Ursula & The Mermaid | Montreal Comic-Con

Welcome back!

You may recognize the lovely Jessica Harkonnen as the wonderful Queen Ravenna from the Snow White and the Huntsman series… I had taken photos of her the year or so prior. It’s very cool to see how far you progress as a photographer as these photos were very well received. It was a very stressful photo shoot due to working with a new venue (for me) and handling a much larger costume than I expected.

Jessica had broken down her experience of what it’s like to do a “Hell build” (a costume of 100+ hours in less than a month) and how it was executed via Facebook. It was a great idea to show people of different skill and experience what it takes to do something like that.

A few friends, myself included, volunteered to help Jessica get into her costume while simultaneously trying not to ruin it, which was probably the part that caused me the most anxiety at that point. I should be clear and say that I had never been to MCC before, as everyone involved had been made aware of this fact ahead of time. I tried to scout photoshoot locations the day prior but was still trying to grasp my bearings even by the Saturday morning (the Palais de Congres is huge and the upper levels can be a bit labyrinthine when you’re unfamiliar).

I had to stop helping Jess get ready partway through since I had to give a panel with Lexa Lefay and OS Cosplay, but by the time we were finished our panel she and Peekaboo Cosplay were pretty much ready to go. On the advice of those present who had attended the convention before I went to check out a certain area as a possible shoot location… which I did, and I wasn’t overall a huge fan of the spot. I came back to the Cosplay Lounge. I was then asked to go look again, and that’s when I came across a friend of mine who I was able to ask for the inside scoop on good photo locations. He said: “I have the perfect place!” and knew how to get there, but I failed to ask exactly on which floor it was.  You see, we knew her costume was huge, but we didn’t quite have a grasp on how mobile she would be once she got into it. So, when my friend informed us we had to go down a floor for the location, a troop of 4 of us guided Jess down the stairs (which took 20 minutes). It was quite a fiasco, but con-goers were generally very nice and patient with us.

We finally got off the staircase and Jess asked where to next. I looked at my friend and he said, “It’s downstairs”. I remember thinking “fuuuuuuck” in my head (excuse the language), and Jess said “no.” instantly, and I totally shared that sentiment. Strike 1. We decided we’d have to find somewhere on that floor to shoot, and her handler suggested making use of some of the glass walls. We were out of the way, but the costumes still gained a lot of attention. I had to be strategic about how much or how often I moved her (Peekaboo was a bit more mobile). I should also mention at this point that not only was I dealing with the stress of the fragile and large costume and the guilt for not being clearer about the ideal shoot location, I was also doing my best to take good photos while a sea of people clamoring to take their own photos of Ursula and The Mermaid built up behind and around us.

By this point, some of her costume had torn (the friction against the carpet and stairs was bad for the tentacles), so we moved things around to hide those spots. While we were getting her settled into a new pose, I was frantically trying to help by adjusting her costume.  She looked down at me and firmly told me to stop and wait. Strike 2. I was shaking.

At this point in time I only knew three things:

  1. After this great friendship we’d built up in the months before, it was official that she now hated me.
  2. No cosplayer would want to have me shoot with them again.
  3. This disaster – the chaos, the miscommunications, the frustration – was a sign that I should just stop doing photography altogether.

In that moment, nothing could have convinced me otherwise, and my hands were shaking as I lined up shot after shot, thinking to myself that this shoot would be my last.

We spent a good amount of time in our spot, taking photos as waves of people continued to surge around me. I was thankful that my models were very attentive and professional; they made sure to keep their eyes on me. All the folks around me with big professional camera equipment was extremely intimidating, but I just stayed on target. We did our thing, and once everyone had enough we moved Jessica and Peekaboo along to a larger, more open area where I helped their handler set them up for hallway shots. I stayed for a while to help their handler out and then eventually left them there.

I started to calm down when I attended the Mass Effect Andromeda panel and gave myself some time to sit and breathe, but I was still very stressed out about the results. I know my Queen Ravenna photos weren’t the best, so I was worried that all of this was going to be for nothing if they hated the photos. We’re our own worst critics, and I try not to over-think a situation, buuuuuut I’m human, and so of course I did.

As a reward for a “job well done” a few of us decided to get together late that night for a hotel drink and Jess was eager to see my raw images (which terrifies me). To my revelation, she was thrilled with them, so that instantly was a huge relief. There were certainly some learning curves in this experience, but it also gave me a new-found level of respect for what I, and other photographers, do and why we keep doing it.  Overall I REALLY enjoyed the convention, as it was very enjoyable and it was so nice to see my con-friends. 🙂


The Business of Cosplay | A Panel

Montreal Comic-Con was both extremely amazing, but like most con’s, very exhausting. It’s taken some time to catch up in everything, so I apologize on my tardiness of having this done!

Lexa Lefay Cosplay, OS Cosplay and Lady Maryoku Cosplay (that’s me!) did a panel on the Saturday for: “The Business of Cosplay”. We spouted off a lot of information in 45 minutes; so I promised a blog post summarizing some of the coles-notes about it. This goes to all of those who missed our presentation as well!

BOC Photo

(photo courtesy of Nytro Cosplay, who is always an awesome supporter!)

