A convention is a great place for taking photos: there’s plenty of cool things worth turning into con memories — celebrity sightings, cool displays, and plenty of people in costumes. At a Star Wars convention, expect most of the costumers to be your fellow fans, so here’s some important etiquette for taking pictures of or with folks in costume:
The basic rule: A person in a costume is still a person. Acknowledge them and treat them with respect. Here’s how:
- Ask permission before taking a picture. While they are there to be seen in their costume, they also might be wanting to do something else, like go to a panel, meet up with a friend, or check their phone. Asking permission opens up that communication so that if they are free and willing for a photo, they’ll put on their photogenic presence (ie hide their bag or badge, put on a smile, and strike a pose), and if they are busy, you’ll know to move along. And when you’re done taking a photo, thank them.
Caitlin: “And “asking” actually means ASKING– as in using your words. I can’t tell you how many people just sort of raise their camera at me and tilt their head rather than just saying, “Hey, would you mind if I took a picture?”
- Be respectful when posing with them. If you want to jump into a photo – first make sure that it is your turn. If there’s a crowd, there may an informal queue (based on who has been waiting longer, or moved their way up to the front and center). Ask permission for doing anything with the costumer, such as holding their blaster or saber, or putting an arm around their shoulder. While some might have personal space that needs to be respected, others have worked really hard on their costumes and props and don’t necessarily want random people putting their sweaty mitts on it, or might lose their costume’s precarious balance if someone comes in for a pat on the back. This goes for adults and kids.
- Recognize that being inside a costume may limit their abilities.
Helen: “Remember that most helmeted costumes have a restricted field of vision and often the person in the costume can’t hear you very well. The costumer isn’t being rude if they don’t respond right away. If you want a picture, be polite, but you may need to be assertive. Also, please be careful if you have small children with you. Stormtroopers can’t see anything below chin/chest level very well, and that includes children. Stormtrooper armor also restricts movement and affects a person’s balance. I can’t tell you how many times Russ has been nearly knocked over by little kids grabbing his legs. It’s terribly cute, but potentially unsafe for the kids and him.”
“Also, costumes can be extremely hot, even the ones that you might not expect. A friend told me his Boba Fett is the hardest to wear, as the twill jumpsuit does NOT breathe. Some costumes, such as Vader, are heavy as well. If the costumer says that they are about to go on a break or they appear headed for an exit, let them go. They may need to suit down for a bit, because costuming can be a feat of endurance. They’ll be back.”
I’ve wrangled a few 501st and Rebel Legion events, and have seen a few photographers have trouble getting attention of a helmeted costumer – because they were off to the side, or too far away to hear easily. Remember that some of the helmeted costumers may not “talk back” so if you’re communicating with them, make sure they (or their wrangler) acknowledge you, either with words or gestures.
- Show that you know who they are costuming as. Costumers appreciate it when people recognize their costume. Once at Comic Con, I encountered a fan dressed as Deliah Blue from the Legacy comics and her face lit up when I complimented her on her Blue costume, because no one had identified it all day. Of course, I also once made the mistake of misidentifying a Kyle Katarn costume as Dash Rendar. Or was it the other way around? If you don’t know who the costume is – especially likely with some of the one-of-a-kind EU characters, don’t be afraid to ask. Who knows – maybe a costume might inspire you to check out a story.
- Recognize when they are not in picture-taking mode. If it looks like they are trying to get somewhere quickly, taking a snack break, or are talking to friends (ie people who aren’t trying to take their picture), or are otherwise looking like they are doing something other than deal with the masses of people taking their picture, then put yourself in their position and ask if you’d want to be interrupted by yet another person with a camera.
And that respect? Show some for your fellow con attendees!
- Eliz: “If you do want a picture and the cosplayer is available to pause, MOVE TO THE SIDE OF THE HALLWAY. Don’t block traffic in the middle of the hallway or aisle! You’ll never get the shot because other people will not see what you’re doing and walk into it or will not care because they have to be at a session in a short time. So picture taking people, move to the sides to not impede traffic.”
If volunteers or security recognize that a bottleneck is forming because of extensive photo taking of a costumer or group of costumers, they may ask the costumers or photo hounds to move to the side, or move along just to keep traffic going. If they say that it is time to move along — move along! No “Just one more pic” stuff.
- And when you are handing off your camera or camera-phone to a random stranger – have it ready in picture taking mode and tell them which button takes the picture: they don’t know your device as well as you do. Saves time for everyone, and saves you the embarrassment of having to jump out of a pose to switch the camera to the proper mode. Especially with smartphones that can switch between a camera on the back of the phone with a camera on the front of the phone – I love taking pictures of myself instead of the camera’s owner and the costumer!
- And when talking to costumers, chances are that made it themselves, or worked with friends making it – so focus on the labor and time, and not necessarily on the cost. Caitlin: “I actually don’t mind people asking how much something cost or how much time it took. I’m always happy to talk shop and/or encourage a future costumer.”
- Helen: “If you’re looking for 501st Legion costumes, there will be a 501st room (Room W206) again this year at CVI. Also, the 501st is staying at the Rosen Centre and their events will be in that hotel.”
- Caitlin: “Rebel Legion will have a large booth with plenty of costumes on the floor.”
- Eliz: “There are a lot of regular Stormtroopers.” (Meaning that the first stormtrooper you come across for a photo – if he or she is not available, there just might be more… And in bigger numbers!)
- Remember: also take photos of you and your friends, costumed or in regular con wear. Part of the con is the spectacle, and part of it is the good times you have with amazing people!