SwampCon Takeaway

January 23, 2018  •  2 Comments

Yo! How 'bout this first blog post, huh?? Gonna cover some self-observations, tribulations, and accomplishments from SwampCon, so let's get this going!

On January 13-14 I was a guest official photographer with Mark Pariani Productions at SwampCon Voyage 2018. For those who don't know, this convention is attended primarily by cosplayers, anime/video game enthusiasts, board game aficionados, and parents just enjoying these crazy kids and their matching hats.

This was Mark's 3rd time hosting the official photobooth at SC, but my first real experience with micro-shoots. With so many in attendance, we had limited time to shoot everyone. My personal expectations were to get 2-3 differently posed photos per individual. Here is a list of trials:

  • Using Mark's single continuous light vs. my multiple strobe lights
  • Shooting 5 minutes at a time vs. 30min-2hrs
  • Limited work space, forcing me to use my 24-70 (normally 50mm or 70mm-200mm for portraits)
  • All new people I've never met. Don't know their personality.
  • Subjects who are unfamiliar with their character, posing, cameras, lighting, anything whatsoever
  • Subjects who are uncomfortable with all of the above but still want that photo
  • Subjects who don't actually care about fancy stuff. They just want a photo to prove they attended. Simple as that.

None of these are difficult to overcome. However, they require experience I didn't previously have. I have my own preferred equipment, shooting style, approach, and have been very fortunate to mostly shoot with people who either know what they want or are at least good at modeling on the fly.

What was the solution? In the end:

  • Don't take it too seriously.
  • Throw everything I want out the window.
  • Observe Mark's approach. We're in his territory now.
  • It's just a stupid light. Make it work for me.

3 and 4 are easy. Mark is experienced and knows how to nail the results, and a modeling light requires all of 30 seconds to adjust in-camera settings. Maybe an occasional adjustment as the sun sets. We both know our capabilities. 1 and 2 are very difficult. Everyone has habits and comfort zones. I've had 1-hour shoots last 3 hours because it so much fun and there were so many great results. But 5 minutes? People I've never seen or spoken with? Using the event lens for portraits? LARP characters with undefined traits? Being right up in someone's face? Mentally, it was like trying to stand still atop a bucking bronco ride.

Free yourself from yourself. These aren't going in an art gallery. These people are having a great time and most of them just want a single photo. But you're a pro photographer who is going to give them 2-3. While also having a great time. There is no way to do wrong. They were test subjects for something brand new. The light mostly limits these to upper-body shots. They don't know what to do? Take a few serious profile shots, then funny/cute profile shots, then have them strike their best kawaii pose. They know what to do? Work with them to make it look amazing. Always interact with the weapon. Are they a good guy? Keep the light head-on. Are they evil? Back-on. Batman? He doesn't need light. He was raised by the darkness; shaped by it. Take photos at weird angles, then normal angles. Many "whatever" shots turned out surprisingly good and have opened my eyes to so much more.

What do I take to my next professional shoot:


  • There is little to no room for "heiro" shots (flat, one-dimensional)
  • Quicker observation and reaction to models and posing
  • Quicker creativity where the subject lacks
  • Switch lenses then work your surroundings. Get some distance. Get in their face. Stand on a side table. Get on the floor. Now get shwiftyyyy.
  • No matter how professional it is, there is always room for a smile and laugh.

I could write much more, but you have things to do. Get to it! Thanks for checking this out and please feel free to contact me if you have any detailed questions about this scenario, or if you just want to chat!

Please check out Mark's work. He's a great photographer and an even better guy. This event would not have been possible without him. BTS photo also by him.

Do Good. Don't Suck.


Entertaining read and I could sense your personality in your writing. Your descriptions really helped me picture what you were facing and how you overcame it. Great advice for someone shooting large volume of people for the first time! Props to you blogging more
Matthew Vigo(non-registered)
Enjoyed this. Five stars on yelp.

But really this was a good first post and I think for any person trying to get in on the action it provides some good insight into how to take away lessons from new situations.
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