My friend and I are planning to go to a comic con in November and I have some questions about cosplaying. Cosplaying isn't a big thing around here and I'm just wondering what it entails? I've heard of people being outraged at cosplay being compared to dressing up for Halloween. I spend the entire year planning and figuring out what my costumes will be for Halloween (yes multiple costumes :D)...[and] I'm super excited to go and be among other people who love to dress up!
In the meantime, your words of wisdom on cosplaying and cons in general? I would greatly appreciate it!
If you spend the entire year planning out your Halloween costume, then I can tell you now you're already a cosplayer. It's really just a difference of passion and interactivity; where Halloween costumes are often seen as more of an obligation - you have to wear one to get in to certain parties or score free candy - cosplay is about the joy of the costume itself, and of interacting with others as a certain character.
The word "cosplay" is short for "costume play," and it's the "play" part that I think is key. Cosplay is a labor of love and pure, unadulterated FUN. We don't have to dress up; we do it because we want to!
Some cosplayers really get into the roles of their characters as well, but that's a matter of personal preference and certainly not a requirement. If you're up for it, though, it can be a lot fun to act out your character, from the way you walk and talk to the way you pose for pictures.
I've only started cosplaying recently myself - Lady Vadore was my first real foray - but I've learned a lot from my years of photographing cosplayers at conventions and then in turn being photographed. So here are a few tips:
1. Practice your poses
This made a HUGE difference for me, because I arrived prepared for the cameras and knowing what to do with my hands and arms to make my costume look best. Don't just stand there like a lump when someone asks to take your picture; do something! Even just sticking a hip out or cocking your head at a saucy angle can make a world of difference on film.
Cosplaying with a group? Then work out a group pose that makes use of different levels and spacing. These guys snapped into position in 2 seconds flat - and note how each one is doing something different, and also positioned so I can see them all!
Props are also extremely helpful; they give you something to do with your hands:
One thing I didn't anticipate when I was in costume was that I'd also be asked to take pictures with people, so remember to practice a few options for that, too.
2. Travel Light
Don't load yourself down with a ton of bags and cameras and belongings that you'll have to put down every time someone wants your photo - it'll slow everyone down and cause a major traffic jam. Try to consolidate down to a single bag, or better yet, make it themed to your costume so you don't have to set it down!
Snow White hides her bag with her skirt.
Another option is to travel with a non-costumed friend who's willing to hold your things. Having a handler is essential for bulky or hard-to-maneuver costumes, if only so you have someone who can lead you through crowds or fetch you a drink when you can't get away from the cameras.
3. Take Your Costume for a Test Drive
Do you know if you can eat, sit, and manage a restroom break in your costume? Find out ahead of time! Conventions make for reeeeally long days. And if your costume includes sky-high heels, always pack a back-up pair of flats. Your feet will thank you.
4. Expect delays and interruptions
Have a ton of panels you want to see, friends you want to catch up with, and a lot of serious shopping to do? Then don't wear an awesome costume. You *will* be stopped a lot, and you *will* have to interact with lots of people. If that annoys you, then cosplay may not be for you! Approach the day with an easy-going attitude, and be determined to just enjoy the journey. After all, this is your time to shine, so don't let a too-tight schedule bring you down!
Most of these cosplayers didn't know each other before the day this was taken. They met, formed a group, and spent the day posing for pictures together (and probably made friends along the way!)
1. BE RESPECTFUL.
This is rule #1 in all areas of life, of course, but it's easy to be swept up in the fantasy of cosplay and forget that Superman over there is actually a real person and not the character he's playing.
Although you'd be forgiven for thinking this is Christopher Reeve.
Female cosplayers get the worst of this, sadly, so I'll spell it out, just to be on the safe side: No touching, no con-creeping (ie following them around), and no inappropriate comments.
2. GIVE THEM SPACE
It's easy to treat cosplayers like they're paid professionals at a theme park, but that fact is they're not here solely for your amusement. Odds are they have things they want to see at the con, too, and sometimes they have to eat and take breaks and just hang out with friends. Don't approach a cosplayer who is partially out of costume and sitting down or eating. That's their break time. The same goes for bathrooms and during convention panels (although the times right before and after the panel are fine.)
Sometimes you'll want a photo of a cosplayer who's either mingling with a group or talking one-on-one with someone. As long as the conversation doesn't seem tense (I see a LOT of lovers' spats on the con floor) then here's how to politely interrupt:
1) approach the cosplayer and stop a respectful distance away - at least a few feet
2) have your camera in hand, and wait
3) when the cosplayer looks your way, raise your camera slightly while raising your eyebrows
If the cosplayer doesn't notice you, you may have to get a little closer, or try catching the eye of the person they're with - I've had a lot of luck with that method, particularly for cosplayers in vision-impairing helmets and such. However, read the situation and use common courtesy; sometimes it's best to move on and try to catch them later.
I never advise touching a cosplayer to get their attention - not even a tap on the shoulder. It's too invasive, and too easily misinterpreted, so just don't. If you take a photo with a cosplayer, then wait for him or her to initiate contact. Often times they'll throw an arm around your shoulders or cozy up next to you - but if not, then keep a respectful distance or exercise a judicious bit of hover-hands behind the waist.
- a quick word on kids: I always like to double-check with the parents before photographing younger kids. It's just the non-creepy, polite thing to do. Then I get down on one knee so I'm more on the kid's level:
If you're curious what she's doing, I explained here.
3. COMMUNICATE On the opposite end of the spectrum, it's easy to get so intimidated by a great cosplayer that you freeze up and run the risk of seeming rude. I saw this happen pretty often as Lady Vadore: people would stare at me, pointing, even running backwards in front of me grabbing multiple photos, but refusing to speak to me, meet my eyes (granted, not easy in my mask, of course), or acknowledge in any way that I was anything more than a walking statue. I was talked about ten times more than I was talked to.
Again, with my full mask I realize mine was one of the harder costumes to communicate through, but I've seen this phenomena happen with plenty of non-masked cosplayers as well. (I call it the "beautiful people in spandex" effect.) And the solution is so simple! Here's all you have to do:
1) Make eye contact (or with helmets, look in the general direction of their eyes)
That's it! If you want to go the extra mile, give the thumbs up or call out a compliment or "thanks!" if you've taken someone's picture. Just that - just that! - made me feel a million times more appreciated. Don't assume that just because someone has a great costume they've heard it all before; everyone wants to know that their work is valued. I can also guarantee that most cosplayers are only too eager to talk to you about their costume, so don't be afraid to start a conversation from time to time!
Note: My friend Christie just had another good point: every cosplayer would much rather pose than be "photo sniped" when they're not looking or camera ready. So don't be shy: just ask!
If you want more tips on convention-going in general, then you might want to check out my Dragon*Con Survival Tips - keeping in mind that most conventions aren't nearly so big and overwhelming.
Ok, guys, I'm sure I missed plenty of things, so please share your tips for all things cosplay in the comments! And here's a final giggle to send you off: