The Ultimate Location Guide – Los Angeles Convention Center

The Los Angeles Convention Center is one of the largest convention centers in the United States and hosts some of the biggest cosplay events in the country. Anime Expo, E3, Stan Lee’s Comikaze all call this convention center home. Located in downtown Los Angeles, the convention center does offer a lot of “urban jungle” feel with it’s miles of concrete. But if you’ve done your homework and you know where to look, the convention center and surrounding areas can offer a variety of backgrounds for whatever your cosplayer might be portraying.

Be sure to read the image captions for a description of the location and check the map at the bottom to find the exact location.

Interiors

For the most part, I would suggest avoiding the interior of the convention center for anything more than a passing hallway shot, but if you must shoot inside, here are a few locations you can make use of.

Third Floor

The 3rd floor of the South Hall lobby is usually less crowded and puts you in the rafters overlooking the lobby floor. The rafters themselves can be used for interesting background lines. The entire lobby area is covered in skylights which offers nice, soft light at almost all times of day. There are multiple ways to get up to the third floor but the easiest spots are from the South Hall Lobby and the interior walkway between West and South Hall.

Walkways

Again, not recommended as there are only a couple walkways connecting the two main halls of the convention center and the area gets very crowded. The interior walkway does offer one unique feature which is a couple sections of black tiles. Shooting black cosplays on black walls can be a fun challenge as well. You probably won’t be able to setup any off-camera lighting in these sections, but one side of the main walkway is full of windows that face east so you’ll get pleasant lighting here after about 10AM. Don’t forget that windows give a green light cast so gel your flashes and adjust you white balance accordingly. Otherwise, you can try your luck at finding an empty area of the convention center to give an office interior look. The section below the food court that leads out to Pico Boulevard is usually one of the less crowded interior spaces at any time of day.

 

Outside

The area immediately around the convention center offers a few options for backgrounds, though most of them will still be of the grungy, urban, cement variety. There’s still a couple spots that we can get creative with that will provide some greenery, but for the most part there’s a lot of  interesting architecture around the convention center that you can definitely make use of.

Greenery

There really isn’t much in the way of greenery on the convention grounds so I would suggest walking a couple blocks to find a nice park for more greenery. But if you don’t have the time and must shoot at the convention center and need some green trees/bushes/grass, here are some options for you. Keep in mind that all these locations are outside with little to no cover and lighting will be harsh for most of the day. I recommend you bring  your own lighting and diffusers or plan accordingly.

The Convention Center buildings

The convention center itself is a huge monolith of cement and glass. Accept it for what it is and use it accordingly. Take a quick walk around the immediate exterior of the convention center and you can find some industrial looking grates and piping, large blank cement walls, short tunnels, lots of cement stairs, walls of green glass, and more cement. The lighting varies in each location so check the notes on each image for details.

Staples Center and LA Live

The Los Angeles Convention Center is adjacent to Staples Center with LA Live one block over. It’s important to note that these are not part of the convention and they are not as welcoming for photography/filming. Tripods, light stands, and professional equipment are not allowed without a city permit and this is strictly enforced. You won’t get more than a few minutes in before security will ask you to move along. That’s not to say you can’t do it, but you need to be discrete and fast. As the saying goes, “It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” (Disclaimer: It’s still illegal so don’t do it.) But if you do find yourself here, Staples Center has a couple of unique features and LA Live is lit up at night with neon lights and video screens.

Hotels

What about all the official hotels that attendees stay at during the events? For the most part, these hotels are very unwelcoming to filming and photography so the same rules and disclaimer from Staples Center and LA Live applies to the hotels – you won’t be able to set up lights and security will hound you. Again, you shouldn’t do it, but if you were to, you might get some shots like these.

Map

Of course, with some creative framing and lighting, you can shoot just about anywhere! I hope you’ve found this article useful. Do you have any special spots you like to photograph at? Let us know in the comments below!

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Tim is the principal photographer for FiveRings Photography and co-founder of Cosplay Photographers. When not shooting cosplay and writing about it, he's busy photographing engagements, motorsports, and fashion. He can also be found playing Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft, or Bejeweled when he should really be editing photos.

2 Comments

  1. does the location of anime expo annually is fixed?

    • Anime Expo has moved a couple times, but they have been at the LACC for the past 6 years.

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