Cosplay photoshoot etiquette!
This is one of those topics that may be difficult to understand if you’re new to the community. Whether you’re a new cosplayer or photographer, you want to be polite and respectful. But you’re not sure how. There are a lot of unwritten rules in the cosplay community and either you’ll have to ask, or sometimes find out the hard way.
Well, you don’t have to do either of that, because in this article, I’ll go through 10 of the most important cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules you need to know and follow in the community.
I’ll have 5 cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules that COSPLAYERS should follow, and then another 5 that PHOTOGRAPHERS should follow. In other words, the first section will be focused on cosplayers, and how to be respectful to photographers. The second part will be focused on photographers, and how to be respectful to cosplayers.
Special thanks to the cosplayers and photographers who reached out to me and gave their input on this. It helped me get all perspectives.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
As a Cosplayer
1. Find out how much it will cost to do a photoshoot with a cosplayer BEFORE booking
Most photographers will advertise their services, along with their rates. But if they don’t list their rates upfront, don’t be afraid to send them a message to find out. The last thing you want to do is end up performing a photoshoot and then be in for a sticker shock when they tell you how much it costs. Before you do any photoshoot, both you (the cosplayer) and the photographer want to agree on a rate that works for both parties.
And it’s okay to decline a photoshoot if the rate is too much for you. Not saying their rates aren’t worth the quality you get, most of the time the prices are great. But everyone has their own setting in terms of how much they’re willing to pass. I just say, “Unfortunately the rate is out of my budget. Thanks for getting back to me though.”
One more important thing to remember…
Don’t expect free photos from cosplay photographers!
I feel like a lot of cosplayers expect photographers to shoot them for free, which is not true.
Just because a cosplay photographer is your friend or they’re just starting out…doesn’t mean you should expect free photos from them! They’re in this cosplay community for a reason…to take awesome photos and eventually earn some income from it. As a friend, you should definitely support them by giving some money for their services, especially when they’re starting out.
Alright, now that we got the financial stuff out of the way, let’s talk about other cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules…
2. Come prepared for the photoshoot
“Photographers will be testing lighting for a short while; cosplayer should be patient.”~cosplayer
Let’s break this up into 3 main parts: doing research, being on time and having a cosplay kit.
Let’s start with:
Doing research on the character you’re cosplaying
I’m sure many cosplay photographers will do some research on the character you’re cosplaying and try to plan the photoshoot accordingly. But it’s even better if you come prepared as well.
Have a list of photo ideas ready before the shoot, and have some reference photos of your character so you can show your photographer what type of poses you want to do. So if you’re cosplaying Junko from Danganonronpa, you definitely gotta do her signature pose where she sticks her tongue and crosses her forearms!
If you want more tips on how to get ready for a cosplay photoshoot, check out my article here.
Show up on time for your scheduled photoshoots. And don’t cancel last minute!
I am guilty of messing this up, so don’t feel bad if it’s happened to you! But generally speaking, you need to show up on time for your photoshoots. So if you’re supposed to meet with your cosplay photographer at 3 p.m., try to get there 10-15 minutes early in case your bus comes late or you can’t find the meet up location.
During a cosplay convention, cosplay photographers have a lot of photoshoots they book during the day. So if you show up late, not only will they have to delay the shoot of their next client, but it also means less photoshoot time for you. So do your best to show up on time.
Also, if plans change and you cannot attend or make the photoshoot, let the photographer know well in advance. Don’t cancel last minute as that is not very respectful to the photographer. Get your act together!
Have a cosplay kit with you
Hey, stuff happens. Your wig gets blown off by the wind outside. The glue is coming off your costume. An accessory falls off right before the shoot. That’s when a cosplay emergency kit will come in handy! It’ll help you quickly fix these problems.
Here are a few items you want to have on hand with you during a shoot:
- Safety pins to hold something together in a pinch if it falls off
- Thread and needle
“As a cosplayer: researching poses beforehand. Having a care bag for your cosplay. Being on time.”~cosplayer
3. Be assertive during the cosplay photoshoot
Being assertive might sound counterintuitive when it comes to cosplay photoshoot etiquette. But in the end, voicing your opinions and concerns will be beneficial for you (the cosplayer) and the photographer.
Overall, it’s about being assertive and speaking up when needed. Remember that you’re the model /subject of the photoshoot, so you get to have your input as well.
Here are some key points to takeaway:
It’s okay to decline suggestions by the cosplay photographer
Perhaps your cosplay photographer wants you to do a pose that you’re not comfortable with, such as:
- standing on top of something
- a facial expression you can’t do
- something provocative on camera
If that’s the case, then it’s totally okay to tell your photographer that you don’t want to do that pose, and move onto another one. It’s completely fine.
One time a photographer wanted me to climb up this tall structure and if I lost my balance on this, I could have fell and seriously hurt myself. So I politely declined and told the photographer I wasn’t comfortable with it. It was no big deal, and we moved on.
Your cosplay photographer only wants the best photos for the shoot, so they only suggest poses because they feel you would look good posing in that position. But if you’re not comfortable with a certain pose, then they’re going to be okay with it.
Be okay with communicating with the photographer
Just because you and your photographer are focused on getting the best photos, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them! In fact, you definitely should. Talk to your photographer:
- To see the cosplay is still intact. Maybe your wig got messed up, or your logo got flipped upside down (happened to me before). You won’t know notice it, but maybe your photographer will. You’ll be doing them a favor and saving them on editing!
- If you need a break. Photoshoots can be exhausting. Holding a bunch of poses and facial expressions is both physically and mentally tiring. It’s okay to ask for a bit of breather if you’re feeling tired!
- Ask to see the photos during the shoot. Very important! Every now and then, ask your photographer to show you the photos they took of you so far. Maybe your photographer thinks the photos are good, but you may absolutely hate them. At least when you know early on, you and the photographer can adjust to the way you want.
“Cosplayers, if you need a break, tell the photographer instead of walking off.”~cosplayer
“During some shoots I’ve done, people ask for weird poses and stuff, and that bothers me a LOT. Don’t keep pushing the boundaries when models are uncomfortable”~cosplayer
“Photographers, please keep an eye out for flipped collars and messy wigs, as it makes it easier to edit later.”~cosplayer
The last two cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules are stuff that happens outside the shoot, but still related to this topic. Here we go…
4. The unwritten cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules to follow when you get your photos back
Once you’ve done your cosplay photoshoot and gotten your photos back from the photographer, there are some thing you should know, regarding the photos themselves.
Just because you paid the photographer doesn’t mean you get to use the photos however you want! Not using the photos properly is a quick way to piss of a photographer.
So here are some of the unwritten rules that you should know, before sharing a photographer’s picture of you on social media:
Always tag/credit the photographer when you share the photo on social media.
Even though you paid them, the photographer still wants credit (and exposure) for their work! And when someone sees your amazing photo, they want to know who took that wonderful picture. So when you post their photo, be sure to add in the description at the end: “Photo taken/edited by @photographer.” Notice with the photos I post on this blog, I always tag the cosplayer(s) and photographer (unless it’s a royalty-free photo where I cannot trace the origin). I lead by example. 🙂
Don’t edit their photos.
Photographers have already done the heavy lifting by editing and cropping the photos for you. By doing more edits yourself, you’re undoing the work that they did. And let’s say you did a crappy job editing and posted the photo on social media. Then people will assume the photographer made those crappy edits! So leave the photo the way it is.
With that said, you can always ask your photographer if you’re looking for specific edits. Or you can ask the photographer if you can edit the photo in a certain way and show them after.
Either way, it’s best to ask permission first before editing a cosplay photo that a photographer took.
Don’t ask for the raw, unedited photos (unless they specifically allow you to see them).
If you don’t know, raw photos are all the pictures the photographer took of you, completely unedited. I’ll admit that I used to ask for all the raw photos back then because I wanted to see which one looked best, which was not a good idea!
But there’s a reason why photographers take a lot of photos during the shoot. It’s because not all of them will turn out well. Think about it; if you shared a raw, unedited image taken by the photographer, what does that say about the photographer themselves? That they’re too lazy to do any edits, which is completely false!
A nice photographer will show you all the raw unedited photos in a collage (so you can’t actually download and share them) and let you pick from 3-5 of them. That is a pretty decent compromise. So when a photographer doesn’t want to share with you all the raw photos from the photoshoot, it’s not that they don’t want you to have choices. It’s more to protect their work and reputation.
Those are the main cosplay photo etiquette unwritten rules you should follow.
5. Try not to interrupt private photoshoots that are happening at a convention!
This is more of a convention thing, but definitely applies to photoshoots that you’re not part of.
