Getting quality Photos at Cons

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#1 FootNote on 5 years ago

So I am going to my first con with the goal of getting quality photos of cos-players. Now I always see photos of cos-players at cons, and 95% of the time they simply look like snapshots, which there is nothing wrong with that if you are simply trying to cover the event.

From what I can tell is there is two key problems.

A: Lighting.
B: Background.

Now the convention I am going to is pretty big Emerald City Comic Con, I have never been so this will be my first time. I am not entirely sure what to expect as far as where it is being hosted and the layout of the convention. My goal is to get photoshoot quality photos at the convention even though I don't have a room to shoot in or a booth.

I plan on fixing those problems by my strobe with me, its only an AB400 so its not overly large and hopefully not too many people will give it too much attention. I will be able to create a spotlight effect and everything behind the cos-player will be dark. I also plan on minimizing the background (which should be black) by getting more close up photos, focusing on parts of the costume, head shots, 1/3 shots, ect ect. I am hoping I can set the strobe up in a corner somewhere out of the way.

So am I missing anything that is key for shooting at a convention?

#2 nathancarter on 5 years ago

What modifier(s) are you using to create the spotlight effect? A gridded snoot? Gridded BD?

Are you arranging with people beforehand, or are you just setting up somewhere and grabbing passers-by for quick shots?

Indoors, if you're just using a standard umbrella or dish reflector, you're going to have a lot of issues with bounce/spill keeping you from dropping the background to black - unless you find a moderately large & empty room.

Outdoors, it's not too hard to kill the background, but a single light gives you a little limitation in flexibility.

I did approximately the same thing last year at the DC meetup at MegaCon, using two Speedlights. It was pretty hard to kill all the ambient, but your AB is way more powerful than Speedlights - so IF you can find a location where you can control bounce/spill, you can close down the aperture and/or use a ND to kill the ambient... until your battery pack runs out ;)


Here's one with last year's setup. Main light is in a brolly box to camera left; kicker light is bare, sitting on my backpack to rear camera right, to give some separation form the background. Note that the background is not completely clipped to black.

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancarter/8610992141/][img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8125/8610992141_75db824a87_z.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancarter/8610992141/]MegaCon_20130316_2951.jpg[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/nathancarter/]nathancarter[/url], on Flickr

It didn't work as well for groups :)

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancarter/8612114106/][img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8525/8612114106_5429ca2bef_z.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancarter/8612114106/]MegaCon_20130316_3034.jpg[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/nathancarter/]nathancarter[/url], on Flickr


Director's cut alternate ending:
Instead of killing background to completely black, find someplace that doesn't have an objectionable background. It might take a little bit of wandering around, and looking at the space with a very specific intent.

This is the same day, same building (Orange County convention center in Orlando), approximately the same setup, at a little planter right inside one of the entry ways at the far end of the convention space.

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancarter/8610976527/][img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8244/8610976527_9b0018df89_z.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancarter/8610976527/]MegaCon_20130316_2827.jpg[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/nathancarter/]nathancarter[/url], on Flickr

#3 FootNote on 5 years ago

Thanks for the well thought out reply. I am pretty simple when it comes to modifiers. I have a grid for the spotlight and only the diffuser for the BD. I will probably bring the BD but I highly doubt I will even take it out of the jeep.

Right now I am trying to connect with as many people as I can before hand, so far I am talking to one cosplayer I met on here and there is one more well known cosplayer I am trying to arrange something with while she is here but outside her first message I have yet to hear from her again. I am also going to try and network with some cosplayers I meet there and set something up, rather than set something up and try and wave people down.

Indoors the plan is just the gridded spotlight, which has worked great in my past photoshoots but I think the key will be tight shots and angles. I hate overpowering photos with PS (Mainly because I am horrible at it) but as long as I can get a distinct difference between lighting the model and the background I can make the background block out completely.