I want to provide info from our panel, but I’m retaining some deeper details of what I’ve written, in the off-chance we may do this panel again in the future. Be sure to like and follow our pages to make sure you don’t miss it!

The key features of our presentation was: Cosplay photography rights, Social media and Handling Negativity (online and offline). Our main point was that we were not discussing how to monetize the cosplay industry, but how cosplayers, whether casual or serious, can help benefit themselves. We want a safe and fun community, and there are always people who try to take advantage of others… we want to show you how to have fun with your hobby while staying safe.


Cosplay Photography (Lady Maryoku):

There are always a lot of concerns about who owns what when it comes to photography.
Always discuss with your photographer on the rights, social media tagging, and what they can and cannot do with your photos; whether it’s paid or TFP (time for photos/Free). Every photographer is different! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Check if they have a release form – read the fine print!

Hall photos are generally accepted as free/fun photos. If a photographer approaches you to go to a private area to take photos, do not assume it’s a TFP session but it should be.
If you are asking to have photos done, expect to pay for them. If you intend to monetize your prints, discuss with your photographer.

By default, the photographer owns the rights to the photos. If you pay for the photos, you have license to use the photos, but not ownership. Great for self-promotion. If you do not pay for your session, you can only use the photos for promotional use only and cannot alter or crop images.

Credit your photographers as often as possible! Just like when they post photos of you, they should be tagging you as well. It protects both the model and photographer. By retaining the watermark, or at least correctly tagging, ensure others do not steal the photos to claim as their own. Many artists struggle with this, especially with an online world, so we try to eliminate (or at least deter!) that as often as possible.

Prepare for your photo shoot accordingly. Be there 15 min. early, at your designated location. If you cannot do something (for whatever reason), be sure to let the photographer know. Bring a handler or a friend, the photographer should be focusing on the technical, while your friend can help with costume malfunction or pushing away rogue hair. Bring a snack and water if needed, photo sessions should be fun, you should feel comfortable and well hydrated.

lexa lefay assassins creed1

Social Media (Lexa Lefay):

Everyone has a page of some kind, and if you’re looking to brand yourself as a cosplayer (which is great for keeping your private life separated), it’s definitely worth starting. Not everyone on your personal page will be interested in seeing your cosplay WIP or featured photos, so it’s great to have somewhere to dump those photos!

When it comes to social media, “less is more”. Be aware of your audience no matter where you’re posting. Pay attention to the algorithms to help boost your posts.

Facebook – what you can say in 200 words you can probably say in 50.
Keep things short and engaging, ask questions for your followers. Keep your WIP or photos in albums so not to spam your page. Take advantage of the post schedule feature.

Instagram – Treat Instagram the way you’d treat an art gallery: if it’s not immediately catching my eye, then I’m not going to look at it. Everyone has a different style, so pick one and stick to it. Consistency is key.

Be authentic – people follow you, for you. Remember, we’re all human, we make mistakes, and it’s ok for you to show imperfection, no matter what level cosplayer you are. It’s very easy to show all the best parts of ourselves online, whether it’s an award, or a successful photo shoot, we have to remember that there is often some bad that goes with it. As cosplayers, we love seeing the WIP selfies and messy photos!

Keep overly personal opinions off your cosplay page; it’s better suited for your personal page. However, our cosplay community has its own set of cosplay controversy, and taking a stance can send a powerful message especially on things like POC or even body shaming, as examples, and using whatever privilege you have to use your voice positively. We try to keep things pretty positive on our pages, so balance it out!

Selfies is a big part of our life now, but they can be difficult to master for some. Practice in front of the mirror, and gauge your best angles. Make sure you have a clean background, no one wants to look at your dirty underwear!


Professionalism & Handling Negativity (OS Cosplay):

You can’t please everyone, and you’re bound to not get along with everyone. That’s natural. How you handle it, is a different story.

We all have our own ways of handling a difficult situation. You can diffuse, leave/walk away, block/ignore, or lastly, educate. We try to resolve things without aggression… keep things diplomatic! You can be gentle or stern (or a little bit of both!), but there are various factors. Don’t forget to say “No!” – Cosplay is not consent – as you need to. We are in costume, doesn’t mean we have to feel obligated to do anything. Do not feel bad about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable!

If you’re stuck in a harassment issue, ask people to respect your space, but try to keep a friend or handler around to deal with this for (or with) you. Don’t forget to get security, or even a fellow cosplayer involved if you need to. We all want to look out for each other. Handling for someone? Check with your cosplayer to see what method they prefer you take.

Help educate those who are not familiar with con rules! “Cosplay is not consent!” is a topic all in its own; but all-in-all, respect the cosplayers… ask for photos, do not touch their costume and be polite about their personal space.

No matter our level of cosplay, whether homemade or store-bought, we all gather for the same reason. No matter your race, gender or if you compete or not, we’re all here because of this one hobby. We need to be reaching out to each other, compliment and help each other. With this said, share the spotlight! Let everyone enjoy their moments. When its your turn to shine, rock it – when it’s others, be their cheerleader! Compliment someone’s costume or ask to take their photo, and watch how excited they get.

Did something upset you? Ask for clarification, be diplomatic and honest about how you feel. We get that conventions can be very stressful for some, so take time to de-stress and do something for yourself. Distracting yourself is the best way to calm down, and try to go enjoy the con again!