Friday, June 13, 2014

Post-Convention Photo Finding Challenge!

On the A-Kon Facebook Group, someone had made a comment that they were unable to find any photos of their cosplay group and wanted some insight. While it wasn't a direct request for me, I felt prompted to give an honest response. And thus! we have the article that I'm posting now.

Part of the fun of dressing up in costume is to have your photo taken by random convention-goers. It's fun to stop and pose, and yes we want the attention. It's why we dress up. And it's great to see the smiles on those who ask for your picture. But now it's after the con, and we are at the hard part: finding those photos. Everyone goes through this hunt at the end of every convention. Sometimes it's to look back at the memories, but for the majority of us, it is to find pictures of us in our costumes!

And it can be a challenge. Even if you had 1,000 photos of you taken in a day, you may only find 1% of them online. It is complete luck of the draw and up the photographer's discretion as to whether or not they wish to upload the photos. But 1,000 pictures is a lot. Why can't you find at least one of them of you in cosplay? Well there are a few reasons:

- Photographers are well within their right to choose whether or not to post photos online. In many cases, those pictures stay on memory cards and cell phones for years simply for the photographer's enjoyment. And that's fine. There is no rule that states that they are required to post pictures from a convention. While a number of us are in a frenzy to post photos as soon as the con is over, some may take years to do this. No really. Years. This happened with a photo someone took of me as Bayonetta. I randomly stumbled upon it on Flickr and found it was uploaded 2 years after I originally wore it.

- Photos may be uploaded to private or personal pages. Selfies in particular may only be seen on that individual's Facebook page. If they do not tag anyone, use hash-tags, or have a private account, you'll never see the image.

- Not everyone is involved with a convention's forum, fan pages, or groups. This can limit the reach for those who do post their photos.

- Lack of key words, or improper key words. I can not count the number of times I have seen a photo of a Cloud Strife cosplayer with the keyword "cronocross." Seriously. That's the key word. How do you expect to find anything if they can't label your character with the right anime/manga/movie/game? While most people will know your character if they stop you for a photo, sometimes, you just look cool and they want your picture. As such, wrong tags will get applied. There are also a number of people who do not tag with the convention name. This results in a lot of images being lost to the internet.

- Images posted to older, unknown websites. Photobucket use to be king, but people rarely use it now. Myspace too. People will upload their images to whatever site they utilize the most, and it may not be where you, personally, would search for images.

Here are a few tips that I have learned over the years to help make your hunt a little easier:

- Hire a professional photographer. Yes this will most likely cost you money. But it is a 100% guarantee that you will get a nice photo of you in your costume, versus a flash mirror photo. A number of cosplay photographers have reasonable rates, some are free! Take the time to research the photographers before a convention, learn how they work, and their shooting style.

- Make and pass out business cards after every photo. This won't always net you photos, but people are more likely to tag you or post them to your Facebook page if they know who you are. You can buy business cards through multiple outlets,, VistaPrint, even FedEx and Office Depot provide these services. Minimum orders are usually 250 cards, and they will last you through several conventions.

- Use generic search terms. Don't search with your character name, managa, anime, etc. You are less likely to yield hits because most people will not keyword every photo. They'll do a generic group tagging of keywords. I personally do this because I uploaded hundreds of pictures for each convention. I don't have time to tag each one appropriately. Yes, you will have to filter through more images, but you are more likely to stumble upon your own versus strenuous search restrictions. "Otakon Cosplay 2014" will do better then "Fuu Samurai Champloo Otakon Saturday 2014 Cosplay Contest."

- Utilize the photo threads! More conventions are now devoting sections of their websites to host photo galleries or will link directly to them. Again, it is a lot of photo searching, but half your fight of locating an album has been handled. Convention forums will also sometimes post a "Have you seen me?" thread where you can post what you were wearing and the days, and people will generally link photos to you through this method.

- Patience. This seems obvious, but a lot of people will give up after roaming 2 albums. Keep in mind that not everyone posts photos the day after a con. Some will take months, or years, until you see a picture of you in your cosplay surface online. Check off and on for a few weeks in your free time. Run through 2-3 albums and then take a break. Come back a few days later and look through new galleries. It will take time. Pace yourself and you will find the strength to make it through the galleries.

- Get involved on the convention forums and Facebook group. You might find a photo gallery not posted anywhere else!

- Give lesser known photo sights a shot. Some people still use Photobucket for photo uploads. It does not hurt to try and search.

This is a process that every cosplayer undergoes. Even the infamous ones in our community will still spend nights searching through galleries, trying to find pictures of themselves. You are not alone. We are all in the hunt together. The best advice that I can give is to plan for next year. Make an appointment with a photographer, create business cards, and take photos with a friend or family member using a camera. These are the best ways to ensure you get a photo (and a good one at that) of you in your costume.  (Photos taken at A-Kon 25.)


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