Five Ways to Make Money From Cosplay Photography

November 14, 2013
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Cosplay is awesome. It has a fun and attractive community, always full of exciting visual masterpieces that are just begging to get documented through photographic and videographic means. As the community grows and gains more acceptance from the general public, we are starting to see it evolving into a more mainstream subculture where people are starting to make a career out of cosplaying. Yaya Han is a great example of a U.S. cosplayer “making it,” not to mention Alodia (Philippines) and Kaname (Japan) being internationally well-known in the Eastern Hemisphere. Slowly, this move toward commercialization is rippling through the rest of the cosplay scene, and being one of the major aspects of the cosplay community, photography is no doubt affected. After all, professional photography is still quite a living and thriving career for many, so why not cosplay photography? Obviously, the market has yet to mature to a point where one can make a living out of cosplay photography alone, but there are certainly ways you can start tapping into the money-making aspect of it. Let us show you how.

I. Partner With Cosplayers, Sell Prints

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One of the biggest trends as of late is cosplayers selling photo prints of themselves. Whatever their personal reasons are, there is definitely a demand for signed photo prints. By partnering up with cosplayers interested in selling your photos of them, you have the chance to make some money from your work, but at the same time develop a good relationship with said cosplayers if you are doing things right (be fun, personable, good at your craft…etc).

There are two basic ways to go about it: flat fee and shared-profit, each with its merits and drawbacks:

  • Flat fee: One time transaction and the cosplayer is granted rights to use the image(s) as per your agreement. It’s simple and easy, the downside being potentially making less money than if you were to go with the shared-profit / percentage model.
  • Shared-profit: The cosplayer and you agree on a shared profit model where you make X% per sale. This requires a constant open communication as well as accountability between the two parties, and is relatively more time consuming than flat fee model. But in return, you are guaranteed to continually receive royalties as the cosplayers continue to sell their photos that you took.

Either method works, the key is maintaining good communication with cosplayers and figure out what works the best for everyone.

II. Photo-booth

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Many conventions have official photo-booths offering prints and other add-on services. This is a great monetary venue because not only do you get the official seal of approval, but you also get to stay at one location and have a steady stream of cosplayers who want their photos taken come to you. There are many ways to go about configuring your services and prices, but the most important part is to have that connection with the people in charge who can sign you up as the official photo-booth photographer. Once you have that settled, everything that follows is pure business.

III. Photography as a Service

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One of the most common ways to go about earning money from photography is offering your service. You can attach a bunch of benefits for hiring you, but in its simplest form, a cosplayer hires you to take his or her photos, and in return they expect a set amount of photos back, at the quality that you have consistently delivered if not better.

While cosplay is a community populated by relatively younger-aged audience who are less likely to have cash to hire photographers, there is no doubt that there are also people who are financially capable of affording professional services to photograph their wonderous costumes. Keep your eyes open, you are bound to attract people who like and can afford your services.

IV. Submit Photo Sets to Website

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Regardless of your opinion on them, there exist websites that showcase a certain NSFW type of cosplay photos for a fee. Many of them accept submissions from both the cosplayers and photographers, and in return provide a monetary sum to the talents if their photo sets are used. You will need to refer to the rules each site imposes as they vary greatly, but the basics are, for the most part, the same.

V. Turning Pro / Partner With Companies

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Photography is ubiquitous, but professional photography businesses that cater to few very specific genres are few and far between. By going commercial, you are opening up opportunities to have companies come to you to provide services that meet their specific needs. As the comics / anime / gaming scene have started gaining traction in the society, many companies and vendors are now tapping into this community to attract more customers. Being a highly visual community, companies are seeking photographic and videographic talents who are accustomed to the scene, and this is where opportunities arises. Talk to people, get to know vendors, network with companies, all the while maintaining a highly commercial presence, and you may very well land yourself commercial gigs working for the companies to provide cosplay photography services.

Going Beyond Love

Most of us started cosplay photography as a hobby. As we continue to better ourselves and grow with the community, many still choose to do it as a labor of love and asks for nothing in return. Yes, cosplay photography can and would stay as a hobby for many, just like the majority of cosplayers out there treating cosplay merely as a hobby, and that is perfectly OK. However, for those who want to go beyond hobbies and make a career out of cosplay photography, it is becoming more and more viable as each day passes and we want to share how you can start heading down that path.

 

If you found this article interesting, be sure to join our Facebook group, Cosplay Photography Discussion Group. It is a place for cosplay photographers of all levels to learn from each other. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook as well!

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I am a Seattle, WA based lifestyle fashion photographer who has Cosplay to thank for his adventure into the photography world. In addition to fashion, I also maintain Costographer as my cosplay work outlet: http://facebook.com/costographer

5 Comments

  1. Good article, though I’d add a couple more to the list:

    1: Education – It is no secret that cosplay photography often is VERY poor, there is a potential huge market for teaching cosplayers and new cosplay photographers how to make their images better. (Essentially how THIS website makes money from cosplay 🙂 )

    2: Commercial compositing – While it isn’t directly related I know of several photographers who through their cosplay work have been contracted to do both book covers and film posters in similar style.

  2. What are the legalities of dealing with cosplay prints?
    I’m fairly new to the cosplay scene and my initial thought was that it would be unlawful to sell cosplay prints due to intellectual property issues.
    Would you mind clearing this up for me?
    Thanks.

    • It’s best to refer to a lawyer when it comes to legal issues and concerns. That said, the print / licensing agreements between cosplayers and photographers are just like any other type of contracts. So long the two parties agree and adhere to the rules detailed in the agreed upon contract, there should be no issue at all.

    • Al his concern is whether or not the company who owns the intellectual property for the costume would take issue with the sale, worst case Disney.

    • That is exactly my concern here as well. I see lot of cosplayers selling prints on their websites and facebook pages, and I wonder how they are able to do so, for example if they are cosplaying a Marvel character, or especially Disney, as Gimbaltoro said. I would love to start doing this, but don’t want to violate anyone’s trademarks, and I suspect to actually license the right to do it properly would probably be cost-prohibitive.

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