My main genre of photography is portraiture at geek, fantasy and historic events where many attendees dress up (cosplay and reenactment). The attendees are often very willing to pose for pictures (TFP usually).

I'm far from the only photographer at these events and I often feel very undergeared compared to them. My camera gear is relatively small. I have a pro-level APS-C mirrorless camera (Fujifilm X-T2) usually with a prime lens on it. I often have 1 or 2 more primes in my purse. I do not have a battery grip (nor do I feel I need one). Many other photographers carry giant lenses on full frame DSLRs. Often they carry tripods and reflector screens as well. Meanwhile, I'm this petite girl with a 'tiny' camera. Some attendees have dismissed me asking for a photoshoot, and accepting a photoshoot from a guy with one of these 'big' cameras 15 seconds later. I did not run into the same issue with a borrowed Canon 5D with the 70-300mm F/4-5.6.

How can I get models (attendees) to take me more seriously as a photographer with a small camera?

I have tried:

  • Upgrading to a more profesional camera (I used to have an X-A10). That helped a little. At least with some more experienced models :)
  • Wearing my crew t-shirt. That helps. But I'm not crew at all events I attend as a photographer.
  • Making connections with models after the shoot. They are often happy to schedule a reshoot at the next event with their new outfit.

I have considered carrying my tripod. It feels useless to carry around though. Camera shake is rarely an issue, while space to put down the tripod is.

I do not want to switch camera brands. I'm also not planning to upgrade to the larger X-H1 for the next 2 years or so (its successor probably).

Update after trying suggestions: success!

I tried various of the suggestions at Elfia last weekend, an event notorious for the amount of amateurs with expensive gear. There are also 'pro' photographers who set up a small studio in the field and 'camp' that spot. I received many more good photos than at earlier events.

I received lots of helpful advice, thanks everyone! The things that were most effective were:

  • Made new, professional looking, business cards. I may not do this for money, but I am serious about this.
  • Being more bold, but friendly. I kept telling myself that I am just as worthy to be there as a photographer as anyone else. I asked people to adjust poses, so the lighting would be nicer, etc.
  • Showing the first (few) shot(s) and asking them if they want to try out more poses.
  • Using more gear to look more pro. I decided to take a sling this time, since I would actually use that. And a flash, since I could potentially use that.
  • Printing off Fuji Instax pictures. If I'm taking my 'tiny' camera, I better make use of its main advantage: straight out of the camera instant printing! If anything, they made an impression. The responses to those were absolutely worth it.
  • Joke about my camera and lenses. I used a few vintage lenses for this event that produce interesting photos. "Ever been photographed with a lens older than yourself?" has been a good opener so far.

Ideas I have for future events (many thanks to the answers here):

  • 'Marketing' myself around the Instax photos. I can turn my biggest weakness into a strength. The main thing will be a new version of business cards with Instax photos incorporated into the design. Perhaps I can use a clothespin to attach the photo to the card as well.
  • Carrying a reflector screen. Just like the flash, it will look more 'pro', but it may be useful on bright days like last weekend too.
  • Figure out which local newspapers or websites need a photographer and try and get a press pass.

More and more other photographers seem to be using mirrorless cameras as well now, which are similar size to my camera. Many photographers were carrying Sony cameras and I saw a handful Panasonic Lumix and even two other Fujifilms too. Hopefully, in time, the belief that only full-frame DSLRs are good enough will go away.

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    Try using a good flash on camera? – ATG Apr 10 at 9:47
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    I believe I have various other aspects to improve in my photography. I am pretty shy for example, which will also affect models, but I left that out of the scope of the question on purpose. This is one problem I face, hence this question. And I'm sure it exists, because I can 'fix' it to a large extend by using a larger camera+lens. But I am of the opinion that a 56mm 1.2 on an ASP-C camera takes nicer portraits than a 70mm f4.0 on a full-frame. And I like my brand. Fuji doesn't have large lenses, so that is no option anyway. – Belle-Sophie Apr 10 at 10:17
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    Carry a Pentax 110 in addition to your main camera. Next to it, anything will look like a Canon 1D. – Joseph Rogers Apr 10 at 17:21
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    @JonathanReez because this is my hobby, not my job – Belle-Sophie Apr 10 at 19:18
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    @JonathanReez, the Fuji X-series of cameras are actually very good cameras, easily capable of producing pro-quality imagery. I wouldn't say the job requires a big camera, just a good one. – Octopus Apr 13 at 22:21

24 Answers 24

up vote 35 down vote accepted

It's not the camera they have to take seriously: it's you.

