Seven Deadly Sins of Cosplay Photography
We here at The Geek Lyfe love and adore the cosplay community and everything it stands for. It is such a powerful and positive aspect of the geek culture that promotes body positivity, encourages others to pick up new crafts from sewing to molding materials and so much more. It makes sense that after spends hundreds of dollars on a costume that required dozens upon dozens of hours that you would want to immortalize your cosplay with a photoshoot.
We absolutely encourage cosplayers to seek out photographers in their local community to work with them and grow together in their respected craft! However, over the years I have been witness to the same issues new cosplayers face when they work with photographers or vice versa. These mistakes, whether out of ignorance or malicious intent, do some major and mini harm to the community as a whole. Sometimes it can ruin reputations or relationships for years but at the same time, I understand that we all weren’t born with this knowledge so the only way we learn about these unspoken rules is if someone points them out to us. So I wanted to write an article pointing out these unfavorable actions or “Sins” so that more cosplayers can be in the know and help foster positive and healthy relationships with photographers!
Never Remove Watermarks
Watermarks are symbols that represent the company or person who makes a claim to a photo or video. Typically photographers will work with cosplayers and then give them photos back with their watermark imprinted on the photo. This is to showcase to all who view the image of the quality of work that comes from that photographer. One major sign of disrespect is to purposefully remove or crop out the watermark from the image. The reason being is that you remove the chance for hundreds of people who share the image to know who helped create it. Photographers rely on this marketing to gain new clients but if a client removes their watermark it only hurts. Not to mention if people catch wind of you removing watermarks, it only makes you look terrible.
Granted, in some cases where various social media sites auto crop images you can’t help this unless you work with the third party program. These are totally understandable and not the topic of discussion.
Never Do Unauthorized Edits
I’ve had friends who are cosplayers admit to requesting the RAW files from photo shoots so that they could edit the image themselves but also place the photographer’s logo on it. They absolutely believed they were in the right and either got upset when the photographer refused or edited the photos themselves. If this is a concept you find hard to grasp try and think of each photo like a painted canvas. This was created by an artist and then you come and alter their work, you can’t really say it is totally the photographer’s work anymore, it has become more of your artwork.
If you do ever feel as though you can edit the images far better than the photographer can, it is best you discuss this with them before exchanging money so that everyone understands the process. More than likely the photographer will want you to credit them as the photographer only and credit you as the editor so no one confuses your work for theirs.
Credit Where It Is Due
This goes with anything creative, if someone put their hard work and time into something then they deserved to be credited. Taking the extra minute to find and tag the original creator of a photo or cosplay helps everyone and promotes a healthy relationship. Granted, finding the credit isn’t always easy and when you just can’t figure out who did what just openly say so. Chances are that someone in the community will know and help out.
Not to mention tagging others encourages them to tag you back and this is called “Cross-Promotion” which spreads each other to audiences that might not know them. The more cross-promoting that you do, the faster you’ll grow!
Critique In Private
Not every project will come out as wonderful as you hoped and that is okay! What is not okay is taking your frustrations to the public and blaming another person for failings. It doesn’t matter if it is justified or not, chances are you’ll spread discontent and it will echo throughout the community to the point where instead of focusing on the photographer or cosplayer’s work, this drama will impact everyone’s decision. The issue might be a cosplayer/photographer was rude or late to pay/deliver photos but it doesn’t warrant damaging reputations. It is better to come to them privately and voice your concerns and keep it tight-knit if they refuse to respond then include others one by one if you feel they could bring a resolution. If nothing good comes out of trying to reason with them, you can always take legal action or drop it altogether and refuse to work with them again, if anyone asks your opinion on them you can inform them of your experience.
Granted, there are most definitely cases where informing the public of a major issue that threatens life or finances is a valid reason to come to the public but even then, it has to be handled with tact and grace. Although many of us in the cosplay community are young adults and might not be concerned with the future, what we write or do today can stick with us for years thanks to screenshots. Always present yourself in a professional manner so that if people do go back months or years from that time, they’ll know you presented your concerns with a clear head and meant every single word rather than a rushed post out of frustration.
Nothing Is For Commercial Use Unless Specifically Stated
Money is one of the biggest points of frustrations for many projects. We’ll get more into this in the next section but what I want to mention is making money post-shoot. I have seen many photographers and cosplayers both try to expand their financial gain by either selling prints or selling calendars. What they find out very fast is that it is unprofessional and disrespectful to profit off the images of others without their explicit permission.
“Print Rights” is the key phrase here that you should be aware of. This is an amount of money that is paid by one party to another for permission to use an image for commercial use. If one of the parties refuses to do so, they might come out with a cease and desist before taking legal action if they feel the need to do so. Granted, getting your day in court to fight about this issue will be long and potentially pricey but the real damage will be to each other’s reputations. I have seen and heard of relationships being destroyed overprint rights so I don’t want any future cosplayers or photographers to be caught unaware.
If you have plans of taking an image and using it for financial gain, you need to discuss it and get the written approval from them.
Never Expect Free Services
If you didn’t grow up around artists then you might not know this but being creative is fucking hard. To produce work that is good is even harder and to have the courage to present it to others is a tremendous feat. I firmly believe that all artists deserve to be appropriately compensated for every effort they take. However, if you did not grow up around this, it can seem like such a simple act to play music, draw something, create a prop, or snap a photo. This results in people being appalled when the creator asks for payment and either refuses them outright or goes with another creator who does work for free.
Please understand that a lot of time and work goes into producing a good product, if you have any shred of respect for the artist then you bring up payment outright. It is absolutely fine to haggle or negotiate if you feel a deal can be made but never ever expect something for free. Especially if you care about them as a significant other or friend, they deserve even more payment because they will more than likely work even harder for you.
If you are an artist who does work for free, you might notice a group of fans that work with you because they like you, your work, and the fact you are free. It is alright to work for free initially while you build your skill and portfolio but eventually, you deserve to get paid and never ever be afraid to be upfront with your clients when that time comes. Those that stay and pay are your true homies if they can’t afford you then work out some other arrangement from marketing to print rights etc. If they refuse to give anything and get offended, you didn’t need them anyway. This also goes for cosplayers who model for products or photographers! Don’t let others profit off your images without your permission, stand up for yourself!
The greatest gift you can offer anyone in this world is respect. Respect means answering messaging in a timely manner, being true to your world, paying on time, and considering others in your decision making. Whether it is in regards to showing up on time for a photoshoot or being keeping your cool when things don’t turn out as planned, respect will take you so much further in life than disrespect. No one in this world is perfect nor will they ever always be terrible, people can and will change.
You might feel superior to a cosplayer because of your experience as a photographer, but you are not. You might be a cosplayer with a massive following and think you are better than a new photographer, but you are not. I have seen many people fall from grace and others rise from nothing. It is always best to treat everyone as an equal and offer them the same respect you would show someone you admire. Even if you might not like someone else, you can at the very least not do them any harm.
I say this not to save their face but yours. People will remember how you responded to various situations, for better or worse, and it will influence so many events in the future.
I hope this article helped make you more aware of the major offenses in photography when it comes to cosplay! This is in no way a complete list, just some of the issues I find most common that folks experience in the community! It is my hope that these problems can be avoided in the future as awareness grows. If you have any suggestions about others to add, feel free to comment below!
ALSO! If you would like to learn more about Cosplay photography, be sure to check out Deegan Marie’s panel at Saboten! It is titled Cosplay Photography: A Guide for Newbies and Veterans it will be located in the Alhambra room on Sunday Spe3rd at 2:30-3:30 pm. Deegan is our chief photographer and has a wealth of knowledge and experience under her belt. I highly advise checking out the panel!