Cosplay Photography Rules

With summer Convention season in full swing and me organizing a Cosplay Day, I was saddened to see a video emerge from Vancouver’s Anime Evolution (AE) June 28th-30th. In the video, a cameraman known as ‘Butch’ happened to be on the UBC Campus while AE was going on and decided to check it out, camera in hand. He points his camera at the various artists in Artist Alley and in one case, right at a girl standing in costume behind a table, seems to be scoping her out. One of the friends in a chair mouths “no,” and shakes her head. He doesn’t get the message and another friend calls out “Excuse me! Hey G! You’re supposed to ask before you take pictures.

The guy with camera then says, “because you just ruined the entire video by doing that, but thanks for being a goof.” He walks off and continues videoing for another minute.

There are many comments about who the real “goof” was, I didn’t feel the need to add to it. Then I came across an article by Tony Kim about Etiquette With Cosplayers. He talks about the past few years, where YouTube journalists at Comic Con International are sexually harassing people at events. This is disturbing, and ignorance at its highest.

Cosplayers enjoy the attention and admiration, but just like you and any other person in our culture, they have their boundaries and sense of personal space. You need to respect it. What does it take to walk up to someone, maybe tap them on the shoulder and say, “Do you mind if I take a couple of shots of your amazing cosplay?”

I have taken thousands of images at Conventions in the past six years and have asked permission every single time. Where I’ve taken cameos, its been friends, and I always show it to them before doing anything with it. Cosplay is not Consent is a new term making the rounds, and it really shouldn’t need to be said. If you see someone harassing a fellow con attendee please, help the harassed leave the situation, or go report it to a Staff member. Don’t attack the harasser, that only makes you the bad guy and causes the Staff to step in and remove the wrong person.

Being a cosplay photographer and the Media Liaison at Tsukino Con, where we haven’t had any incidents that I’m aware of, it becomes clear to me that I may need to draft rules for our Convention of ~2,000 people next year.

Tony Kim’s guide to etiquette is a good start:

1) Permission: Always ask to take a picture. A cosplayer wants to give you the best photo possible, which usually means striking a pose, position, or facial expression. Just clicking a pic without warning diminishes their year round hard work and preparation. I know you many not want to interrupt a cosplayer, but they would rather stop for a good photo than have a bad one floating around on the interweb.

2) Timing: Good timing is common sense. Don’t approach a cosplayer when they’re eating lunch, dismantled and resting, in the bathroom, sitting in panel, etc. Wait till they are ‘on the job’ to ask to take their pics.

3) Rules of Engagement:  Look with your eyes not your hands. Many costumes are made with delicate materials and 1000 oily hands are going to ruin it. Even when you take a pic with a cosplayer, make sure it’s ok to put your arm around them. Again, cosplay is not consent.

4) Keep it Brief: A cosplayers commitment is to the overall fans, not to any one person. It’s not a great time to try to start up a lengthy conversation, unless they are encouraging it. Just be mindful of others around you and not dominating a cosplayer’s time.

5) Wonder Twins: A lot of cosplayers are open to pairing-up for a short while, if you have a costume of matching theme and skill level. However, don’t take offense if they would rather go solo. It doesn’t matter what their reason is, just be cool and cosplay on.

6) Safe Space: Do your part to create a ‘safe space’ for cosplayer. That means if you see inappropriate behavior from a fan to a cosplayer, report it to a staff member. This means sexual harassment of any kind. The worst thing in the world would be if Anime /Manga /Gaming /Comic Book /Sci-Fi Cons got a reputation for not being safe to the cosplay community. Remember, cons are about celebrating heroes, so you can be a hero by protecting our beloved cosplayers.

7) Respect: A cosplayer’s desire is to enhance the Convention experience, inspire through their art, and express their fandom. They may come in all shapes and sizes, but they all want and deserve to be treated with respect. Just like any public place, there is a difference between appreciating beauty and ogling something sexually. Regardless of costume, treat a cosplayer as the respected artist that they are. Maintaining eye contact is a good habit to form.

These rule need some modification of course, but they form a great basis of boundaries between Cosplayers and Videographers / Photographers. In a lots of situations these work for contact between any two parties at a convention. Which makes it even sadder that common sense isn’t applied. I guess it’s just not that common.