As furries, most of us love fursuits. To hug them, to scritch them, to interact with them… And, of course, to capture their souls in our magic boxes - errr I mean, take photos of them. It allows us to not only keep memories, but share moments with the fandom that everyone else would normally never be aware of.
Obviously, meets are a great place not just to wear and see fursuits, but to take pictures of them. And, depending on the time of day, taking pictures of them can be fairly easy. The natural light being a natural boon to any photographer.
But what about conventions? Arguably the best place to find fursuiters (let’s face it: the ratio is much higher at conventions) being a convention, you’ll likely have to face different realities and challenges from the outdoor.
Here are a few "soft rules” (no convention that I know of have them hard-written) that I found are important to follow as photographers at a convention. They were written down not just by me (I am a fledgeling photographer, fursuiter and a long-standing convention staffer at various events), but other people with other experience at other events.
I’d like to thank Softpaw, Uncle Kage, Mikepaws, Skippy as well as numerous other people for leaving their thoughts on the web and help steer some of my ideas on this text.
DO warn the subject
Unless you have a zoom lens installed (100+mm for DSLRs, point and shoots you kind of can have to deal with always doing it), always ask before taking a picture, especially if you’ll be using flash. Most of the time, fursuit eyes will block a good part of the light your flash will emit, but it doesn’t change the fact that it remains a rather blinding light nonetheless.
DON’T crowd a picture
If you see someone taking a picture, don’t butt in and try and take pictures at the same time.
First off, it’s rude. Seriously.
Second, you’re going to get the same picture this individual is getting. Is that what you really want?
Third, many times, multiple flashes can ruin everyone’s photos, meaning no good picture will come out of that pose.
So wait your turn until after the photographer who’s currently engaged in taking a picture is done. It’s only polite and will guarantee you both the best picture you can get.
DO experiment with angles
Cookie-cutter pictures are nice. They are hard to miss and screw up.
But they are just that: cookie-cutter. Everyone’s seen the same pose, the same angles, the same everything. It means that your picture is nothing interesting.
Capturing memories is fine, really. If that’s what you are looking for, go right ahead!
But capturing beautiful pictures while capturing a moment will make you even happier; not just for having caught it on camera, but you’ll be proud of what you achieved.
So go ahead and look silly while taking a picture! You won’t regret it!
DON’T use the flash if you can avoid it
Flash pictures tend to make the picture look flat and boring, it’s a fact.
Another fact of convention fursuit pictures is that there will be generally low-light conditions and hardly anything else.
So this means, if you’re using a point-and-shoot, you’ll more than likely have to use the flash. If you have the options to turn down flash exposition, by all means do it. It will help change the flash from an explosion of light to something akin to another light in the room. While not the best solution (nothing beats actual good light!), it’s something that can help.
If you’re using a dSLR, using an after-curtain flash mode with eTTL enabled will help tremendously, especially in faster situations.
But, in both cases, try to find a camera (point and shoot) or a lens (dSLR) that is "fast”, or has a very low number f-stop. Usually indicated by a number on the front of the lens after the focal length (18-55mm F/3.5-5.6), this is the maximum opening size your lens can achieve.
The smaller that number, the better your shot will be in low-light situations, the less need of a flash you will require. Some PaS (Point and Shoot) cameras offer rather impressive low-light performance, but in general, don’t expect too much (an older Canon I got for my aunt years ago was amazing with an aperture of 2.0, but those are hard to find now…).
For dSLR users, you are in luck: there are plenty of options available for you out there to find the "perfect” or "best bang for your buck” lens. Always go with the smaller f-stop number you can afford to find. I, for one, really do love my Canon 50mm 1.8 lens. Though there are better, more expensive 50mm prime lenses that offer 1.4 and even 1.2 if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of money. But don’t diss those less expensive lenses if they can help you get a better shot!
DO make test shots before going in the wild
This holds even more true for dSLR users not using the automatic mode.
Test shots at an average place with a friend just standing there as a model will help you get the most of your settings with minimal changes later on, meaning you get to take more quality pictures faster than having to take 4-5 shots per fursuiter to get the right results.
Point and Shoot users won’t have as many opportunities to change settings, but using the proper program (if no manual mode is available) will help you. Again, test your shots somewhere you feel you’ll be spending a good amount of time in and see how your gear performs. That’s half the battle!
DON’T stay in the way
When you spot a fursuiter that you want to take a picture with, politely ask if you can take a picture. If they agree and don’t automatically move out of the way, try and move them aside so they don’t block hallways or paths that are used by everyone to move.
Not only is this a nice courtesy for everyone involved, it improves everyone’s safety, lowers frustrations and allows you to control the light a little bit more as well as the angle at which your picture will be taken.
