Convention tips: How to photograph fans in costume


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: Continue reading “Convention tips: How to photograph fans in costume”

Today’s must-read: Reporting harassment at a convention

With summer con season now formally ramping up, it’s as good a time as any to remind folks that harassment is not okay – and what to do about it.

Over at Scalzi’s Whatever today, writer Elise Matthesen shares how she reported her sexual harasser at recent convention. It’s a fantastic post with great advice about making sure things are formally on the record – the perpetrator in her case is not a first-time offender.

Inspired by Matthesen, Maria Dahvana Headley shares some of her own tales of being harassed at genre conventions. A former pirate negotiator, she has this chilling statement: “The pirates in the maritime industry were generally a great deal more polite than the creeps in the SFF world. They stuck to terms.”

It’s been a while since we’ve addressed this topic, and sorry to be a downer as we approach the weekend, but this is important stuff for everyone to know.

Convention tip: The quick guide to Q&As

Everyone loves a Q&A, but here are a few thing we’ve picked up over the years.

The key, the big uno, the biggest thing you should do: Keep it snappy. The more succinct your question is, the more time the panelists have to answer it. Andrew: “Know what your question is ahead of time, and don’t ramble.” Bethany: “One question. Not a three part question, no follow ups. Numero uno is the way to go.” Nancy: “Have a second question in mind in case someone ahead of you asks your first question,” and “Avoid “yes/no” questions.”

Plenty more beneath the cut!

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Convention tip: Beware the con crud!

...Some sort of mask might not be a bad idea, either.

If you’ve been to any amount of conventions, you know all about con crud. The last day or so of con, you get a little sneezy. Then, before you know it, you’ve got a full-blown cold on your hands – if you’re lucky.

I drove home from Celebration III with bronchitis. Five hours in the car. With only bronchitis for company. NOT RECOMMENDED. Luckily, the precautions are fairly simple and nothing but basic common sense. Well, mostly.

Don’t neglect sleep. As fun as it is to stay up all night chatting (oh, do Jaders know) it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. It helps your immune system and makes you pretty!

Eat well and stay hydrated. Don’t skip too many meals. Yes, you’ll probably end up eating not-so-great food in the convention center and/or granola bars at least once a day. (Yes, you can bring in food.)

Seriously, stay hydrated. There’s no lack of bathrooms in modern convention centers. Drink lots of water.

Wash your hands well and a lot. Use hand sanitizer when you’re on the go, and after handling items like elevator buttons and menus.

Be prudent with physical contact. Hugs and handshakes spread germs! GERMS! Let’s practice the art of the brofist this year.

Vitamins! Some recommend Vitamin C, some an Airborne regimen, author Jennifer Brozek swears by Sambucus and for the Canadians, Michelle Heumann recs ColdFX. I don’t know what works, effectiveness probably varies from person to person and nothing is foolproof, but it’s worth a try.

→ Want to scare your roommate a little? Pack antibacterial wipes and wipe down all the door handles and other hard surfaces in your room. Hey, it’s a bit much, but better safe than sorry! (You might also want to avoid the glasses in the room, and touch the bedspread as little as possible. Yes, maybe I have watched too much CSI…)

And if you do get con crud… Well, I’ll let Paula take this one: “As a public health professional, I BEG people that if they do become sick to STAY IN THEIR HOTEL! Don’t take out the rest of us!”

On that note, if you can swing it, try and have a buffer day off between your travel day and going back to work so you can sleep in and just generally wind down. Cons may technically be ‘vacation,’ but they can be pretty exhausting.

Oh, and be careful with your meds. Last time I got the crud I accidentally took two Claritins within an hour of each other and ended up so zoned out that all I did was stare at the back of the seat the entire plane ride home. (It’s a good thing I wasn’t driving that time!) NOT RECOMMENDED.

Convention tips: Time to pack!

Artoo suitcaseThis weekend is packing time for many of us. We’ve already touched on the specifics of a lot of the things you’ll want to pack – bags, cameras/phones, sanitation, clothes/shoes, but you still need to get them all there. (Updated 3/20/15 for Celebration Anaheim.)

→ Do all your packing the day before at the very least. If you’re a costumer, you’ve probably already started and you’re probably a pro at this anyway and don’t need any of my paltery advice. But in any case, Bria recommends: “Start making your packing list at least a week in advanced especially if you’re a costumer or else you will forget something.”