Get past the shyness. You're all fans/reenactors together, you already have an instant bonding point. Appreciate the costume work they've done. You don't have to fake anything. Just be willing to put yourself forward and ask. Show folks what you're doing and get them involved as collaborators in making the image. Make that connection as early and as fast as you can. Learn what you can about portrait photography and posing to put people at their ease by having confidence in what you're doing.

It's all about attitude and making a connection before/during the shoot. If you're comfortable directing and getting folks to look their best, most folks who model will recognize it. Mastering and using off-camera lighting to enhance shots will definitely set you apart from most of the snapshooters, but will require a lot of extra effort and possibly roping in a VALS.

Another (Fuji shooter) trick I use to break the ice with someone is to make and give an Instax print with an SP-1 from my X100T, ala Zack Arias's Girl on the Bridge story; everyone loves a polaroid. But I get particularly relaxed and chatty if I can talk photography and camera gear, so that works for me. Find what works for you. Swapping Moo mini cards with your photos on the back are another fandom amateur-photographer favorite at SF cons.

Be flexible. Be mentally nimble. Be prepared. Be willing to jump on an opportunity nobody else sees. And be willing to let someone who isn't up for it go. Be courteous, be professional, and shoot rings around everyone else. Be familiar enough with your gear to shoot fast and efficiently. Don't waste their time any more than you want them to waste yours.

I am a 5'5" woman who shoots micro four-thirds and an X100T at San Diego Comic-Con. I feel your pain. Like you, I am shy, and tend to hang back and be diffident about getting the shot. Then I took a workshop with Kyle Cassidy, and watching him at work made it all crystal clear. It's all about tenacity, determination, preparation, and caring about your subject. And daring to ask. Because it's kind of astounding how many people will be happy to say yes if you ask. And the worst they can say is no.

You just gotta go for it.

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    Daring to ask is the hardest part :/ – Alexander von Wernherr Apr 12 at 9:22
  • Thank you so much for this answer! I enrolled in a photography course in uni to work on the confidence. I actually got myself the SP-2 just last week, but mainly for myself. I could use it to print a small portfolio and print one off as a thank you for their time. – Belle-Sophie Apr 12 at 9:35
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    Printer and 4 spare packets are now in my bag, ready for the next event on the 21st. Wish me luck! :D – Belle-Sophie Apr 12 at 9:40
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    Also you don't have to be a professional photographer to have photography business cards. Even if you just have a small personal site on which you post your shots, be sure to include that on your business card, and when asking for a shoot, be sure to ask them "do you mind if I include your shots on my site?". If you don't have any way to annotate your shots in place, you could precede a non-consenting shoot (where they don't mind you taking pictures but don't want them posted) with an obvious marker, such as taking a shot with the lens cover on so the series starts with a black frame. – Doktor J Apr 17 at 16:03
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    @DoktorJ, actually, I think Moo mini cards are more of an amateur/fan thing. I've exchanged them multiple times with other Comic-Con amateur photographer attendees. :) But a card doesn't have to be a business card and they're a good idea. I have one specifically for fan gatherings. Will edit my answer to include this. – inkista Apr 17 at 21:11

At the sort of geeky/cosplay events you describe a good solution might be to wear a T-Shirt which addresses the issue. Here's an example I found with a quick search.

It's not the size of the lens...

This should do a few things. To attendees it helps you look like "one of us". It indicates you are relatively serious about your photography, not just a random person with a point and shoot. It humorously addresses the issue you are actually concerned with, that people think you aren't serious/good just because you have a smaller camera.

I think this could help in combination with other people's suggestions. "I like your T-Shirt" is a good entry point for you to engage someone in conversation and explain why you think the camera you use is good for the type of shots you are taking.

