SDCC Guide: Cosplay Photo Etiquette

A big part of any convention are the fans. These attendees pay their money to enter the convention floor and wait excruciatingly long in lines to get into panels and such. They are the heartbeat of the convention since without them, there wouldn’t be a show. A part of this group leveled up, in a way, and started to embody their favorite characters by constructing intricate costumes at these conventions. These costume players, or cosplayers, have added another dimension to the convention-going experience. And in this guide, as we countdown to San Diego Comic-Con, we’ll discuss some tips on dealing with these physical interpretations of our favorite characters.

Here we go!


Cosplaying is a fun hobby that helps you become that character that you typically only see on the printed page or television screen (i.e. Anime). And with the popularity of this movement, cosplayers have become a staple to any convention but as well has become a business for some people. At this year’s Big Wow Comicfest in San Jose, California, our Shortboxed photographer was handed a business card from several cosplayers on many occasions. And many of the popular cosplayers have franchised their prints, accessories, and have partnered with other businesses as spokespersons for those brands. If you thought it was just playing dress-up, you’re in for a rude awakening!

Big Hero 6 WonderCon winners

I’m a fan of several cosplayers and have integrated my con experience by trying to take photos with my favorites like LeeAnna Vamp, Linda Le aka VampyBitMe, Jessica Nigri, Macy Rose, and Katy DeCobray; as well as supporting them by buying a print. Like I said before, these cosplayers are like mini exhibitors. They enjoy crafting quality costumes and sharing them with their fans. And some of their costumes are movie production quality which is insane since they typically constructed these costumes in their own home during their own time. For a hobby, it’s an expensive and time-consuming one. But cosplayers do what they do for the love of it.

From my past convention experiences, I’ve noticed some things that will help make the cosplay part of the convention a fun one. I have to premise this with a disclaimer though. In recent years, the treatment of the female cosplayers have been, in short, disrespectful. Some of these cosplayers do take their liberties on how much skin is shown as well as how much material is used for their costumes. But it doesn’t mean they should be gawked at and treated poorly.

As a male, I’m disgusted at some of the stories I’ve read surrounding cosplayers and the convention goers. Granted that some male convention goers have not perfected the art of social interaction, but it still doesn’t give you the right or permission to grope or expect anything from anyone in a skimpy costume. These cosplayers love what they do. They know they sometimes aren’t wearing much. And they have the right to refuse a picture or end a conversation if they feel threatened or plainly weirded out. So show some class and be respectful, ok? It’s a simple request which will make everyone’s convention experience the best it can be.

Ok, I’m stepping off my soap box now. Let’s get back to the reason for this guide. The cheapest keepsake you can get from a cosplayer is a photo of them. And, they definitely appreciate the attention and a simple “great job on your costume” remark. But as a rule of thumb, keep in mind these important things:

1. Always be respectful and polite
Pretty self-explanatory, especially after the rant I went on before. So I won’t keep gilding the lily.

LeeAnna Vamp

2. When in doubt, just ask
Most cosplayers will be found in the halls outside the main doors into the convention center, since there is more room out there. They will also roam the convention floor as well as outside the building, so it’s going to difficult to not run into any cosplayers. I’ve seen cosplayers stand in the middle of a crowd as they snapped photos of them. It’s hard to miss. And typically you have a group of cosplayers at the center of those circles. In those instances, it’ll be easy to snap a pic like the rest of the paparazzi. But when you want to take a photo with them or of them, just ask. They’ll be receptive to that and will appreciate that you asked permission.


3. Feel free to chew the fat
What I mean by this is don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them. Ask them questions about their costume. Comment on why you love it so much. Geek out with them because they’ll geek out with you too. They’re normal people, too, and come to conventions to meet like-minded nerds like us. Yes, if you’re shy, like me, mustering the courage to chat is tough but you’ll share a cool moment and it’ll add to your experience when you check out your photos later on.

For as long as I’ve attended conventions, cosplayers have been a part of them. And what’s cool is that there are so many characters and groups that you can gravitate towards. The 501st, the Star Wars costuming group, come out in hoards and it’s fun to see them roaming San Diego.

Aiden & me

I, personally, have started to go down the cosplay road this past year alone because I see the benefit of making costumes and sharing that experience with my 16-month old son. I hope we can continue doing this as he grows up but if he doesn’t take it up, that’s fine too. It’s a fun way to boost your nerd cred as well.

And once you attempt to make a costume, you’ll have a better understanding how difficult and painstaking it can be. So when cosplayers are out in droves with a new costume on each day of the convention, give them a high-five or fist pump on their dedication to their craft. Cosplayers have made my convention experience more memorable and I admit that most of my Instagram feed is cosplayers like Hip Hop Trooper and Mini Boba Fett. So when you see one of your favorite characters at SDCC, remember my 3 tips and have fun out there!

Want more cosplay? Check out our roundups from previous conventions:

If this is your first time visiting Shortboxed, thanks for stopping by! We want to provide a place online where people new to comics can come and learn about the culture and be introduced to some amazing stories without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. We’re always adding new content, so please come back soon! You can also follow us on TwitterInstagram and Tumblr at @shortboxed.

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