SDCC: Where are those cosplay photos, anyway?


One of the biggest irritants I have with cosplaying is the fact that despite the dozens of people who will stop and ask me for a photograph, I’ll find something like three or four of them. In reality, I’ll find one or two and friends will spot a few, just like I’ll probably find more of them than of myself.

I’m sure more than half don’t even make it to the internet. Editing photos is a pain in the butt and when you’re taking them for yourself, not a website or a blog, the motivation to get them up for the world to see isn’t always there. Chances are not as many people are going to see them as would make it worthwhile.

As for the rest of them… why is it so difficult to find these photos? This post doesn’t really solve the problem, but it points out my ideas (ahem – complaints) on why it’s so difficult to find those shots. Everyone talks about how vast the internet is but it’s a small world, so be careful what you post about online because you never know who’s gonna see it. Okay, so, how come a vitriolic complaint about someone can make it to them without them even searching for it, but despite the hunting around, I find five or six photos, one of which is pretty decent?

And I always, always find the shots people took without asking. The ones where I’m like, mid-yawn or shoving my face full of food, or bending over to adjust something. TYPICAL.


Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that SDCC has about like, twenty-five different tags and no one can really stick to just one of them. Some people just tag with all of them, which is pretty great, but it doesn’t stop the fact you still have to search through them individually if you want to be thorough.

Very consistent, clearly.
Very consistent, clearly.

So here you are, post-comiccon and still on a high, slowly scouring through Flickr and Tumblr and everywhere else looking individually through the dozens of tags: sandiegocomiccon, sandiegocomicon, SDCC, SDCC2013, SDCC 2013, san diego comic-con, comic-con, saturday SDCC... you get the idea. It’s like slowly that high just ebbs away with every little tag you knock off the mental list, until it’s the evening and you realise you’ve spent the entire day for naught and now you’re bitter about the whole thing….ahem.

I wish, in the way that Twitter has a Now Trending (and yeah, I know, #SDCC was there), the photo sites did something similar. More people would use the same tag if they knew which one to use.

Another tagging issue is that people who bulk upload photos tend to also bulk tag. This makes sense in theory – they were ALL photos from SDCC, they were ALL photos from Saturday, but then they take it a step further and tag everything with all the characters they remember photographing. And it’s an attempt to help, of course, because it SHOULD, in theory, make it easier to find your cosplay if it’s tagged with the character you played.

Except, the reality of it is that if you’re searching through the “Harley Quinn” tag, for example, suddenly you get 400 photos from one individual who took photos of perhaps three or four Harleys, but everything is tagged “SDCC, sandiegocomicon, saturday SDCC, SDCCsaturday, spiderman, superman, justice league, masterchief, harley quinn, dante, sharknado, that one character from that one show that did that one thing…” So suddenly you’re searching through a series of photos for pages and pages that aren’t actually Harley Quinn. Sites like Flickr only let you search back so far, too, so if you don’t keep on it and search consistently, you miss photos because of this.



The majority of people that photograph cosplayers, even at SDCC, are just people impressed or happy with your cosplay, so they snap a shot. They’re not going to put it on Flickr or somewhere where people store the photos they take for the world to see. They’re going to put it on Facebook or Instagram, maybe, if they like it enough.

The trouble with this is that, if you’re a typical person on the internet, you’re aware of things like identity theft or the off-chance your boss decides to google your name. So your Facebook profile isn’t open for the world to see. And with no actual accurate search feature on Facebook (aside from people/pages), it makes it incredibly difficult to find photos of people that you aren’t already friends with, or even peripherally friends of friends.

Some of my friends get around this a little by having a cosplay fan-page of the character they cosplay most, or characters. If they have enough followers or attention, it becomes a small but successful way to extend tendrils out into Facebook to find more people uploading convention photos.

Since Facebook just recently introduced hashtags, maybe it’ll get a bit easier to find pictures, but I haven’t really had the chance to experiment with that yet so I can’t comment on it. I imagine it won’t change things too much, though. People will first have to a) use hashtags on Facebook but also b) post the photos set to public.


