Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What is a Photoshoot?

Have you ever looked through a gallery of a cosplay photographer and noticed that some pictures are different than the others? These different pictures may have a more interesting background, there may be a wider variety of poses, or there are more interesting angles. When looking at the photos there is something special about them that draws you in compared to the other photos. The reason why those photos look so nice compared to the vast majority of the photographer’s other work is because those different photos are a cosplay photoshoot. What makes a photoshoot so special? Why do they look better than a hallway shot? I will explore the world of photoshoots and explain why a cosplayer should have a couple of them for their favorite cosplay outfits.

The “Hallway Shot”

Before talking about photoshoots, I need to go a little into the hallway shot. A vast majority of cosplay pictures online are hallway shots. They are by no means the inferior version, but they are far more ubiquitous than the photoshoot pictures.

Hallway Shot
When a photographer does hallway shots, they have a “gotta catch them all” Pokemon mentality of taking as many cosplay pictures as possible. To get the maximum amount of shots, the photographers snap pictures of any interesting cosplay the moment they see them. That means that the background of picture is where the photo is taken. In general, most of these places are the hallways of hotels and convention centers, hence the term “hallway shot.” At most the interaction between the photographer and the cosplayer is complimenting them on the outfit, and snapping 3 or 4 pictures. At worst the interaction between the two parties are just a “can I take a picture,” and after a couple of shots a quick “thank you.” Due to the quick nature of the hallway shot, only the basics of composition are followed. The more complicated techniques and angles take much more time, which means that they tend to be used less during a hallway shot.

Hallway shots are the best way for a photographer to grab as many photos as possible in a short time period. When doing hallway shots, I interact with around 100-150 people over the course of an hour and I snap around 400-600 pictures. If you do that math, it means at most spending 20 seconds per cosplayer. During a con, I try to dedicate at least 5 hours a day of the con just for the hallway shots, other photographers may spend more or less time doing it. For a cosplayer, they get a lot of shots during the hallway shots, but the chances of them getting the pictures in their hands are very small. Due to the mix of professionals and casual photographers, the number of actual photos posted online is very slim.

The Photoshoot

In contrast, a photoshoot is rarer and in general they are the minority of the cosplay photos out there. They are a minority just because the shoots in general are slower and the number of pictures taken during the shoot is smaller compared to a hallway shot. It also takes great practice, lots of patience, and incredible directing talent to do a great photoshoot.

Photoshoots take lots of time,
but there is great reward for doing it.
A photoshoot in general lasts between 10 and 60 minutes. There are some that are shorter, and there are some that are much longer. During a photoshoot, considerable time is spent finding a great background and determining the proper lighting for the situation. This means that a photographer and cosplayer will spend time moving from location to location. There is much more time to move around, so the photographer can get more shots and different angles that one cannot do during hallway shots. The slower pace of a photoshoot also means that there will be many more poses done during the shoot. My favorite photoshoots are when the cosplayers work well with each other and with the photographer. It is much easier doing a photoshoot with someone you know well, or have something in common. The photoshoot also goes much faster when the cosplayers have a great dynamic together.

Due to the nature of the photoshoot, there is a difference the amount of preparation needed for the cosplayer. When a cosplayer is doing a photoshoot, they must know a variety of poses and have locations in mind. During a 10 minute photoshoot, a cosplayer will do at least 5 major poses. If a photoshoot is an hour, a photographer will expect the cosplayer to do around 30 poses. A cosplayer doesn’t need to do 30 different poses, but they need to have a library of poses to think of when moving from location to location.

The photoshoot is best when a cosplayer wants to have many pictures taken from a certain photographer. Think of it as a time cost, for every minute you do a photoshoot, there is one less minute that someone will take a picture of your outfit or that you as a cosplay photographer can do a hallway shot. Over the course of a 30 minute photoshoot, I can take around 100 pictures. That means that I miss quite a bit of photos I could have taken if I did 30 minutes of hallway shots.

My Madoka Magica shoot, one
of my favorite shoots during AX 2011
For a cosplayer, having a photoshoot has many positives. The first is that you have a photographer paying attention to you and you only, which means all the energy they are using will be in taking your photo. The second reason is that you as a cosplayer can give input and suggestions, which can enhance the shoot. The third reason is that you are having your photos taken by a familiar style, which means that the photographs will turn out like what you expect. There is a certain level of quality that you will be getting with the photographer you use. The fourth, and probably one of the most important is that you have a direct connection with the photographer, which means that odds are very very high that you will have those photographs in your possession after the con. I have heard many stories of cosplayers having hundreds of photos taken of them, with not a single photograph of them posted online. The easiest solution is to have a photoshoot where a photographer has a stake in your photos, they will be more likely to give you the photographs after the convention.

One is not better than the other; there are positives and negatives for both. I don’t suggest doing a photoshoot with a cosplay photographer unless you like the style of the photographer and feel that the shoot is worth your time. On the other hand, some of the best cosplay photographs you will ever get will be through a photoshoot.

Hallway Shots

  • Quick
  • Can meet a lot of people
  • Takes quick thinking
  • Moves very fast
  • Little control over background
  • Limited number of poses
  • Little time to connect with each other

The Photoshoot

  • Great control over posing
  • Control over the background
  • Lots of interaction between photographer and cosplayer
  • Interesting angles
  • Plenty of shots of that one cosplayer
  • Very time consuming
  • Takes lots of practice for the cosplayer and photographer
  • Moves much slower
  • Potentially misses lots of great hallway shots

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