→ If you’re flying, remember to check the TSA regulations for carry-ons. Check them now, and check them again right before you leave for the airport. You never know when someone will do something stupid and they change up the regulations. (The incident that sparked the whole limit-the-liquids thing? Happened the very day many Jaders were flying into Indianapolis for GenCon several years back.)

→ Don’t forget to bring photo ID, money, credit cards, health insurance cards and the like. Hey, you never know when you’ll bash your head on a dresser. (Ahem.)

→ Don’t pack your major electronics in your checked luggage. Keep your laptop, phone, their chargers (you can leave extras, if you brought them, in the checked bag) in your carry-on in your possession at all times.

→ If you have locks on your suitcase, make sure they’re TSA locks. Otherwise, the TSA will see to it that your bag arrives with no locks.

→ A plastic zip-top bag is good to use in your checked luggage as well. David: “Use gallon-sized ziplock bags to pack small, important items in the top layer of your bag where you can find them quickly. Bring a few extra bags – they will come in handy for stuff you never would have thought possible. Try hard not to pack more than you truly need.” BAGS WITHIN BAGS. Even for items that won’t leak, I like to put them in reusable bags and pouches: It’s easier to organize and keep like-items together.

→ If you’re driving, bring an extra bag or container for the stuff you’ll buy. If you’re flying, keep in mind what you’ll purchase, leave some room in your bag, and be aware that the USPS and FedEx will be on the premises. On that note, here’s one from Nancy: “I pack a collapsible nylon tote that zips. It’s great as an extra piece of luggage if you end up buying lots of stuff; put the fragile stuff in the suitcase on the way home and your clothes can go in the tote.”

→ Do pack extras, but not too many extras. Keep in mind what you’re likely to buy at the con – do you need to pack a t-shirt for every day when you know damn well you’ll buy at least 3 of them there? Nancy also suggests “a measuring tape to help with sizing on shirts I might buy when I can’t try them on.”

→ Again: You will want to bring a light jacket, or at least a hoodie. It can get chilly at night in April, even in southern California. (I was shocked how cold it got when we in L.A. for Celebration V.)

→ Airlines do have weight limits for bags: Usually 50 pounds. If this is something you think you’ll run into, look into getting a luggage scale.

→ Don’t forget your toiletries! If you travel regularly, or even semi-regularly, keep a bag with travel-size shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, and the rest ready to go. (Though don’t forget to check the levels and refill/replace when needed!)

→ Don’t forget pajamas. I’m only saying this because it’s the thing I almost always almost forget to pack.

→ A bag for laundry. Yes, the hotel might have bags, but they’re small and plastic. Get a bag you can throw in with your laundry when you get home. In fact, the first thing you should do when you get home is laundry. Worried about bedbugs? Make it hot. (Warning: Probably not best for printed tees.)

→ And one more from Nancy: “Earplugs are a lifesaver if the hotel is noisy.” Why does that make me think of DragonCon?

If you’re a costumer and looking for specific advice, I apologize for my ignorance. But I did find a nice printable cosplay packing checklist from Team Blasé. This is a fertile topic, so cosplayers and well-traveled fans alike, please share more in the comments if you note any glaring omissions.

Convention tip: Don’t be a creeper, or, basic human decency 101

There’s been a lot of talk about people being inappropriate at conventions lately, in large part because of an incident at ReaderCon last month with author Genevieve Valentine. (Here’s a very long list of all the posts/responses/reaction.) It’s a disturbing story, in large part because it’s by no means uncommon, and thus something I felt I had to address in this series.

Yes, a lot of the things under the cut are ‘common sense’ about treating people respectfully and acting like a functional adult in public. But not common enough, sadly.

There was one incident at the last Celebration that was widely publicized. Was it the only one? Was it even the most extreme? I can’t say. I do know I’ve seen at least one woman talk about being made to felt uncomfortable by other attendees at CV, and that’s more than enough reason to write this.

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Convention tip: The basics of bags

Everything you need, at the tip of your fingers…

At a convention like Celebration, held in an area where everything is so spread out with limited transportation options, many folks will be carrying a lot of stuff with them. I generally recommend choosing a messenger bag instead of a backpack, if only because it’s easier to keep track of, be aware of, and get into while you’re on the go. AND it won’t get your back all sweaty when you’re outdoors.