Okay so Flickr and I have been partners for years at this point, far longer than I think I’d like to admit. It’s connected to the first email I ever had on the internet, ever (Gundam Wing fans, anyone?). So I love Flickr and I really enjoy the new layout and interface. It’s much more fluid and more intuitive. Their search browser looks much better and with the forever-loading feature added in, it makes it easier to just keep scrolling until it dies.

But I wish there was a better way to break down photo searches. I do enjoy that there’s a few different categories – Recent and Relevant are the two I use most – but things still fall through the cracks. I also do enjoy that you can search for multiple tags (Tumblr, what’s going on with you, catch up), but with SO MUCH being uploaded SO FAST, it’s hard to keep up with everything. And since you can’t follow tags, it’s hard to remember to keep up, too.

And that’s just the items that are tagged. Not everyone bothers tagging photos because, let’s face it, it’s a pain in the butt. Even in Flickr, which couldn’t make it more painless, really.

So how do you find them, then?

I have something like a routine developed at this point for finding photos of myself and my friends.

First off, I kind of ignore Facebook – it’s too frustrating and discouraging to find shots and, usually, my friends with cosplay pages have much better luck anyway.

Then, I set up a new window with a series of tabs – Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, Google. Google ends up being multiple tabs by the end of it, of course. There’s the image search for a simplified tag (usually it’s “SDCC 2013 cosplay” or something similar to that), and then the web search for photo round-ups, like mine on Comic Booked. I usually find the most in these and the cool side benefit of it is that I usually find a bunch of new blogs to check out while doing so, because even with the big round-ups from some blogs, it’s often the smaller ones that I find my cosplay costume.

As far as big sites go, Comic Vine usually posts the largest round-up – last year’s was something like 600+ and the year before was nearly double that. But don’t discount the small blogs; the convention floor is so large that even Comic Vine’s photographer can’t get everyone, so you never know who actually photographed you.

Then, I bookmark the links that contained photos of me. Maybe it’s superstitious but if they ran into me this year, maybe they’ll run into me next year. I have the patterns of things I check out, especially in cosplay (for example, as Harley I’ll definitely be at the DC booth frequently, for obvious reasons). It doesn’t hurt and also, it makes it easier to credit the photos later on, if I decide to post a round up on my personal blog.

Really, I find the key is searching through those multiple different tag/searches. For example, for Comic Booked I tagged my round-up with SDCC and san diego comic con, but that’s it. If you call it San Diego Comicon, you’re not going to find my round-up post. So in general, I find that you can’t be too thorough, though it can get very tedious and frustrating..

Also: don’t discount the fact that not everyone can spell your character’s name properly. I’ve found a lot of photos for Harley Quinn under the “harlequin” or even “harlequinn” tag. Unless you’re a crazy aware photographer, it’s almost impossible to be able to point out each cosplayer’s character with perfect accuracy, especially when it comes to spelling!

Business Cards

Sometimes a photographer gives me a business card; often, it’s to tell me that to access the photo they took of me will cost me money (that’s a whole different post, though) but sometimes it’s just to get in contact with them, to let me see the photo they took.

With that idea in mind, I came up with the idea of making a cosplay business card. This is what it looks like:

Pretty straight-forward.
Pretty straight-forward.

It lets me write in the character that I’m playing that day, and the back gives me space to write a description (or the person I gave it to can make a note). I’ll give out twenty or thirty a day and maybe something like five people actually email me? But it’s five photographs I wouldn’t have found otherwise, so in the end for me, it’s worth it.

Professional Photographers

There are a LOT of photographers that advertise taking cosplay photos when you’re at SDCC. We visit this one man, Jason Holmes, nearly every year for a photograph. It doesn’t typically cost that much, especially when you consider you’re getting a professional-quality shot, and it’s really a win-win situation: you’re helping them get their name out, and they’re helping you do the same.

DCUO Harley Quinn, aka me, photographed by Jason Holmes
DCUO Harley Quinn, aka me, photographed by Jason Holmes

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Comments (1)


Sounds like a lot of extra work. I never thought about it before, but I'll bet it is really irritating when you're searching for specific photos that you just know were awesome, but aren't sure if you'll ever see them again. Good luck with your continued quest!

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