LRP photos are one of those things that can bring great joy to the subjects, but also risk hurt and frustration for those who do not turn up in them. Your presence in photos is easy to take as validation that your kit looks good, that you look good, and that people noticed your presence. That you were not just one of the background figures adding little to the overall event.
So, inspired by a really terrible article that was ostensibly about how to turn up in more photos, here is my own (useful) practical guide, aimed at all abilities and budgets.
None of these things will in of themselves guarantee you will be photographed, but each of them increases your desirability as a photo subject just that little bit.
Kit and Costume
People often talk about great looking kit. Ignore them; it’s about as helpful as saying “I liked it, but I didn’t know why”
What you usually want, is visual impact.
How to be visually impactful
Visual impact is important. You want to impress upon people a certain sense of your character. What you wear says things about you, and in LRP, what you wear has to distil the essence of your character as best you can, as quickly as you can. Otherwise, you risk your character being utterly unexceptional and uninteresting looking, and having less impact on the game than it might otherwise have done. The visual impact also makes you more likely to stand out to a photographer looking for interesting imagery. A picture of nice looking kit on a person is one thing, but a picture that seems to tell a story about the character is a much more interesting proposition.
Take a look at yourself in costume, and your kit. What is the statement you wish to make?
You may have certain physical traits or features that compliment that statement, in which case you have a shortcut towards the end result; you simply have to emphasise them with your costume, props and/or makeup.
e.g. You want to make a statement that your character is all about the ridiculously large weapons; if you happen to be small of stature, the large weapons will be emphasised. Ideally those weapons will also be designed in such a way as to exaggerate their size, but attaching ribbons and the like to the weapon can draw attention to it, if you are making use of an existing equipment that did not particularly exaggerate it’s size.
Making a statement that your character is all about wealth is often a little costlier, but can still be achieved without necessarily spending a lot of money. Rings and jewelry are the most obvious things. A few frilled articles of clothing, a bit of lace. Making sure that your kit isn’t stained and dirty looking. A parasol and/or a hand fan says that this character does not do physical things, (at least, not at this moment) which can be another visually impactful way of making a statement about the wealth of your character.
A common mistake I often see is people trying to emphasise too much; when everything is emphasised, nothing is emphasised. Create a hierarchy of emphasis. Start simple with one level; you have your base layers; these are the ordinary bits of clothing that your character wears. Then add one thing that is more important. This is the thing that makes your costume come alive. It is the thing that says something about you.
How to emphasise
Colour and ribbons are your friend. As is ornamentation; trinkets and cheap jewelry from places like Primark, or charity shop tat can be surprisingly effective at drawing the eye to the right places, and with judicious selection will not only look good, but will not look like cheap tat.
Adding detail is part of what makes a character’s kit seem real. The great thing about your character’s costume is that it is never quite finished; there will always be something you can add or change about it for as long as you are playing that character. Kit evolves over time, and as such, things are added or taken away as the character outgrows them, adds to them, or simply customises them. So, this one is an ever evolving thing.
Adding details makes your character seem more real; they look like they live in their clothes. Their equipment looks like it reflects some sort of life story. Whether that is because of what you decided before you started playing, or what you have experienced once in play, that detail tells the photographer that there is a story there, even if it’s just something you added because you liked the look of it. It tells people something about your character, and characters are more interesting than the clothes they are wearing.
Details can be simple; a badge or a pin with an emblem painted on it, or they can be ornate; an embroidered cloak. These are the things that start to really pull your character’s appearance together. These are the things that start to make you look like an interesting subject for photographers.
Makeup and Prosthetics
Never underestimate the impact of makeup. It is a quick and obvious way to draw attention to a difference in your character. Prosthetics can likewise differentiate you. That’s not to say that makeup and prosthetics are a must by any stretch of the imagination, but they are useful tools to have in your arsenal, and you can usually start on the road with them in a pretty inexpensive manner.
Again, remember that emphasis is key with makeup and prosthetics. Highlight and lowlight to emphasise areas, make sure that prosthetics that are not there as subtle detail are nicely emphasised and not lost in the noise.