However, no matter what you choose, don’t forget that it takes up space, and things do get rather crowded at cons:

Erika: “If it’s a backpack or a messenger bag crammed to bursting, be courteous: when you turn, so does the extra two feet sticking out of your back or side. Anyone behind you has minimal warning before you rudely hit them with your precious, but weighty con swag as they ogle the booth next to you. Everyone loves goodies, but a little self awareness never hurt anyone. I’ve been hit so many times with backpacks at conventions and fallen into displays and other fans that I really can’t stand them. I do understand the desire to bring one, though.”

James: “Definitely be aware of your bag-bulk when turning. I’ve seen quite a few people get whapped by over-extended cabooses, er.. backpacks. If you’re trying to fit through a tight space, such as when cutting through a line of people, don’t turn suddenly.”

And exercise caution! You don’t want to lose anything: “Keep them zipped up! you don’t want your water, camera, or giant pile of pens to fall out. don’t keep anything valuable in outer pockets that you can’t see (again, another reason for a messenger bag where you keep it on you side, under control of your arm, instead of on your back, where you can’t see thieving fingers.)”

As for what goes in the bag, other than the obvious?

→ Protective items for collectibles, whatever you plan to buy. Obviously a poster tube is too big, but a solid-sided folder or filer would protect smaller items like autographs or comic books. That example is on the larger side, but you can find something smaller and just as sturdy in any office supply store.

→ Hand sanitizer, to help prevent the spread of con crud.

→ Basic snacks. (Beth: “Granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, what ever you like. Helps get one through times when you are waiting in a long line and cannot get to a food vendor.”)

→ A refillable water bottle – the ones that have the built-in filters are good and easy to find these days.

→ Breath mints or gum: The stronger the better. I recommend Altoids, but whatever works for you.

→ Basic medical supplies. Aspirin/ibuprofen, allergy pills, and of course prescriptions and anything else you use regularly. (Get a small pill case and put several in one.) A couple of band-aids. Throw them all in a little bag or side pocket and hope you won’t have to use them, but you’ll be grateful if you do.

→ Extra battery, cell phone charger, etc.

Convention tips: Showering is good, and other miscellany

Well, this is it: The last of our tips, at least for this round. (I’m sure we’ll all have tons more ideas at the con, though.)

Bathe. Shower. Every day at the very least. I have to say that generally Celebration is one of the least stinky cons that I’ve attended, but still, it’s worth saying. Also, deodorant! Toothpaste! Breath mints! And no, excessive perfume/body spray is not an acceptable substitute and can in fact be almost as bad as BO.

→ If you’re costuming, be sure to get familiar with the weapons policy.

→ From Eliz: “Beware the menus shoved under your door. Never order from somewhere that you have not verified with the front desk at least first. Most of those convenient menus are there as part of a scam. They may have outlawed the practice, and I’m annoyed hotels don’t do a better job policing who is wandering their halls, but I’d expect to see at least one of these. Again, the front desk people are your best bet on who to order out from. Also consider reviews on Yelp and Foursquare, but those could be fluffed up as well.

→ From Carla: “Walk through the dealer room at least once before buying anything, so you can get the best price. Exchanges/returns may be problematic. Buy responsibly. Think about whether you can afford something and where you’re going to put it before making a purchase. It’s easy to get carried away. That said I like to bring more cash than I actually plan to spend, just in case.”

Did we miss something? Now is the time to pitch in with your best hints, if it doesn’t fall under anything else we’ve covered.

Convention tip: Watch out for the rumor mill

Star Wars Celebration III - Asajj Ventress vs Anakin SkywalkerGranted, you might find a cunning doppelganger… (CIII photo by Pop Culture Geek.)

At Celebration V, a Jader on volunteer duty ran into a fan who had heard that Hayden Christensen was attending and had driven hours just to see him. Alas, it was just a rumor and the Jader had to break the news that no, Hayden wasn’t coming.

Don’t let this happen to you! Remember that the only solid information on Celebration guests will come from or, and you should always – always – check with them before taking any such ‘news’ to heart.

Yes, as a fan site, we’re not beyond posting rumors, but we do make an effort to clearly mark them as such… Authors, for instance, aren’t listed on those sites, but we always link to an official source. (Usually Del Rey on Facebook, these days.)

The same goes for all other cons. If there’s a guest you really want to see, always check the convention web site and/or the personalities’ personal page or Facebook fan page (assuming they have one and keep it updated) before committing to a convention. Also be aware that despite all this, sometimes things come up and people may have to cancel at the last minute.