I am not completely object to shooting outdoors but being Seattle I am not counting on the weather being good, and also I have no idea what the area is going to be like so I always imagine the worse. I defiantly plan on checking out the surrounding area.

#4 WonJohnSoup on 5 years ago

I feel like an AB400 (or any studio strobe) would be a big liability at cons because you'll be very restricted to where you can shoot since you'll need an outlet. Unless you have a battery pack. But if you're using mostly grids I would go with a speedlight setup with some grids slapped on. I'm personally not a fan of people taking up entire walkways with studio strobes and stands, but you may be able to find a good spot that works well and doesn't turn into a walking hazard, who knows.

#5 FootNote on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=WonJohnSoup;4833279]I feel like an AB400 (or any studio strobe) would be a big liability at cons because you'll be very restricted to where you can shoot since you'll need an outlet. Unless you have a battery pack. But if you're using mostly grids I would go with a speedlight setup with some grids slapped on. I'm personally not a fan of people taking up entire walkways with studio strobes and stands, but you may be able to find a good spot that works well and doesn't turn into a walking hazard, who knows.[/QUOTE]

Sadly when I took a long brake from photography, the one speed light I did have is gone because the batteries blew up in it lol.

I do see what your saying though and it is my concern too which is why I posted on here. I am really not trying to be "That Guy" when getting photos, but at the same time, if I can get the right photos then... *shrug* Don't get me wrong, Ideally I will find an out of the way location to do shoots. I really don't plan on setting up in the middle of a walk way and stopping traffic. My biggest problem is ignorance, I have never been to this event before so I am not sure whats going to be were ect ect.

#6 WonJohnSoup on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=FootNote;4833286]Sadly when I took a long brake from photography, the one speed light I did have is gone because the batteries blew up in it lol.

I do see what your saying though and it is my concern too which is why I posted on here. I am really not trying to be "That Guy" when getting photos, but at the same time, if I can get the right photos then... *shrug* Don't get me wrong, Ideally I will find an out of the way location to do shoots. I really don't plan on setting up in the middle of a walk way and stopping traffic. My biggest problem is ignorance, I have never been to this event before so I am not sure whats going to be were ect ect.[/QUOTE]

Hear ya. What I did my first con was scout it the day ahead. You may not need to go that far. Maybe just walk in without your lighting gear and see if you can do with modify natural light. The snapshot style photos you're seeing are what the hobby calls "hallway shots" and they're mostly for recording the event casually, yeah. For controlled lighting I see 90% portable speedlight setups. They especially come out in hordes during the night haha

I carry two yong nuos with radio triggers and carry my two small light stands in my arms or occasionally on my backpack. Depending on the con I really have to hunt down locations that can stand in as a studio style backdrops (parking lots will have lot of photogs funneling down there if the con is particularly difficult). Good luck!

#7 Wyumez on 5 years ago

I saw three people with four strobes at the last con I was at. I thought the lighting was ample and would receive the same result in post. I carry light so I usually bring a (wide lens so people will stop walking between my shots). I try to move myself to make it favorable to the lighting. I noticed many people pose in front of the light source, which makes them dark. I try to change direction once they allow me to take their picture.

#8 LarryMHolder on 5 years ago

I've only been shooting at conventions for about 3 years now, but I've boiled down to a 3 slaved speed light system when I have the opportunity to have a booth. That gives me a lot of control for various lighting. Recently I went to a con and had no booth for place to really shoot, by talking to regulars there I found a couple pretty good empty areas and used two speed lights on slaves with a soft box on the main front light and bounced the second light off a reflector or used it as a backlight. It was a pain to truck the gear around, but it worked.

