Cosplay Prints: Rights and Responsibilities

1801191_593146617432569_1578409113_oPhoto Courtesy of Leaping Lizard Cosplay

BGZ Studios wrote about something that normally get’s confused in the cosplay community. Let’s have a brief talk about prints and print rights shall we?

Read his full article here.

I’m going to be sharing some personal experiences here, because like many just starting out this can be a very confusing topic. I feel now I can speak on this subject now that I’m a little more seasoned.

I’m going to start off with if you have plans or intentions of selling prints, you must communicate with the photographer even before a the photo is taken.

What rights do cosplayers have?

Simple answer… None. This case is of someone taking any photo of you in a public place. You have absolutely no rights to the shot what so ever. How do you think those paparazzi people make all that dough? They take photos of celebrities and sell the rights of those photos to the highest bidder.

You might not like this idea, but tough luck. That’s how the law works. *shrugs*

1244087_533662170047681_1627706808_oPhoto courtesy of Leaping Lizard Cosplay

BGZ studio brings up a good point in his article that a model can ask for compensation to be photographed. That said, asking every person you meet who wants to take your photo needs to compensate you, might come off offensively. This is generally more reserved for private shoots, where a photographer plans on photographing you with the intent to sell prints of you.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of your images being used for profit without you getting a piece of the pie, I suggest a friendly, “No thanks.” Would suffice.


What rights do the photographer have?

All. Photographers have all of the rights to the images they obtain. Now what they do with those images is up to them. Some people think very little work goes into taking photos, but that is a very silly notion. I compare frequently using a sewing machine to a DSLR, and in all honesty both art forms of cosplay and photography both have a significant amount of work going into them. A sewing machine has many functions such as, string tension, string length, different feet, different needles, different sticthes, like DSLRs have different lenses, iso, shutter speeds. Not to mention photographers have the work of post processing, but cosplayers themselves have makeup, posing, props, and performing. From a financial aspect, the better the equipment the better the shot, same with cosplay using worbla instead of carboard produces a sharper cosplay. Now to say that people on a budget cannot accomplish great things is also silly.

Beethy, the photographer, produces a lot of amazing work, but he does it with a simple camera body and lens. I’ve seen many interviews with him, and he frequently mentions this himself. His post processing skills are top notch too.

Check out this amazing before and after shot!

10000986_828946647119714_1124644796323438758_oPhoto courtesy of Beethy Photography

If you look at Yaya Han’s Dark Elf cosplay, you would never guess looking at the amour on her outfit was all craft foam! It looks amazing, and cost effective. ;D

darkelf-webPhoto courtesy of

TLDR; Both art forms have considerable amount of work and to say one is more worthy that the other is ridiculous. (Coming from an amateur photographer and cosplayer)

Paper. Thicker than Words.

The best way to get across both parties and any unfortunate is for happenings. I recommend to any photographer or cosplayer with the intent of making profit to have something in writing. I’ve signed model release forms and keep agreements in email form for future use. This is to cover my butt, in case there is a misunderstanding or falling out. Necessary precautions are necessary.

As long as both parties agree and sign on the dotted line, all is well in the world.

Is there even hope of me getting photos?

Well I know my article here may seem a little disheartening to some cosplayers, but don’t worry all is not lost.

So how do the pro’s do it?
Communication! Communication is key. Each photographer is different, and you won’t know until you try.

I’m going to use the talented Benny Lee Photography as my first example.

422778_10151355773988174_586598032_nPhoto Courtesy of Benny Lee Photography

Most of the “big name” cosplayers have shot with Benny Lee. I notice frequently his prints being sold online these cosplayers print stores. So I did a little hunting and I came across on his page his rates. Just to give you an idea what he charges click here, select info, and rates. For the quality of work, that is honestly in a good price range.

Remember! Everybody’s different! 
Now again, no two photographers are alike. I’ve work with the incredibly talent Short Fuse Pinups, and I can honestly say her prices were very reasonable, and she was very flexible in doing some minor alterations I asked. (Ex. Cleaning up the chipped paint on my prop) Before we even shot, she had me sign a release form and discussed what she would do and provide to everyone.

Here is some of her work she did of me. :3

1660344_621313101282587_1733122948_n1897934_626731870748809_9165509112809313753_n10156169_626731887415474_7173614574295402996_nCosplayer: Leaping Lizard Cosplay Photo Courtesy: Short Fuse Pinups

After working with her, I’m in the process of obtaining photos to distribute, but part of my contract with Short Fuse is that I use her watermarked images and give credit wherever I use them online. The final sold versions will have removed watermarks. 😀 So in turn, she get’s promotion for her business, and I get to try to make some money to fund my new cosplay projects. In this case, Short Fuse has taken the initiative to set everything up. She’s awesome btw, and I highly recommended her.

Taking the initiative.

In my previous example Short Fuse took the lead. In this instance I’m taking the lead.

I’ve spoken with a local photographer here in Key West, and discussed in detail what I would like. I’m currently working on a contract, myself, to give to the photographer. I’m hiring him for his skills and rights to the photos he takes and processes. We discussed this ahead of time, and once it is all finalized in writing I will be paying him for his services for the photos. This contract will cover many subjects including, further alterations to the photos, what file types to receive: raw’s instead of jpegs, how many processed photos I expect, and full distribution rights.

I do make a side note here, but this contract is in the bargaining stages, and it’s my first time “around the bush.”

I can see a couple of photog’s (slang for photographers) getting a little heavy here. I mentioned altering the final images further in the contract. This is a very sensitive thing for some photographers, and I’ll explain why in a second.

My photographer is a post processing god compared to me, and I know for a fact I will not be altering his images in the slightest, but I do mention it because it’s a good measure to lay out in the contract. Some photographers can be very uncomfortable when it comes to this because you are altering their art. Comparing it to a cosplayer, imagine you sew a commission for someone and then they take a seam ripper to it and alter it so dramatically it doesn’t look like what you originally gave them. *cringes*

If you plan on ever altering anyone’s images. Make 100% sure they are okay with it. This can save you from burning a bridge or offending someone greatly.

A Final Note

Again, communication is key in any relationship. Whether personal or professional. Cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s before a shutter is even clicked, and remember to keep all documentation regarding your shoots. From emails to contracts to receipts for any transaction. Not only to protect yourself, but also the photographer. And finally, make sure to give credit where credit is due.

Thank you for reading!

Liz Vickery (Leaping Lizard Cosplay)


Have any questions or did I forget anything? Please comment and let me know! Feel free to suggest anything you would like to see me write about or cover!


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