Bright, dark, monochromatic, or a spray of rainbows, your colour scheme can really make the difference. Pick a colour scheme, and stick with it. Variation on those colours is good (it adds texture) and pieces that are outside of that colour scheme are more than acceptable (again, it makes a character look like they have some history to them) but try to imagine that your character is just a blur of colour; you want something that is distinct and recognisable. Imagine your kitted out character and do a squint test (where you squint so that everything blurs). Does it still look good? Do those colours still stand out? This is the colour equivalent of making sure that you have a good silhouette.
No matter how great you may or may not look; there are certain facts that will increase or decrease your chances of making it into photographs
Your physical location
We are only ever in one place at a time. The same goes for photographers. If you are never in the places that photographers are, then you will never appear in their photographs. Now a half decent photographer will probably go looking for interesting pictures rather than just staying in one place and waiting for them to come to him or her, but if you are never in places where interesting things are going on, it doesn’t matter how amazing you look; you will not be seen by photographers who are there. The more you are in places that the photographers are in, the more you increase your chances of being shot by a photographer.
Of course, it turns out that it’s not always easy to be where the interesting things are happening. However, if you are proactive, and able to get things moving along, you may well find yourself taking part in the creation of those interesting events.
Know the photographers
Sadly, knowing the photographers will make them more likely to notice you. If they notice you, they are more likely to spot a good shot that involves you. There’s nothing malicious or willful about this; it’s just the way the brain works. If you are fortunate enough to know them a little bit, I suggest talking to the photographers. Be friendly. Smile at them, ask them how they are, how their kids are (if they have them), their spouses and partners (if you know them). In short, form a relationship with them. Be their facebook friend, and click like on the pictures that you enjoy seeing; whether or not you know the people in them.
Things like glasses can be a problem in LRP. Some people don’t like them in photos, because they look out of character. Those people can fuck off.
If you can wear them, I would suggest contact lenses as a solution that works for many; contact lenses can range from extremely inexpensive (e.g. Daysoft contact lenses are £6 for 16 pairs) to ridiculously expensive depending on your needs, so you would need to balance that with your budget. There are also potentially issues with putting contact lenses into your eyes in what might be less than sterile conditions, as well as issues surrounding eyesight that cannot be corrected by contact lenses, or people who simply cannot cope with putting things into their eyes.
There are glasses frames that are less intrusive, and which look less like modern day eyewear. There is even the option of historic styles of eyewear. However, these are not within everyone’s budget, and anyone suggesting that you should spend your money on these for any other reason than because you desired them needs to shut the hell up.
Anyone who wears glasses should feel free to wear them as they please. They should also feel free to wear a sports strap to stop them flying off, because glasses are expensive.
The argument that they have issues with reflections holds some water, but not much. If a photo is so negatively effected by the reflections on glasses that it isn’t usable any more, then it wasn’t a great photo in the first place. Besides which; it’s an issue that still exists even with historically accurate glasses, and there are many players who wear glasses for their characters despite not really needing them themselves. In fact, these costume glasses are more likely to have issues with reflections than real spectacles, since modern eyewear tends to come with anti-reflective coatings. So if the photographer tells you that they avoid taking photos of people in glasses, then they’re just being an ass. We can accept that the slightly overweight LRPer who is playing a great warrior isn’t actually the rippling muscled behemoth that their character is, so we can clearly accept that these glasses that we need to see, are in fact, not there.
Likewise; wheelchairs, and crutches. We should all be able to ignore the existence of the wheelchair or clearly out of character crutches. These are things that the real person needs, that maybe their character doesn’t. At the very least, you can imagine that they are period/setting appropriate equivalents. If someone ignoring their existence extends to the people using them, then they are (to put it mildly) a terrible human being.
If you need wheelchairs or crutches for whatever reason, the most important thing is your safety and comfort. You’ve made the effort, and any photographers who are half decent human beings will take photos of you just the same as if you did not.
However, things you might be able to do to improve the situation by wrapping or covering bits of wheelchair or crutches to look less modern. e.g. attach some painted boards or foam with a facade that looks appropriate to the setting. Wrap things in cloth.
Tune in next week for part 2