Photograph with Consent: How it all began/progress


So now that you’ve read this article, I wanted to give you a little history lesson about how it all started.

How it all started: Long story short, a lot of people told me it couldn’t be done. So I decided to prove to all these people it could.

And so that’s when I had the idea of making the signs.

First Attempt: Fanime 2014
Fanime was coming up, so I made an online template, printed out a bunch of them, and handed them out while we all waited in line to get in the convention. Basically, everyone takes one, passes it down until they’re gone (and they disappeared halfway). I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do it, and people loved the sign. However, it was very obscure, and from what I heard, staff was trying to take the signs down. I don’t know if it is true, but I did notice a diminish of signs even though the entire stack that went down the line as we waited all disappeared. So I would call this attempt a fail, but with a very tiny positive reaction. People liked the sign, but it was ineffective, in my opinion.

Second Attempt: Sac Anime 2014 (summer)
I was allowed to create a custom made version of the original version to hand out at the convention, but unfortunately there were two problems. 1) The head of the department did not want to print out the signs, and so I just posted on facebook for people to print it out themselves (and not everyone reads the facebook), 2) The head of the department was incredibly difficult to contact, and 3) I wasn’t there to see it so I have no idea if anyone used the sign. Attempt was a complete fail.

Third Attempt: Kraken Con 2014
I emailed the head of the convention, and they agreed to let me make a custom template for them. They said they would print them out for me, and hand them out. Fortunately, I was tabling there so I could experience it. There was a nice lady who walked up to every table, showed the ‘do not photograph sign’, and then if the artist wanted the sign, they would help tape it on their table. The thing was, the signs were printed on bright yellow paper. And some people told me it was sort of working. This was the first time when I noticed improvement. At that point, I thought it was because multiple tables had the same sign (because based on what the other artists told me, customers were curious about what the signs meant, and begun conversation with the artists). I would say this was an improvement, but not a pass. 

Fourth Attempt: Sac Anime, 2015 (winter)
Okay, so this time I decided to table at this convention. In this attempt, I thought that the reason why the third attempt worked was because more than one person had the sign. Again, the head of the department did not want to print them and took a very long time to get a hold of, so I decided to print them on white paper and left a stack at artist alley registration. At least the artist alley staff was kind enough to allow me to put it at their front table. Sadly, ll the artist’s answers were too vague to consider it a positive or negative problem, and I could barely find any table with the signs. Fail again, I suppose.

Fanime 2015
 By this time, I had to think about why my third attempt work, but not the others. I joined the facebook group ‘artist alley international’, redesigned it, and I asked everyone’s opinions about the sign. Here, I heard a lot of comments about artists who have given up hope, and some pretty much accepted the idea that their work would be stolen so they don’t bother. I decided to post a revamped design, and one artist on there was a graphic designer and gave me some great tips to redesign my sign to what it looks now.  Unfortunately, many artists had disagreements on what the sign would actually say, so I decided to make multiple versions. I decided to think about why my past attempts were fails, and changed my process.

This is what I did based on my previous fails:

  • redesign to be as straightforward but polite as I can
  • bought a huge pack of yellow paper and printed on the signs on that
  • The design emulated a caution sign for easy recognition of the intent
  • I passed out the signs myself this time, to ensure everyone at least had a chance of getting one
  • I made multiple versions to accommodate different setups, such as printing a few on pink paper (for light colored setups), or making miniature versions for tables that have an enormous clutter of prints, or those who wanted one logo vs. two logos, and finally one with a red outline to distinguish that the artist
  • Due to several different opinions of the sign, I made three different versions to accommodate everyone’s needs. Because the signs all had the uniform ‘caution’ tape on the top and bottom, it still gave out the same message. One had only the camera logo, one included a logo that indicated instagram, and the last one did not have’without asking the artist first’ and had actual red on it to indicate that there would be zero tolerance for photographing.
  • I printed hundreds of signs so that nothing would run out.2015-05-29 19.27.49

Did it work? To surprise, much better than expected!

Results and hypothesis:
I am going to be honest here, I really did not expect it to be as successful. I thought it would be the same as Krakencon, where most people inquired due to confusion or the like. Well it sort of did, but on a more positive scale. Of the two hundred and ninety eight tables in the artist alley alone, a hundred and fourty one tables asked for a sign. That’s almost half the tables! 0_0 This does not include Dealer’s hall (I recall giving some out to the artists there, but unfortunately did not have time at the convention to get back to them).

I made a second round the next day to check if these artists had the signs up, and unfortunately some have put them down either because ‘no one asked for photos’ or they ‘didn’t have time to put it up’. Well, even if they didn’t put it up at this convention, now they have a handy sign if they ever want to use it in the future. I am going to take a guess here, but it may possibly be the fact that so many other tables were making a statement that attendees pretty much picked up what was going on. Or so I wish to think that.

Making my second round, and I asked people if the sign worked. From what I heard, it has helped a lot, but of course, you get the usual photographer who ignores it. It wasn’t a 100% fix, but definitely the best improvement so far. I’d still call it a success if an artist can compare this time with a previous time and point their finger to this convention and say ‘yep there’s a difference’. I strategically made this sign for Fanime, because many artists (and attendees) are not from the Bay Area. It helps make a statement that other artists around the country agree as well. So hopefully this works elsewhere.

In the end, not all tables NEED a sign:
I pay careful attention to tables that encourage photos. They’re usually artists that are already known for a specific kind of art, craft, or authors of comics/books. I can see why authors of books would encourage it (I mean the title of their work is right on the art there’s no need to hide it), and that the very popular artists don’t care because they already have enough fame that it doesn’t matter. What DID surprise me was that some really high tier artists wanted the signs!  But that’s for you, the artist, to experience yourself–so if you use a sign or not, in the end it’s your own decision :)

One thing I do while i pass out signs is that I never explain why I give them unless they inquire. This sounds funky, but if you already have a great positive experience with people taking photos, there’s no reason to have one of these signs on your table. However, if you’ve experienced it or know someone who has experienced bad moments with the photos, that’s usually the crowd of artists who appreciate the signs more than anyone. 

Future concepts, ideas, etc:
This entire project at Fanime costed me a total of $119, which included travel and hotel, but that’s not even the food cost. This project took so long that I couldn’t even check out dealer’s hall to get anything. I was fortunate enough to be a table helper so I could get a badge that would allow me to talk to artists before the convention begins, but with the hours I needed to help him, it was taking up too much time. I highly doubt I will ‘travel’ to huge conventions to do this unless I found a way to get there with minimal cost. However, I’ll be contacting anime/comic/indie conventions to see who is interested, and mail it to them or direct them to my template page. So far after contacting a few conventions, I’ve had positive results ^_^

Do you want to help?
Since I’m not tabling at conventions for a while, I won’t be having a nice stream of revenue to fund this project. At the moment, please consider a commission or two to ease my wallet when I print and mail out a ton of signs to conventions. 


One thought on “Photograph with Consent: How it all began/progress

  1. I think it was a success! A lot of people were more polite and asked before taking photos at my table, even when I didn’t have a sign.

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