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    I love this solution! It’s so out of the box and very appropriate for the more geeky events. – Belle-Sophie Apr 10 at 11:37
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    Another possible phrase: “Judge me by my size do you?” – Konrad Rudolph Apr 10 at 15:45
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    @user568458 I actually dress up like Jessica Jones usually but it’s a bit subtle. – Belle-Sophie Apr 10 at 18:06
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    @Belle-Sophie Does that include the cheap booze? ;) – Alexander von Wernherr Apr 12 at 8:05
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    @AlexandervonWernherr -glances at closet- nah, more of a mix of cheap and expensive booze. --- Sorry Eric, your answer is really great, but inkista's answer is just perfect for me, so I had to move the accepted flag :( – Belle-Sophie Apr 12 at 9:42

I'm going to throw lots of ideas at a wall and make them stick. But changing cameras because it doesn't look the part is wrong. Use what is right for you.

Start with an introduction, and offer to show previous work. Whenever I make first contact with a model (granted it's online), I always introduce myself and provide examples. My business cards; each one has a different image from my portfolio on it; it's really useful as I always keep a few on me, and it allows people to see my previous work without the rigmarole of getting a phone out etc.

Make joke of the fact you have a tiny camera! So, mixed with what I said above, say something like, 'Hi, I'm Belle-Sophie; don't let the camera fool you, but I'm a photographer - can I take your picture please? If you're not sure, I'll happily show you some of my previous work!'

Wear a camera backpack, even if it's empty. You could be hiding a massive camera in there.

Make your camera look bigger? Could work. When I had my first SLR I used to fool people by chucking a battery grip on it and attaching a flash (even though most of the time it was off).

That said, use a flash! Learn about off camera flash/external flash, have that with you and obvious!

A side note, if they don't want to pose because your camera's tiny, these could be people you may not want to work with.

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    "A side note, if they don't want to pose because your camera's tiny, these could be people you may not want to work with." - would very much agree with this – Matthew Apr 10 at 9:28
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    +1 for the flash. I'm not sure if Fuji has anything similar to the ST-E2 - but this was my go-to for autofocus assist (even if I wasn't using flash) and the funny looking device on the camera that no-one knows what it is helps. – scheduledForDeletion Apr 10 at 15:35
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    "I have a small camera because I'm not trying to compensate for anything!" – David Richerby Apr 10 at 15:44
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    @Corey That's almost a separate answer unto itself. – Michael Clark Apr 11 at 4:07
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    @MichaelClark Done. I've put it as an answer. – Calyth Apr 11 at 4:18

The models are obviously seeking maximum exposure.

They'll assume the people with several thousands worth of camera gear on them will be selling/providing the shots to magazines, big blogs, etc. Meanwhile, you with your little point and shoot look like you're adding to your own personal photo album/portfolio.

If you are providing these shots to somewhere with a large audience, make it known in your quick intro "Hi, I'm shooting for CosPlay Magazine".

If you are just adding to your own portfolio, you can't expect them to spare their time for you, as they're getting little from it. In that case, you'd have to "look the part" in order to get them to play ball, by playing on the same assumptions they're making which are currently stopping them posing for you.

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    Just wear anything with a vague resemblance to a press pass. Seriously. – junkyardsparkle Apr 10 at 16:46
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    XT2 is a far cry from point and shoot, but I do agree that few people would know the difference. Maybe dual sling with an old 1D ? o.O – Fábio Dias Apr 10 at 21:28
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    @i-CONICA Thank you, feel free to incorporate it into the answer in case it's eventually deleted. Also should note that I'm not advocating the use of forged credentials in any way, shape, or form. Just emphasising an aspect of superficial appearance that, for good or ill, can have significant cognitive impact. It's like the orange reflective vest of the media world. – junkyardsparkle Apr 13 at 4:20

I don't think it's about how people view your camera, it's about how people view you. If you're using an X-T2 and a 55/1.2 lens, it's quite enough for portraiture and the camera is capable of excellent results. However...

You describe yourself as "I'm this petite girl with a 'tiny' camera." Think of yourself as a confident woman with a first class camera and don't be scared to get in close for portraits. The ideal distance for this lens is when the subject's head about half-fills the field of view. Concentrate on getting the subjects eyes in crisp focus, don't overdo the bokeh (it's a tool not an end in itself) and watch what's going on in the background.

I'm 6'4" and choose to use my Fuji X-Pro2 .. in preference to my Canon 1D's and 5D's. Trust me on this, a small camera is wonderful.

Other than adding a battery grip or flash, you can't really make the camera larger, so it seems to me that your best options are to either prevent your subjects from judging the camera, or challenge their judgement:

  • hide the camera: When you approach someone to ask them to pose, keep the camera out of sight. If you wear the camera on a strap, slide it around so that it's behind you; if you keep a camera bag with you, stick the camera in the bag. It like the expression out of sight, out of mind — even if they've seen you and your camera around, they'll be less likely to judge you for the camera's size if they're not looking at it as you talk to them.

  • own it: Exactly the opposite of hiding the camera — make the camera the thing that starts the conversation. If you see someone looking at your camera, look them in the eye and say: "Aren't these mirrorless cameras amazing? All the resolution and features of a full size DSLR in a much smaller package! You should see the photos I get with this... here, let me show you." And then take a few shots, maybe asking them to pose however you want them. Then connect your phone or tablet to the camera so you can show them the photo on a larger display as you give them some patter about the built-in wifi and other great features of the camera. Give them your card and invite them to check out the photos on your web site later.

If you want the ultimate in recognition (whether rightly or wrongly) of being the baddest pro at the geekfest, get a couple of friends to be "assistants" and be your "voice activated light stands." Give one a monopod with a speedlight and small modifier on the end and the other a 30-40" reflector set to carry while following you around. And since you'll have all of that with you, actually use it! You can get third party flash transmitters and cheap (but useful) flashes for the Fuji X system from Godox. And hey, the flash transmitter on your hot shoe screams "Pro!"

If you are indoors in bland convention centers, using flashes with modifiers can allow you to overcome the "blah" lighting by killing the ambient (or at least diminishing its influence on your subject) and will set your images apart from the herd. Outdoors it is just the opposite, a little fill goes a long way to reveal details of faces and costumes that would otherwise be lost in harsh shadows.

You all should dress like working professionals would be dressed when on the job. Business casual or better. Matching logoed Polo shirts would be a plus. No tank tops, SpongeBob SquarePants T-shirts, cut-off shorts, or flip-flops! Wearing a "weak" costume yourself will just add to the perception that you're one of the countless competitors of the other models who also happens to be an amateur fangirl, rather than a serious photographer there to do 'business'.

Make matching large, media style photo ID badges for all three of you. The kind that fit in an "oversize" holder that hangs around your neck via a lanyard. From inside such a holder, it's hard to tell the difference between something printed on heavy card stock and a plastic ID card. Yours should clearly identify you as "Chief Photographer" for whatever you choose to name your organization and theirs should be labeled as "Photographic Assistant." Select a unique but catchy and official sounding name to use to later market your Cosplay work, or use the name of your existing photography page, etc. Bonus points if the lanyard ribbon is from a high end photographic company such as PhaseOne, ElinChrom, or Prophoto. They're often freebees given out at such companies photographic trade show booths.

Don't forge an actual credential for an organization you don't actually represent! That will cost you in the long run, if not in the short run. Imagine running into a legit shooter for the entity you're claiming to be with! Even if that does not happen, word will get around in the Cosplay world very quickly that you don't really shoot for 'Wired' (are they even still in publication?) or 'Rolling Stone'.

You could also address the portfolio delima by having a few letter size flyers with several examples of your work along with your contact info (a sort of oversized business card) on a clipboard carried by one of your "assistants."

One offbeat way to expand the perceived size of your camera/lens without adding much weight is to use a blimp - an enclosure intended to minimize the sounds made by your camera when shooting with it in a noise-sensitive environment - if such exists that will fit your camera. As even DSLRs, not to mention mirrorless cameras, get quieter and quieter, though, blimps are fast disappearing other than those made for cinema film cameras.

Another suggestion, included in a now-deleted comment to the question, is to use a speedbooster with a larger and longer focal length lens.

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    Oh my, I love this idea. Looking for assistants right away! Can I recruit you as chief assistant? ;) – Belle-Sophie Apr 11 at 17:06

Consider using an off-camera flash, with a portable flash modifier.

I was helping my Dad take portraits of my mom at a Christmas lights show at night. I put a radio trigger on his, and acted as a voice-activate light stand with a fstopper flash disk on the flash. You'll be amazed how may people think that we're pros, and we got some nicely lit photos to boot. I felt that the bystanders were more patient and clearly avoid walking into the shots.

I would presume you're taking pictures of cosplay models in convention centres, where the indoor daylight lighting is actually fairly dark. You can use the flash to light and emphasize your subject away from the background, and make your pictures stand out more.

I would suggest you print a few of your best images and show your portfolio to the middle and ask them if they can pose that well?

let them see what you can do. I get the same attitude holding a "little " Sony A7r2 with a 55 mm Zeiss lens till they look at my port on my phone or iPad

If you have a tablet, you could use it to carry a portfolio with samples of your work. A smartphone would work as well, but the screen is a bit too tiny... (and a tablet looks more professional ;) ).

A printed portfolio works as well, of course, and allows a larger size, but is bulkier.

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    I'm not sure a model saying no to "Hey there, you look nice! Would you mind posing for a picture?" would say yes to "Hey there, you look nice! Would you mind looking through my portfolio to see if you would like to pose for a picture?" Do you have any suggestions as to how I could pull this off? – Belle-Sophie Apr 10 at 9:03
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    It won't work for the ones that say "no" straight away. If they hesitate because of your small camera, it might work. – remco Apr 10 at 9:10
  • @Belle-Sophie photo.stackexchange.com/a/97942/7961 has the best approach to that - give them a challenge! – Wayne Werner Apr 13 at 13:16

Get a fake, cheap, big but light plastic camera and carry it around in addition to your actual camera.
You'll make a better impression and get more chances to shoot. By the time they realize the bigger camera is fake, you'll be shooting already and they'll be too embarrassed to stop you.

Get a lanyard and put some kind of identifying card in it.
Make it look kind of professional but also outstanding, with fancy colors and text and a pic of your face, of course. You can also include your blog's URL, Instagram account, whatever flies your boat. Most people won't even read the card, but part of their attention would now shift from your tiny camera to your lanyard. They'll just assume it's some kind of credential or press pass and naturally let you shoot.

Those ideas are in the same spirit of your wearing a staff t-shirt or some other kind of professional-looking apparel. It all comes down to looking more professional. If your tiny camera (mine is an EPL-7) is making you look less professional, use props to work against that.

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    You could even get a big (second-hand, broken, probably film) camera with a big lens and take the glass out of the lens and the mirror out of the camera for maximum weight saving. – Max Apr 14 at 10:10
  • And you can use the biggest camera type that Peter Parker was ever spotted with to keep it as a theme related costume prop. To match with the themed press pass mentioned above. – KalleMP Apr 16 at 9:47

Cosplay as a "professional photographer"

Yeah this is going to sound silly, but buy a photography vest, wear a camera backpack. Use a double-sling with a couple of ancient —but huge— DSLRs on. Attach a reflector and monopod to your pack.

enter image description here

You'll look like a ridiculous caricature of a photographer, but you'll be unmistakeable as a photographer. Your models might even appreciate the effort you've gone to.

This isn't to say that how you act and what you say aren't as important, but we're a very visual species. If somebody decides you aren't going to take a good photo of them from across the room, they're probably not going to engage with you.

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    I totally disagree. You want to differentiate yourself from being a fan and participant. You want to appear to be an actual professional photog, not a caricature of one. – Michael Clark Apr 12 at 20:29
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    also if you're lugging around 20lbs of photography gear then you may as well use that 20lbs of photography gear. – Wayne Werner Apr 13 at 13:17

If you have problems with getting the full attention of your model: Try to get in a small conversation and also show them your portfolio, if you convince them with your work, than they will not think about the size of your cam.

That's how marketing works: if you want customers, you have to show them what they want to see. If your models care about is how big your camera is, then getting a bigger camera is the easiest way to get their attention. Sure, it may be unnecessarily bulky and expensive but if this is what's working, just get one.

Do you think real estate brokers wear suits because these are comfortable and cheap?

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    This doesn't answer the question. I'm just a hobby photographer who takes photos at small events. Moreover, many of these large lenses are far worse for indoor portraiture than my 'small' lens is, so your real estate broker analogy does not stand. It's not like suit affects broker quality. Seriously, I see so many people with the Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6. For indoor portraiture! Why? – Belle-Sophie Apr 11 at 14:30
  • -1 for pretty much everything everything the OP just commented. A small light fast primeis probably the right equipment for the job rather that the biggest/heaviest telephoto she can find. – Crazy Dino Apr 11 at 14:36
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    @Belle-Sophie If you insist on being "just a hobby photographer who takes photos at small events" and present yourself as such, you'll generally continue to get the reaction you do when there are others around that intentionally present a different image, regardless of how much that perception is based in reality or not. – Michael Clark Apr 11 at 14:58
  • @CrazyDino The answer above doesn't suggest anything about not using fast primes in favor of telephoto zooms. The OP's comment in reply to it does. There are plenty of very high quality primes that are not small. – Michael Clark Apr 11 at 15:21
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    @CrazyDino Fair enough. But your comment did seem to put words in the answerer's mouth. – Michael Clark Apr 12 at 20:27

I was going to write this as a comment but, answers should be answers. It's not your camera. It's your attitude.