DO use natural light if you can
If you are near a window, make sure it is behind you and not in front of you.
Otherwise, you’ll have to use your flash to compensate for the background light blowing in your lens, silhouetting the fursuiter instead of helping you take a picture (unless, of course, that’s the effect you’re going for).
DON’T interrupt the fursuit parade
This one might seem to be an evident one, but it’s not.
When taking pictures during the parade, always make sure your card is ready to write, that your settings are good to go and your camera’s powered on.
Give yourself 3-5 seconds maximum when stopping someone during the parade and expect them to move on. No more than that. And yes, that includes the entire process, from asking them for a picture to them leaving again. Including focus time.
If you aren’t already a focus artist, use the auto-focus with a single point of decision (I tend to use the center one as it’s easy to find and remember, and then move my angle to what I want) for faster acquisition.
DO control your breathing
As a photographer, you’re not a grunt; you’re a sniper.
And their techniques are well-worth knowing in order to minimize blurry pictures. One such technique is to exhale, not inhale, when making your shot. Hold your "unbreath” (your lungs should be empty); this minimizes the stress on your chest by relaxing your muscles, minimizes your shaking and allows you to take better pictures!
DON’T go for quantity over quality
In today’s digital world, we have the luxury of having way more pictures in a single camera than 24 or 36 shots of the days of yore. You can easily have thousands of shots ready on a single memory card.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about your pictures’ quality.
Myself, I always try to make the best shot I can. Normally, at a convention, I end up with a few hundred shots, out of which maybe a double-digit number are really good (and a single-digit number are what I consider "gems”).
So while take every shot you can, try to make every shot count! You never know what will come out of it.
DO go for candid shots
Those are, by far, the hardest shots to manage in a convention setting: the light conditions will vary all the time, the speed of your subjects will hinder your process, people will move in and out of the frame… Many frustrations will be yours to experience.
But those shots, more often than not, when they come out right, are part of the "gems” I end up with.
For those, you’ll need a longer lens (100mm+, though I tend to shoot around 175mm+ myself for those) and a fast one at that. Your flash will probably be useless and the light will most likely be crap. You won’t have time to get closer to your subject and your only way to capture that moment will be to zoom in.
But remember: zooming in means that your maximum aperture will be smaller (higher f-stop), meaning you’ll need to compensate (faster ISO, longer exposure, exposure bias, etc…). But you won’t have much time to do so, if any.
But go for the shot anyway! Who knows what you’ll capture!!
DON’T stay away from your subjects
The zoom is generally your worst enemy; make a few steps forward to get closer to your subject instead. This will allow you to use a lower zoom setting, meaning a wider aperture, meaning more light goes in your camera, meaning a better, clearer photo!
DO shoot in RAW format
This option is rarely available on point-and-shoot cameras, but if you are using a dSLR, chances are you have it.
What’s the benefit of RAW files, you ask? After all, they take so much more space on a card than a JPG file (my Canon T5i’s JPG files are about 2-3 megs big, whereas the raw files can easily take up to 30 megs per).
First, you need to understand that the RAW file is just that: an unprocessed, raw output of what the sensor captured saved into a file, uncompressed and unchanged. This means that you can use your favorite photo editing software (I personally use Photoshop CS6) to then change various settings that are normally handled by the camera’s processor to make the picture you want to make. In other words, it makes editing loads easier and allows you edit your photo without destroying the original, as well as make corrections or artistic changes as you normally would with a JPG.
The only downside of RAW is the file size. But once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!
DON’T keep your photos for yourself
Photos are moments in time that will never happen again. They allow us to capture a single moment and share it with the world.
So go ahead, and share your best shots! Select what you think represents best your skill level and your favorite shots and post them on your favorite social media, or even Furaffinity!
But make sure to filter your bad shots out first; nobody likes to look at a blurry picture…
Obviously, this list is not an exhaustive list; there are far better photographers (photografurs?) than me out there with vast amount of knowledge that probably disagree with some of my points (using the exterior light while inside as a "hair light”, for example, but I digress).
But as Mikepaws said, photography is a hobby with no singular path to the perfect picture. Everyone has their own likes, preferences and processes (I for one like saturated and high-contrast pictures, whereas someone else might like more subdued colors or even sepia), meaning the result will change for every artist out there. And that’s what makes photography so beautiful as a media.
So come to What The Fur and take some awesome pictures! It’ll be your last opportunity to do so, after all!
But feel free to apply those tricks and tips to other conventions, or even furmeets, as well. ;3
Firebreath has been stealing souls since 2009, and will be in charge of the photobooth at What The Fur 2017. You can find him on Furaffinity under the same user name.