[IMG]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-LgFCpc8UNIA/Up_Fb_em7gI/AAAAAAAAI18/a3h108_PhBw/s1600/DSC_7354.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-fmYh8Sxk2As/Up_G50lWp7I/AAAAAAAAI7c/T3G5tC-QNMk/s1600/DSC_7307.jpg[/IMG]

[IMG]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-4wu-Z6FXsvs/Up_FeEzJh-I/AAAAAAAAI2M/uOSIcvGIXo0/s1600/DSC_7364.jpg[/IMG]

Of course if you have the time and tools you can always shoot anywhere and remove the background later too :)

[IMG]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-JUkxQ9_kwVQ/Up_JUF9vHMI/AAAAAAAAJAc/qqs2o7WAGGk/s1600/DSC_8029.jpg[/IMG]

#9 Patcave on 5 years ago

I enjoy the challenge of taking well-lit photos at cons. :D

#10 john H on 5 years ago

If your venue is the convention center consider ditching the flash altogether.

The lighter your setup is;
The less tired you'll be from lugging it around

And the more you can shoot, I mean actually pull the trigger.

Here's what I shot sans flash (8 out door photos I believe have flash)

[url]http://www.johnchieber.com/sakuracon-2014-unedited[/url]

#11 thebrick on 5 years ago

Taking just one AB400 strobe is going to give you photos with lots of contrast/not enough balance since you won't have the space to feather it out. Just take a softboxed speedlight that's on a tether or something and use it as a fill light.

[url]http://blog.jyiphoto.com/2014/04/21/awesome-con-2014/[/url]

This is from Awesome Con this past weekend. Too crowded to do any "real" shooting but I still managed by being patient and knowing how to edit. Each shot was taken in about 3-5 seconds.

#12 Dark Photog on 5 years ago

I'd go with a brolly box and speedlight instead of a regular softbox. They're much cheaper, as well as quicker and easier to setup and take down. I have two 43" brolly boxes that I use for location shoots, I paid $25 for both on Amazon.
[url]http://www.ebay.com/itm/110cm-43-Umbrella-Softbox-Soft-Box-Brolly-Reflector-For-Studio-Flash-Strobe-/271218597929?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f25e36029[/url]

Standard speedlight mounts put the flash head too high for them though, I'd suggest using a mount that allows the speedlight to be horizontal. I use the Selens SE L012, but there are others.
[url]http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selens-SE-L012-hot-shoe-Umbrella-Holder-light-stand-L-shape-mount-bracket-/151244176188[/url]

#13 KVN on 5 years ago

I've browsed a lot of cosplay photo galleries and I notice that many photographers don't even care about getting good hallway shots. It seems like they just take the shot like any other snapshooter and move on to the next cosplayer and do the same. Seems like a lost opportunity to me.

#14 ItsTroy on 5 years ago

If you are just doing hallway shots, I'd suggest using a fast prime, something like a 35mm f/1.8 on a Crop or a 50mm f/1.8 on a full frame. Get close and shoot wide open and the crowd behind your subject will melt into delicious bokeh. However, watch your focus because shooting wide open gives you a pretty thin dof. Focus on the subjects' eyes and you should be golden.

Some examples:
[url]https://flic.kr/p/mtGsdn[/url]
[url]https://flic.kr/p/mtG2vX[/url]
[url]https://flic.kr/p/mtHU37[/url]

Or just schedule shoots, bring lighting gear, choose your background, and pull the cosplayer out of the crowd.

#15 Hcoregamer00 on 5 years ago

I saw several strobe setups for Wondercon Anaheim last weekend, since I am friends with all those photographers. The photographs looked amazing, but the downside is being camped out in certain areas. It also attracts lots of attention from convention staff and general attendees.

I try to play with natural light and use my 50mm f1.2L, 70-200mm 2.8L, and the occasional 85mm f1.2L I rent. Doing it allows you to move faster and capture more photos, but you have to be more thoughtful about how natural and artificial light affects the photographs.

Every decision leads to consequences, having an amazing lighting setup allows you do do shoots at con for a longer period of time and it can grant more freedom in using light to paint the photograph. Having no setup pretty much limits you from Golden Hour (sunrise) to Golden Hour (sunset), and it also blocks off a huge chunk of noon unless you can find shade or use reflectors.

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