As cosplayers or attendees at a convention, we want to get as many photos of awesome cosplays as we can. So naturally, when we see a beautiful cosplayer in the middle of a private photoshoot, we want to snap a quick photo of them and let them carry on. I’m on the fence about this, but figure it’s important to bring up.
On one hand, it’s kind of ride to interrupt a private photoshoot during a convention. Both the photographer and cosplayer (s) are trying their hardest to get the best photos, and you interrupting them will only make it harder.
But on the other hand, I can understand you want a photo of the cosplayer, because you might not run into them again. And it can’t hurt to ask for a quick photo and then move on, right?
So I say just wait until they’re done doing a photo, and then ask politely if you can get a quick photo of the cosplayer.
One time we had a videographer come and interrupt our photoshoot because he wanted footage for his Cosplay Music Video. I was kind of annoyed because he never asked us; he just decided to come in and film. Luckily, our cosplay photographer didn’t have any other photoshoots he had to do after, so we weren’t stretched out for time, even though a lot was wasted because of this videographer.
Don’t be like that videographer!
Okay! Now that we’ve gone through the cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules as a cosplayer, let’s talk about photographers now! If you’re a cosplay photographer, here are the things you need to know:
As a photographer
6. Things to keep in mind during a photoshoot
I’m not a professional photographer, so I’m going to keep this section specific to cosplay photography. Based on the responses I received, here are some pointers for you cosplay photographer (both current and aspiring):
- No touching the cosplayer (unless you get permission). Cosplay is not consent (link) is very big in the cosplay community. So while helping your model with a specific pose or setting up something is great, just ask the cosplayer first if it’s okay to touch them first. As long as you ask beforehand, then everything should be fine.
- Know a little bit about the character that the model is cosplaying as. In my opinion, the onus is on the cosplayer to do the research and find poses that work for their character. But as a photographer who wants to have cosplay photoshoot etiquette, it doesn’t hurt to have a few poses in mind for your cosplay subject. All you have to do is Google the character and find a few pics of the character, save it on your phone and have it ready for the shoot. You’ll get extra brownie points!
- Be sure to check the costume of the cosplayer from time to time. Just like the point I made about checking your cosplay, as a photographer you should make sure their costume is still on point. If the costume is flipped or their wig isn’t in the right spot, just point it out so the cosplayer can quickly fix it. It’ll make your life easier so you don’t have to edit out these things on the computer.
- Communication is key. Just like how I mentioned that cosplayers need to communicate with the photographer during the shoot, photographers should absolutely do the same! For example, if a cosplayer is tired, unsure or doesn’t feel comfortable with a particular pose, don’t be afraid to ask and voice your concern. Having a fun cosplay photoshoot is the most ideal situation for both parties, and communicating with each other Is the best way to do so.
Doing these little things can make a HUGE difference when it comes to the cosplay photoshoot, and I’m sure your cosplayer client model would really appreciate it as well!
“Review the photos with the cosplayer to make sure they are happy.”~cosplayer
“Photographers should ask to post behind-the-scene photos when the cosplayer is not ready.”~cosplayer
“Photographers shouldn’t touch the cosplayer without asking first.”~cosplayer
“Always ask permission before moving someone’s positions!”~cosplayer
“Sometimes you wish photographers can do a simple look up bout the character?”~cosplayer
7. Be honest about how long it will take to get the photos back
If you’re a photographer, be upfront about how long it’ll take for you to edit and get the photos back to the cosplayer. You don’t want a cosplayer worrying about not getting their photos or money back after several months. So if it’s going to take a month or longer for you to finish, then it’s totally okay to be honest about it.
I know for me I’m cool with photographers taking their time, as long as they let me know. I know they have busy lives and other things to work on, besides photography. Add the fact that photo editing is very time-consuming, on top of having other cosplay photos to edit. So I’m in no rush to share my photos on social media anyway. 🙂
Speaking of photo editing, you might want to be careful with the edits. While some cosplayers just care about looking as beautiful and amazing as possible, others prefer not to be overly Photoshopped. I received this comment regarding photo editing:
“I think the biggest boundary I have regarding photo editing is I never want my body shape edited.”~cosplayer
I don’t think there’s that much to be said regarding cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules for photographers during a shoot. It’s pretty straightforward; be respectful to cosplayers, and communicate with them so you’re both on the same page.
