For Dragon Con, almost any camera will work to help capture all of the Cosplayers and events happening throughout the weekend. Even smart phones will work in some/most cases.
If you have a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, your opportunities to get a great shot expand enormously. Regardless of the brand being Nikon [which is what I own] or Canon or Sony or any of the other “4/3” cameras, you will get some good shots. you will want to control ISO for low light situations as well as aperture for depth of field. There isn’t really a bad choice with choosing a camera to use. You have more ability to do more things if you can control these settings.
Tip(s): Pick any camera to capture the event but opt to use either a DSLR or a mirrorless camera to get the most flexibility.
If you are shooting with a DSLR, you have a few choices to make with a lens. The preferred lens to use would be a 70 – 200 f2.8. This workhorse gives you the reach you need with its focal length AND support for low light shooting without sacrificing ISO. The only drawback with this lens would be the difficulty in taking anything but close range head shots if your subject is close by do with the number of people walking around.
The next best choice would be a “nifty fifty” or 50mm lens. This prime lens comes in the form of f1.8, f1.4 or even lower in some brands. This lens will get you great shots in the lowest of lighting conditions as well as support outdoor shots to. If you love taking candid shots this is a great lens too. Other telephoto lenses will work such as a 28-300mm lens as well but may have difficulties with focus in low light. The other drawback will be the need to up the ISO to 1000 or more to allow enough light to come in for low light environments to make the shot work. Another solution for these types of lenses would be the need to use a flash preferably a speedlight as opposed to an on camera flash.
Tip(s): Use a “fast” lens. Bring a telephoto and a prime[ie. 50mm]
Tip(s): Head to Showcase Photo for all your camera needs
Beware that a majority of the event takes place indoors. Depending on your camera and lens choice this will matter. Some venues are very dark while others provide plenty of natural light. The top 3 hotels will give you sense of the lighting inside.
Grand Hyatt Downtown – Lobby area
Flash Needed? No
This hotel provides a great deal of natural light throughout the day based on the structure of the hotel. Since this is both a destination as well as a pass through hotel, just stand back and let the Cosplayers come inside. There will be plenty of chances to shoot here. Keep your eyes open because it is constantly changing with people.
There is plenty of light during daylight hours to shoot with most types of cameras
Marriott Marquis – Lobby area
Flash Needed? Yes
The lobby is very large and a majority of Cosplayers hangout here, however the lighting levels are low. Either a flash or a very fast lens [f2.8 or lower] will be required.
Hilton – Trader Vics
Flash Needed? Yes
The bar can get very crowded and there is only ambient light. There is no outside light being that is below the lobby in the hotel. This place is great at night time where it can seem like you’re in the middle of the Star Wars cantina scene. Either a flash or a very fast lens [f2.8 or lower] will be necessary.
Outdoors, the most obvious places are the areas right outside the front lobby area of all of the hotels. Better spots are near or around the hotels. Since all of the hotels are in a 2 or 3 block radius, look at the streets that interconnect the hotels. Most have different textured walls and utility/garage doors which can provide very futuristic or urban types of looks with your shots.
Try to position yourself with the sun at your back. Shooting on the East side of Peachtree Street will give you the best shots. The parade is in the early morning where the sun will be working against your shots if you are positioned on the West side of the street.
Another area to get great shots is at the loading area before the parade route. For years, that was behind the Army Surplus store. In 2015, the location has changed over to being near the Fox theater. The loading area is great for getting candids with one or more Cosplayers as opposed to hoping that your spot along the parade route PLUS someone in the parade happens to look your way to give you the shot you are looking for.
Lastly, try to narrow the depth of field if you are along the parade route. This reduces the blurs the crowd in the background to make the subject you are shooting pop in the photograph. Use an f-stop of f4 or lower to achieve that. If that can’t be done with your lens, then you will need to spend more time in post processing of the picture to achieve the same effect.
Tip(s): Determine which locations you want to shot and pack necessary items to support it. Pick the East side of street for the parade.
Trick(s): Shoot outside in between hotels to get futuristic shots.
While all of the gear talk in terms of camera equipment, lenses, locations, lighting and more is all important, the single most valuable tip to shooting at Dragon Con is being personable. Some of these people spend a great deal of time, money and effort designing and building their costumes for this event. They are proud of what they have done BUT they are not models. If you stand there hoping that they will stop to pose for you, some will but most will not. By introducing yourself and asking if they mind having you take a picture or two of them, 99% of the time they will be more that happy to oblige.
Lastly be respectful to the Cosplayer and fellow fans there to take pictures. Don’t dominate. Instead allow others to get a great shot or two as well. If you have a way to provide the pictures you have taken, do your best to provide that. Who knows, you may be asked to shoot more pictures with that Cosplayer at Dragon Con next year. There are plenty of opportunities over the entire weekend to get some great shots. If you follow these Tips and Tricks, you’re shots at Dragon Con will be amazing.
Tip(s): Be kind and respectful even when others seem to be a little pushy. Ask a Cosplayer instead of just taking a picture. Your results will be amazing.
Trick(s): Share your work with the Cosplayer you took a picture of.
For ideas you can use, click over to one of my galleries to see some of my “Best of” work from previous Dragon Con events.