A question I've often been asked and seen tossed around on the internet is why some cosplayers choose to take their own photos and the pros and cons of it. So I decided to go over the why's and in a follow-up post I'll cover the pros and cons.
Money is, of course, going to be a factor. Photoshoots can be costly depending on the photographer you work with. But it may not always be the most expensive route. Taking your own photos only really cuts costs if you already have your own equipment. Nice cameras cost money and if you want to keep improving your photos, it means continuously upgrading your equipment (better lens, lighting, editing software, etc). These expenses may not be worth the investment for everyone.
I already owned a DSLR and found upgrading my camera (as well as my set up) to be worth it in the long run. I make a lot of cosplays, which means I need to do a lot of shoots and that would add up and get pricey quickly!
However, don't fret if camera equipment and shoot costs aren't in your budget. There's cheap ways to shoot cosplays yourself using just a phone and plenty of photographers who'll shoot for free (whether it's because they're looking to build their portfolio or they're just super nice like that--not to say photographer who charge aren't nice, people got to pay bills and eat).
Finding a Photographer
Now finding a photographer to work with can be tricky. There's so many things to factor into it! Do you like their style? Where are they located? Do they have a studio or will you have to find a location to shoot? When are they available and how often? Etc...
I come from a small town, so there wasn't many options as far as cosplay photography was concerned. And I'm a bit restricted when it comes to travel so booking with someone a bit further out wasn't an option. I had to use what I had--which was myself or shoot with the help of friends. I also have a particular editing style I prefer and didn't know of any local photographers with a similar style.
Comfort is a big thing that made me decide to primarily shoot my own cosplays. Now this isn't me saying anything negative about photographers and any I've worked with. It honestly has nothing to do with them!
I'm an incredibly shy person and get very anxious around people I don't know well. So, for example, when shooting with photographers at conventions I never do my best (posing, facial expressions, etc). I go all awkward and shy and hold back so the photos don't turn out as good as they could've. Well, me in the photos. The photos themselves (the lighting, composite, angle, etc) all look great. I just don't look very expressive or my pose is like 30% rather than 100.
I'm also very quiet about when I don't like how I look in a photo (since I often don't like how I look in a photo). I'll usually say I like a photo even when I don't like how I look in it. Most photographers are more than happy to retake a shot though (so don't let my issues deter you)! When I shoot my own photos, I end up with hundreds from one shoot! I'll usually get a dozen shots of the same pose because I know out of the 15 I've taken I'll only like maybe 2 or 3. I, personally, just feel awkward asking for some many retakes.
I feel the same way about giving directions or asking for a specific shot/angle. This is why I find it easiest and less stressful to work solo or asking a friend I'm comfortable with to help, rather than booking a shoot.
So back tracking a bit here, another reason why I shoot my own photos is so I have full creative control over them. Every photographer has a different style and different editing style! It may be hard to find one with a style you like best.
I have a very specific way I like my photos to be edited. That isn't to say I don't enjoy working with other photographers or dislike their styles. I love seeing the variety of photos I get from shooting with others, I just also enjoy having a set of photos I can edit however I please. For example, I prefer editing styles with the super smoothed/retouched skin (I like the "plastic"/magazine look, personally) and often have to edit my eye color since I don't wear contacts. Not all photographers edit their photos this way (and that's okay), so it's nice to have some say in the edits that are done.
I should mention, there are plenty of photographers who allow their photos to be edited by the cosplayer or someone the cosplayer may hire, so it's not impossible to find someone who'll allow the photos be edited in a way you prefer. It's just easier for me to have all the rights from the start by self shooting, rather than searching for a photographer who edits similar to me or will allow edits.
Photo & Print Rights
Photo rights in general (not just the right to edit) is one of the biggest reasons I prefer to self shoot. When you shoot with a photographer, the photographer owns all the rights to those photos unless you sign a contract otherwise. Now most photographers don't mind if you share those photos on your social media, website, etc.. It was probably what you both assumed they would be used for from the start. When money comes into play is where it gets tricky though.
I sell prints both online and at conventions. I also distribute cosplay photos to patrons on Patreon first (they get a first look at cosplay shoots I do). If I were to shoot with a photographer, I wouldn't have the rights to do this--I'd have to ask first and work out some sort of contract.
I'm not sure what sort of fees photographers may charge for posting to a paid tier on Patreon, but I do know that a lot of the times print rights come with some sort of fee (it can be anything from a flat rate to a percentage of each sale). My prints don't sell a ton to start with so anyone who charges a flat rate fee is out of the question and I already don't make much of a profit off of prints, so losing another percentage of the sale isn't too appealing. Now this may be worth it if your prints sell better and if the photo is one you really love and think will sell well. But for me, it's just not the best investment. Again, I should mention there are some photographers that don't charge anything extra or will give away print rights for free.
I simply prefer to have control over a set of photos for each costume, without having to deal with any sort of contracts or legal things, so that I have options to create and sell prints and can post early access content to my Patreon.
Now this is another big reason why I choose to self-shoot. I have a Patreon where I try to make a new costume each month (sometimes it'll be every other months and other times I may have several in one month). This means I need to do a lot of shoots and I need photos quickly.
That's a lot of content to demand from a photographer--especially if you only find a handful or less in your area to work with. I feel like I'd basically be looking for someone to be my own personal photographer and editor (and I can't afford that).
So it's a lot easier for me to self-shoot. I know when I need content and can take a few hours out of my day to edit some photos and post those whenever I need them. This also means, if I fall behind on content, I have no one to blame but myself and can usually easily fix that or adjust my schedule to make up for it. I won't be relying on someone else to get new content to me and needing them to do so quickly.
So these are the reasons I decide to take my own cosplay photos! While I'm always more than happy and willing to work with other photographers, especially at conventions, I'll always do my own self-shoot of each costume. It's a way I can easily create the amount of content I need and maintain control over the photos without any contracts or legal hassle.
If you were wondering as to why some cosplayers choose to self shoot, I hope this gave you a bit of insight!
~Positive Outcomes Only~
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