But when it comes to hallway cosplay photography, there are quite a few big rules to follow! Here they are:
8. Ask a cosplayer for permission before taking their photo
One of the golden rules of cosplay! If you see an amazing cosplayer at a convention and want their photo, be sure to go up to them and ask permission to take their photo first before snapping a picture.
Cosplayers absolutely love getting their photos taken (well most of them at least). But you should ask permission for their photo before taking a photo. The cosplayer wants to be posing at their best and ready to take a photo. Plus it’s common courtesy.
Now there are times where it’s impractical to ask every single cosplayer for their photo, such as a group photoshoot. In those moments, just use your judgment and ask, “Is it appropriate to take their photo at this time?” If yes, then go ahead. If not, then try to wait until you can ask for permission first.
On one hand, most cosplayers expect to be photographed at a convention. On the other hand, cosplayers don’t like candid photos of themselves (I’m sure you wouldn’t either!).
I actually did an article about the times about the debate regarding cosplay photo consent at conventions. When you have some spare time to read, click here to check it out.
9. There are times where it’s not best to ask for a cosplayer’s photo
Almost every cosplayer at a convention is more than happy to have their photos taken! However, there are times when a cosplayer does NOT want their picture taken. Some of these situations include:
- When they’re eating or drinking at a table. Bothering them during this time isn’t a good idea. Not only that, cosplayers generally don’t want to pose with food in their mouths, lipstick smeared everywhere and wigs are off. It wouldn’t make for a flatting picture anyway.
- Fixing their cosplay. Cosplayers generally don’t want to be bothered when they’re trying to fix their costume. Sometimes it can be stressful when their cosplay is malfunctioning and they’re desperately trying to fix it, so not the best to ask.
- Doing their own photoshoot. I touched on this earlier, but private shoots are generally a no-no when asking for cosplay photos.
It definitely is tough to not be able to take a photo of a cosplayer that you may possibly not run into again, especially if you’re at a large convention. I don’t really know the solution to this. Maybe you could ask when the next time you can get a photo of them? But that does sound kind of stalker-like!
10. Try not to exclude cosplayers when asking for a photo
“Sometime when a couple cosplays as character from different franchises photographers only take pics of the most popular character o the “sexiest” one. That’s annoying for both as we feel that we are underestimating the job of the other and photographers are no helping at all. At least take one photo of the other cosplayer, they made an effort too”~cosplayer
I see this happen all the time; there’s a group of awesome cosplayers together at a convention…but one of them doesn’t look as good as the rest of the group. Kind of like an ugly duckling of the group.
So what I’ve seen photographers actually do, when they ask for a photo; they ask the ugly duckling cosplayer to step aside and not be part of the photo! That isn’t very nice. The group of cosplayers won’t appreciate it and especially the one that’s being singled out.
I’ve personally had this happen to me so many times; I’m walking around with my female friends and we’re all cosplaying the same series. Someone comes up and asks for a photo, but not all of us; just my female friends. I’m used to it though and it doesn’t bother me anymore. I get it. I’m not a hot cosplay girl, and I can accept that! I get surprised when a photographer actually wants me in the photo, and not just my attractive female cosplay friends.
But I’ve had it easy compared to other cosplayers. Some get shunned out of a cosplay photo because they’re not a certain body type. Or their cosplay isn’t as good as their friends. It’s a shame it happens, but it’s reality.
As a cosplay photographer, here is my solution to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings; take multiple photos of the group. For example,
- Photo of all the cosplayers
- Photo of each cosplayer
- Picture of the cosplayers separated (i.e. the photo you really wanted)
It only takes a few extra seconds to take a photo of all the cosplayers, and only a few megabytes off your camera’s storage space. That little effort will make a significant difference and everyone is happy in the end!
To summarize, here are the cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules you need to know (5 for cosplayers and 5 for photographers):
- Find out how much it will cost to do a photoshoot with a cosplayer BEFORE booking
- Come prepared for the photoshoot
- Be assertive during the cosplay photoshoot
- The unwritten rules to follow when you get your cosplay photos back from a photographer
- Try not to interrupt private photoshoots that are happening at a convention!
- Things to keep in mind during a photoshoot
- Be honest about how long it will take to get the photos back
- Ask a cosplayer for permission before taking their photo
- There are times where it’s not best to ask for a cosplayer’s photo
- Try not to exclude cosplayers when asking for a photo
And there you have it; all the cosplay photoshoot etiquette rules you need to know!
Which rule(s) resonate with you the most? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments down below, I’d love to hear!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!