For this Sakura-Con 2014, I had the opportunity to rent a lens from BorrowLenses and try my luck at a Cannon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L zoom lens.
I rented a 24-70mm lens for the weekend from BorrowLenses.com. The rental process was smooth and I was able to use a lens that would normally cost $2000+ for about $100 (including shipping) for an entire week. The lens arrived a few days before the convention in a well-padded box along with instructions for shipping the lenses back. The lens was in great condition and worked well all weekend. The whole rental process was wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in trying out a lens before committing to buy it or for short convention sprints like this.
I picked a 24-70mm because I wanted the flexibility to do close-up portraits and full-length costume shots. I was planning to be in costume myself, so I also didn’t want to lug around 2-3 lens all day. The 24-70mm was recommended on a few cosplay photography forums as a good “walking around” lens. It was quite helpful to have a zoom lens for hallway cosplay pictures. The range of focal lengths were great for tight hallways were I couldn’t backup very much. I used the higher lengths for close up portrait work (slims facial features) and the lower values for full-length and group pictures (wider field of view). I recommend reading this article on Cosplay Photographers to learn more about how your focal length can impact your portraits.
With so many people milling around in the background, I did miss the beautiful background blurring I could achieve with my 50mm 1.4. I wish I had a few weekends to practice with the 24-70mm before the convention.
While reviewing the pictures I took at the convention, I realized that I need more practice with group photography. I wasn’t quite sure where to focus or how to achieve the depth of field I wanted with so many people in the scene. Most of the articles and videos about group photography I watched after the convention stressed posing your subjects instead of getting the focus right. Within a convention environment, you’re often time grabbing pictures in hallways or fighting over space with other photographers at a fan-organized photo shoot. Your subjects usually pose themselves as you lean in for a quick picture. It possible that more experienced cosplay photographers have figured out ways to deal with these situations without resorting to private photo shoots.
If few good tips I was able to dig up:
- Focus on the person closest to you — unless there is someone you must get into focus, then focus on them. The further people are from the focus point the softer they will appear.
- Use shorter focal lengths to get a wider shot.
- Use larger apertures (smaller f-stops) to get more rows of people in focus. A few places recommended f/8 to f/11 on average, but try to get closer to f/4 if you have enough light and enough room to back up.
- Work with people to clear clutter in the background. I have so many pictures from the Final Fantasy photo shoot that have a random backpack in the background.
- This might be useful: Online Depth of Field Calculator