"Its not fair for photographers to charge to shoot costumes at cons."
Now there are are many popular debates going on in the nerd community. Specifically, there are some pretty heated ones in the cosplay world. The one that sticks out the most to me is whether or not photographers should charge the cosplayers they schedule shoots with at conventions.
I am a photographer. I’ve been shooting cosplay for a year now. I’ve gone to 5 conventions so far and a private cosplay photography event. I have done both free and paid cosplay shoots. I have done cosplay shoots on location, inside convention centers, and in studios. In the the time I’ve been shooting, I’ve worked with many cosplayers from very beginner experience levels and seasoned veterans.
I’m going to respond to some of the most common reasons I’ve heard and seen cosplayers give for not wanting to pay photographers. All responses are my personal opinion. I hope that my thoughts help cosplayers understand photographers more.
"I spend a very large amount of time and money on costume. I have to pay to travel to cons and pay for my hotel too. Its not fair for me to have to pay for the photographer’s hobby and their convention expenses too."
I understand that cosplay costumes are an intense labor of love. You guys pack in more passion for your craft than I could imagine. The amount of personal time you dedicate to your costume work is commendable and the amount of money you spend on resources always shocks me. Now while I hold a great deal of respect for how much you guys pour into your craft, I don’t agree that its not fair to pay for a shoot. Photography can be a fun hobby too and photography can be a job and career. When you are paying for a photographer to shoot you, you aren’t paying for them to have a fun weekend. You are paying for a service, (photographing your costume and processing your pictures) and a product (the finished photographs you are delivered). When you schedule a shoot with a photographer, you are hiring them to work for you. Booking a photographer is how you as a cosplayer can guarantee that you get time with the specific artist you want to work with and their unique style of art delivered personally to you.
"Its not fair that a photographer can sell my photo and I don’t get any profits. They took advantage of a free model!"
Photographers reserve all of the rights to their imagery unless they sell the rights to another party. One of those rights is the right to sell and distribute their photos. Photographers can also license another party to sell and distribute their work. I do not agree with a photographer selling photos of a cosplayer without informing them first. Personally, I will also work out a deal so that they can walk away with compensation too. Your photographer should be using model releases if they plan on possibly selling the photos they shot of you. This is where the photographer is informing you of their rights as well as yours. Every photographer is different. Some will let the model have the right to sell their work as well, some require you to buy a license from them and sign a separate contract for that. Make sure you carefully read all releases and contracts and ask any questions to fully understand what’s to be expected and what the terms of your deal are. Here is a helpful link to know when you need to have a model release >http://asmp.org/tutorials/frequently-asked-questions-about-releases.html#.UTk5GtHwIox
Experienced cosplayers are often phenomenal models. If you feel like you can provide a quality service as a model, you can market yourself that way. If a photographer messages you because they love your work and want you to shoot with them, you do have the option to accept or decline. Its up to you. Just like photographers have the option to accept or decline photo jobs. I don’t have to shoot everyone that asks me and you don’t have to pose for everyone who asks you.
"Other photographers are free or have really reasonable prices. The really expensive photographer’s prices are ridiculous and greedy."
Shop around! There are PLENTY of photographers to choose from to shoot your costume. When you’re deciding who you want to book to shoot your costume, consider what is in your budget. If you know that you have a tight spending limit, plan accordingly. Most cosplay photographers have a set of rates for convention shoots. So let them know you’re interested and ask for a price. If you can’t afford them, keep it moving. You can find someone else. If you really really really want to work with that photographer and you can’t figure out a way to save up the money, you can negotiate. Go for a shorter shooting session, less final photos, longer turnaround time. Most photographers are flexible and will try to work something out with you if you are serious about hiring them. But do not expect them to give you a free shoot just because you say you are broke. We all have our personal financial burdens. If you can’t afford that photographer, consider your options and work with them when you can.
Still think that a photographer is too expensive? Most cosplayers don’t even understand that even the most expensive cosplay photographers still aren’t charging the typical amounts photographers charge. Outside of the convention and cosplay world, head shots can very easily start at $500 a session and $250 for every final image. Its also common practice to pay a 50% down payment on your shoot to even get your session booked on the photographer’s calendar. Honestly, a lot of cosplayers, don’t know how spoiled they are with cheap photos and phenomenal photographic talent.
I personally know some cosplay photographers who are very talented and never charge for cosplay work. That’s because cosplay photography is their hobby and they do other work for income. Since cosplay photography is their hobby, they have unlimited freedoms on how they shoot in our out of conventions. Hiring a photographer has its advantage to guaranteeing you a specific time and a product to be delivered in a certain turnaround time. If I shoot at a convention for free, I’m going to pick and chose the cosplayers I want to work with solely on my personal tastes. I could go in there thinking, “I want to do a series on Lolita.” And spend my time only shooting Lolita cosplayers. I also have the freedom on how and when I edit the photos. Like I said earlier, when you book a photographer you are hiring them to work for you. If the shoot is free, I’m doing it on my own time.
"I know a lot of cosplayers who get shoots with really great photographers for free! Why should I have to pay?"
If a cosplayer is being shot for free, either that photographer doesn’t charge for cosplay shoots and its their personal project for fun, or the cosplayer has a Time For Print agreement with the photographer. Time for Print means that a cosplayer/model offers up their time and services in turn for a print of the work to use in their personal or professional portfolio. The terms of a TFP agreement can be negotiated for each job and fit those involved. Bottom line, its an agreement. TFP is really the type of work that most cosplayers want because its “free” but to photographers, they are looking at it as an opportunity to network and build their personal and professional portfolios. And just because a photographer does a TFP deal with a cosplayer/model, doesn’t mean that ALL shoots with that cosplayer/model are TFP. The photographer has the right to charge for their work on any given shoot and so can the cosplayer. But just like I said before, that should all be agreed upon BEFORE the photo shoot is scheduled.
That’s all I have for this topic. I honestly hope that more cosplayers will understand that scheduling photo shoots is a business transaction and that they are dealing with professionals. If there is more understanding between cosplayers and photographers, then there will be less debate and more happy costumers. :D
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