You need to change your verbiage and be a bit mean. It will make you feel like an ass but it's what's needed.

In stead of "Hey can you stand over here so I can get your picture." Just come out the gate with "Stand over there! Big Smile! Thanks!"

Direct the subject where you want them. Don't ask, demand. Get pushy. If you watch the people getting the shots you will notice there not asking there just demanding. Make sure your not asking to much. Try not to be too aggressive and stay away from demeaning terms. If you recognize their costume call them by that name. For example "Hey Captain, look this way, smile big!" is great. "Hey sugar tits, look sexy for me!" Not ok. Depending on the conference and what not the line of too aggressive may move, but there are always things that are just off limits. It can take a while to get the hang of being aggressive without being rude, but at an even like a comic-con you have about 4 seconds to make an impression.

A good analogy is the annoying park photographers when you go to a theme park or zoo. They say stuff that you would otherwise find rude, snap a picture, throw a ticket at you and move on. "Hey Pa Pa, over here! snap You can pickup your pictures over at that counter." and off they go. You need that same level of pushy. Like you said your not the only photographer. Why should they take time from their fun for you? Instead of trying to make that argument, just do it. Some people will still say "No thanks", some will call you pushy, but at the end of the day, more people will respond positively then negatively.

Get a vest made of net (for coolness, both sensens) with lots of pockets. Call up some camera repair people & tell them you are looking for a cheap but impressive looking telephoto lens & that it doesn't have to actually work. Maybe they come across lens that can't be repaired practically. Put a lens cap on it & fix it so it sticks out of a pocket.

How can I get models (attendees) to take me more seriously as a photographer with a small camera?

There's a famous phrase: "clipboard mentality". In the 1990s, projectors started to become more common in colleges. Thieves would walk into a room, holding a clipboard, and steal the expensive projection equipment. While class was in session. Until this problem became notably widespread and security was forced to crack down on the issue, people just trusted professionally dressed people who looked like they had equipment and seemed to be doing good things.

"I have a clipboard. Therefore I'm a professional and expert, and know what I'm talking about."

How this applies to you is: equipment matters. Even if you're more skilled and can come up with higher quality results in smaller equipment, people's perceptions may not take all that into account, so the equipment you use can matter. So, let's not pretend like it doesn't.

A bunch of what I'm about to say may involve some trade-offs between usability and practicality (including ease of transporting things), and feasibility may vary based on just where you are. Naturally, use creativity to customize (slightly, or extremely massively) based on what you think will effectively work and what you desire. Just don't think that you should limit yourself to only your small camera, and you may be able to come up with something.

Often they carry tripods and reflector screens as well.

So you've offered your own solution. If successful people are getting the results you desire, and they are using that technique, then you using that same technique may help. That is one approach that doesn't involve you needing to change camera equipment.

Even if they have giant tripods that you don't want, consider some sort of small thing which at least shows that you're able to stabilize your equipment. Even if you don't use that equipment, just having it available may lead to them taking you more seriously.

Note that the equipment doesn't need to be professional photographic gear. You mentioned using a T-Shirt.

If you can corner off a section of land, make that area yours. Take some rope and make a "tunnel" for people to walk through, and shoot them at the end. Maybe have a prop, even if that isn't anything more than a bar stool people could sit (or stand!) on. Then people may pose for you because using the prop just looks fun.

Having a portfolio may also be helpful. (Ensure the participants look happy. Then your potential participants will be more inclined to want to do the happy-making thing.) remco's answer suggested a tablet. That may be one approach. Another approach may be to have a bunch of print-outs in a strip which you can hang on a wall (or toss half over a fence). Or somehow incorporate that into your costume. The back side of your shirt/jacket/whatever can be advertising space (whether you write something fun, witty, or just show a photo), possibly helping to serve you with your next customers while you're active with the first one.

