Shooting in big cities can sometimes be problematic. You need permissions to shoot places, some cities ban weapons and then there’s the fact that there are people everywhere. Particularly somewhere like London. So how can you get around problems like this to get great shots? We’ve compiled a small list of tips for shooting in cities and crowded places to help any photographer or cosplayer.
This is a massive problem for a lot of people. To shoot in most locations you need to get permission. Whether it’s a church, an apartment block or even in the streets, you usually need permission to do a proper photoshoot. Most places will have information, or at least a contact, on their websites about how to go about getting permission to shoot there. Usually as long as you don’t get in the way most places are fine with you being there but it’s worth still checking. Some locations will require you to book a slot or might request a small amount of money or a donation to shoot on their property, if this is the case consider it carefully and don’t just shoot there anyway. The last thing anyone needs is for a photographer or a cosplayer to ruin relationships with property owners.
Have an assistant
Assistants can be great for many reasons. They can help you hold stuff, they can help a cosplayer adjust their costume but mostly they are great for making sure the photographer and cosplayer are safe and don’t put themselves in danger. A perfect example could be if you are shooting in the winter and it’s really cold. The assistant can run to get hot drinks or to throw a coat over the cosplayer between shots. They can help let the photographer know when vehicles or people are about to get in the way of the shot!
They are also great for looking after your stuff when you’re shooting. If the cosplayer and the photographer are distracted when they shoot it’s easy for their stuff to get stolen. I remember on a shoot looking after someone’s bag, although there was only a Primark jumper in there it had Gucci written across the side and I got asked by a policeman if the bag was mine, and if so that I should loop it around my wrist in case someone got the wrong idea. Having someone looking after your bags is also a matter of public safety, as since the rise of terror threats any unattended bags or equipment might be mistaken for potential bombs or a threat to public safety.
Check weapons policies
Now this is a huge one, particularly in Europe and other countries where privately owned weapons are banned. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a gun, a sword or a bow be very, very careful about having weapons. In London I believe it’s illegal to shoot anywhere with a gun without notifying the police and usually you will need a policeman present to make sure you don’t do anything stupid. Not notifying the police can result in you being arrested. In other countries where policemen carry guns, you might not be so lucky. If you are going to shoot with a gun it’s highly recommended that you use one with an orange tip but even then there’s no guarantee that you won’t get into trouble. If a member of the public sees you with a gun shaped object they’re not going to know for sure that it’s fake.
The same goes for realistic looking or metal swords or weapons. A buster sword is clearly not a real weapon but if you have a costume that requires katana’s short swords or even a bow and arrow you have to be careful with where you bring it out and how you transport it around a city. Of course taking weapons to conventions are slightly different but be careful about transporting them to and from a convention. There is the story of a deadpool cosplayer who got stopped on the trails in Australia because he had his weapons on show on the way to the con.
Don’t get in people’s way
I know people are annoying but you have to really try and not to get in the way of people in a city. Unless you have specific permission to be able to shoot there then the pedestrians have right of way. If you need to get that shot with a quiet background or for the scene to be as empty as possible then arrange your shoot for a time when it won’t be very busy. If you’re shooting an assassin then try and shoot at night. If you want to shoot in the business district of a city go at the weekend when offices are closed. If you want to shoot near big tourist attractions go as early in the morning as you possibly can.
If you want to use a bridge or a walkway then wait until there’s a dip in the flow of pedestrian traffic so you can get as few people in the shot as possible. Holding up or blocking people will bring the attention of property owners and even potentially the police, and if you don’t have permission to shoot there then you could get into trouble.
We hope you found this article useful when it comes to shooting in the city. Don’t forget to send us links to anything you produce so that we can share your wonderful work with the world! If you have any other tips or tricks then mention them in the comments for others to see.