was using this day. So unless you are paying me money to take your photo you don’t really get much say in what I photograph or post online.

I know many cosplayers read this, so take what you can from these words. Almost every photographer you see at conventions does take pride in his and her work, so don’t get mad if a picture they took of you didn’t wind up online. It’s ok. And if you want more pictures, ask! Really! I’ve never had a photographer turn me down if I ask for a few more shots. It’s flattering for them to hear, especially if it’s someone you admire.

You can follow Pat Gavin on Flickr here:





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