PF 070: 7 Tips for Great Comic Convention Photography
Improve Your Comic Convention Photography
Star Wars Celebration is coming back to Orlando, which seemed like a good reminder to share some advice for improving your comic convention photography.
These events are incredible fun because the fans who attend are talented and passionate. People put their heart and soul into creating costumes and becoming their character. You can meet some wonderful people and have a great time at comic conventions. These folks make great photography subjects because they are vibrant, colorful and just out of the ordinary.
Of course, you need to know the rules of each convention and what sort of technical pitfalls await. With that in mind, we have seven tips to help you prepare and get your best shots at comic conventions.
1: Check for Photography Restrictions
There are two types of restrictions that you need to understand before you go to a comic convention.
The first thing you want to know are the rules of the event. For example. Star Wars Celebration Orlando permits still and motion photography on the show floor and around the convention center. However, you may not take photos in the panels, screenings or other gatherings. If the rules say don't take photos or video, you risk being booted out for any violation.
The second type of restriction is more of a personal matter. There is a saying that “Cosplay does not equal consent.” In other words, don't just start snapping photos. Ask people before you take their photo. A great many will agree. Some may be busy, but are willing to meet you later for a shot. A few will just decline.
Celebrities at these events are sometimes available for photos for a fee. Trying to take photos of them without paying is poor etiquette. Just as with anyone else, ask before you take a photo of someone.
2: Use a White Balance Card
The lighting in convention centers is horrible for photographers. It's often some kind of sodium vapor or fluorescent light with a green color cast. It's absolutely horrible for skin color. Your best defense is to use something like a grey card or an X-Rite Colorchecker Passport to ensure you have a good baseline for your colors.
**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.Lastolite Ezybalance Grey/White Card X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo
3: Engage with People at the Comic Convention
Some people travel thousands of miles to attend these conventions. Talk to them! They want to be with people who share a similar interest.
- Compliment their costume
- Ask questions about their character
- Find out if they have a web page or social media following
- Offer to provide them with photos
There are Cosplay celebrities who have a large following at these events and on social media. Share a nice photo of them and you may get a bump as they share with their audience.
This is Femtrooper Julie. She's a Star Wars and Cosplay entertainer. I had no idea who she was during the show, but looked her up afterward. She was great fun to be around, and she has a decent sized following online.
4: Watch Your Backgrounds
Even the Man of Steel can't save this photo.
Nothing ruins a photo quite like a distracting background. It's really very difficult to get a good shot without background distractions in the middle of the show floor. Besides, you never know if someone else with photobomb your shot looking at the backside of someone's cape.
The Cosplayers want good photos, so ask them if you can shoot them someplace without a distracting background. Look for a clean wall. Sometimes you may find that there are sets available for photos, as with these shots.
5: Don't Overload on Gear
Convention floors can get very crowded. Also, consider that you could spend up to 12 hours a day at some of these events with opportunities to shoot all sorts of interesting people. Do you really want to lug around a lot of gear?
I typically go with one body and one or two lenses. The Nikon 24-70 is a good walk-about lens for me, and I also use the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 prime for some portraits. I'll keep the gear in a messenger bag so it's convenient, but not too bulky.
6: Prepare for Horrible Light
I already mentioned that most convention centers have awful lighting that creates a nasty color cast on skin tones. You can see some of it on the Superman photo above. He looks like he's trying to recover from some Kryptonite.
You should also expect to find a relatively low light environment. That creates some possible alternatives.
1: Boost your ISO
2: Try using Flash (which doesn't balance well with the available light and can be cumbersome with light modifiers.
3:…or you could bring a tripod and do HDR
I know, it sounds like a weird idea. I recommend a small tripod that fits in your messenger bag. Try not to set up in high traffic areas so folks won't trip over your legs. Then you can ask your characters to hold very still and shoot off a bracket of frames.
With the exception of Superman, all of the photos above were HDR portraits taken on a tripod. Here are a few more examples.
7: Not All of the Great Shots are Inside the Convention Halls
People are naturally drawn to the convention halls, but they go in and out. Don't forget to go outside and get some shots. You don't have to deal with the horrible lighting and you may get some interesting group shots. You also see people behaving in character as they come across other people. More often than not, it's hilarious.
Also, you may have much better light for your comic convention photos.
The Orange County Convention Center hosting Star Wars Celebration & Megacon has glorious windows along the exterior. You can take some very nice portraits with the diffused light coming through those windows. You also don't have as many distractions out in the foyer, either.
Don't forget to go outside the building. You can get some great shots as a character like Darth Vader walks along the sidewalk. Move around. The action is everywhere.
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