I've recently come across some chatter about an anime convention essentially banning paid shoots. To me this is rather disheartening as I've been a big supporter of this con and what it does for over a decade. I want to talk about this issue and address some points.
Banning paid shoots taking place at the con (indoors and out), suggesting that police may be called if found doing so on public property. For me, this con never had any issues regarding photography. Photographers had no problem doing free or paid shoots. This year, with only around 10 days prior to the con, a staff member on FB included this statement as a reminder, "As well, charging for photographs is not permitted with the exception of photographers in the Photo Alley. Only photographers in the Photo Alley are sanctioned by Anime North to charge for photography." I don't recall ever hearing/reading about this in the 10+ years I've attended the convention. The closest item I can find is in regards to "exchange of money between hands". This is such a vague statement that it could even imply you're not allowed to pay your roommate back for the hotel room you're sharing. I've noticed that this simple, vague quote, is now being used as though it was a specific rule applied to photoshoots from the beginning. I don't want to make this issue appear bigger than it actually is, but I feel it's important to address it before/if it does become something of an epidemic affecting more cons. Please don't read too deeply into this article, I just wrote it as food for thought.
As you may be guessing, I am not a fan of this new last-minute regulation. I am very welcoming of guidelines, addressing specific points on what/who/where/why, in many cases certain situations that may be immoral or dangerous should to be avoided. What it then comes to, I find, is whether the party upholds these regulations for just reasons, or for other motives. I actually find that most cons are quite transparent the majority of the time which is great.
I'm realizing this is becoming long and want to try and keep it short so I will do bullet-points to get my thoughts across quicker.
-Private properties can decide what is and isn't allowed, that's that's within their right.
-Groups renting convention space, not saying a word on paid photoshoots for years, and suddenly doing a 180 on them gives me reason to believe there may be more going on behind the scenes. Setting specific guidelines in advance is a better way to be concise.
-If there are other photographers who have paid for space inside the building, then they get the amenities with the price that rental, they get the exposure, power, etc...
-I will concede that photographers who do paid shoots, should at least have a convention badge. This will also nullify complaints that the photographers bring nothing to the con, including cosplayers with badges who are there solely for photoshoots.
-Many cosplayers attend conventions solely for photoshoots. Being unable to book shoots with photographs WILL push cosplayers away. Cosplayers are a staple of anime conventions. Even if there are many of them at every con, why start a negative trend?
-Booth shoots are in no way the same as outdoor shoots. There are some neat hidden areas around that are wonderful to use. Many cosplayers strongly prefer outdoor shoots for obvious reasons. It should be common sense to at least not shoot in congested/restricted/dangerous areas.
-Someone made a comment regarding selling t-shirts out of your trunk in the parking lot. Selling a physical product is different than providing a service. You can get the product from online, from in the dealer's room, etc.. The same is not possible with an on-location shoot.
-There are likely some professionals who do shoots at conventions, but as pros they would not make their living off of doing low-cost convention shoots. No one is making their bread and butter here.
-Scare tactics! "...has no legal responsibility if something...", "...will report you..."
-Limited number of Photo booths due to space. Can you imagine "Oh you're one of the 45 photographers who didn't get accepted for one of our eight photography booths? Ah well..."
-Yes you need a permit for commercial shoots (or wedding groups), but the law is kind of unclear regarding small non-commercial portrait shoots on public property, in Toronto at least. Be sure to check local the local laws. This is another scare tactic which is only now being used against mostly-hobbyist photographers shooting anime and game costumes.
-Theoretically, you could see an attendance drop at the paid photo booths if all shoots outside become free...
-If the convention is worried that booth photographers who signed a contract for their booth will sue them for not stopping paid shoots outside their area, simply amend/alter the contract so it states that other paid shoots may still happen.
-Photographer's badges. Have anyone who wants to do paid shoots apply for a photographer's badge. I know there are a few conventions out there which already do this.
-If security regarding "random" photographers is an issue, you could create a white-list of photographers who have a proven track record.
This is all I have at this point, I know there area still some areas I haven't covered but don't want to stretch it anymore. I hope this "No Paid Shoots" does not become an epidemic. Many cosplayers would be upset if their photogs were no longer able to shoot them due to political reasons, I'm not sure how many cons realize this. I for one, do both types of photography, paid and free general walk-around, you will see my general con galleries littered with thousands of photos I have not charged for. Doing some paid shoots on the side is not something a convention should go out of its way to impede and create a political system to attain maximum profit.
Again I will concede that participants should at least possess a convention badge, this is support for the convention and that minimum respect should be given. Should they (or any other con) uphold their current ruling, they can except to see a decline in their attendance. I have already read comments from both photographers and cosplayers who said they'd stop coming. This includes me. Again, I hope this is simply just an overblown issue so the con and any others who are thinking of implementing new guidelines based on scare tactics and legality claims as a front to try and tame such a wild activity for less money than it's worth will think twice and consider alternate options.
Let's work together and make something work for all those who pay to attend conventions. If you have any thoughts, be sure to write them below. Best of luck to everyone.