A bit of music may also perform wonders. (Probably preferably wordless, so that you don't feel any need to talk over lyrics.)

I went to the one in Dallas a couple years ago, with a Sony alpha 6000 that’s as small as most micro four thirds. I didn't have any trouble getting people to stop for pictures, and often got, “yea, and can I take yours?”.

I had removed the branding from the tiny camera bag and integrated the pouch into my costume.

How can I get models (attendees) to take me more seriously as a photographer with a small camera?

If by "models" you've meant "people who don't know me" the answer sadly is:

You can't.

Try to see it from the model's perspective: Imagine several persons are being presented to you. Now you have one second to tell who is "pro" photographer with the potential to make you some great shots and who's just "a guy with a camera" wasting your time.

If one of them is Ansel Adams you can't tell that. If one of them publishes in word's best magazines, you can't tell that. If one of them had won multiple Pulitzers, you can't tell that. Vivian Maier photographed most of her life and noone ever noticed her (that was her strength, as it turns out).

Sadly, the only way of judging a photographer in few seconds is by looking at the size of their gear. If you're in the business, you can do even better: judge price of their gear.

To ask strangers for sessions, you already know the solution: 5D, L-series lens, tripod, flash, reflector screen. Add a bouncer-framed guy to carry that all for you : )

You ask them to take you seriously. You need to clearly demonstrate that you're taking photography seriously - investing few k$ in gear is as serious as you can show.

Bringing heavy gear to tote around is straightforward and proven to be effective. You can try workarounds, but they're likely require more work and be less effective. Which is sad, because nothing takes people shots like Fuji. With X-series being as good as they are in compact package, there is no reason for S5 successor.

A couple of people have commented that carrying something that resembles a press pass might help. But, why not get an actual press pass? In the UK press passes tend to be taken seriously, and, as all press passes pretty much look the same regardless of who issues them, they tend to be immediately recognisable. A real press pass may just give you the edge that you need.

Issuing bodies realise that professionals starting out need credentials too, so if you are working professionally and having your photographs published, even if only irregularly, I'd recommend joining a journalist's union and applying for an actual press pass.

What could work: Get some outmoded and/or defective, but impressive looking gear cheaply, and carry it prominently on yourself - but USE the small camera giving some handwave-ish technical reason why you are using it instead (eg that you ONLY brought the big gear for longer-distance telephoto shots and that you do not want to get unnecessary dust in the lens mount by constantly changing lenses on-site - or that the big camera is out of battery and you are using your emergency kit).

petite girl with a 'tiny' camera

This could be your differentiator/gimmick - you may even be able to get angles not possible for the dinosaurs. Problems are benefits.

It seems you need to look professional, not just some one taking a pic, but not as any value statement on you, but because of publicity (as @i-CONICA said); and, secondarily portrait quality.

There are many aspects to communicating "professional!" in the answers: equipment, attitude, manner, a press badge(!), a portpolio, naming your publication, assistants. I think the easiest one is dressing formally - also helps you feel more professional, which comes across in your attitude.

[Another approach is to notice other photographers: apart from their equipment, what makes them instantly seem professional? Though I have to admit, bulky equipment is such a huge signal, probably overshadows any other.]

Consider a flash mounted on a flash bracket (say screwing onto the camera's tripod mount) so the flash is located to one side of (and often somewhat above) the camera's centre line.

The flash mount can be useful as a grip point, and having the flash further away from the centre line improves flash results generally. (No red-eye, reduces flash spurious reflections even more than closer to centreline hotshoe mounted flashes.
Actually using Using the flash is optional :-) - and depends on situation.

Looking into a lens with a large lens hood increases the apparent size of lens and thus system. That it improves results is a bonus :-).

Showing people the results is often a "gateway" to more opportunities. I occasionally zoom in after a shot and position the image on eg a face. When they 1st look they expect a wider image and see a cropped face. Before they get time to react appreciably zoom out so the larger picture progressively appears. When photographing a group I find that sizing to show individuals and panning along the line as they view is much appreciated.

You've gotten a lot of good answers but one particular thing nobody has mentioned already:

Offer to pay for their time. "Excuse me, I'd love to get a few quick shots and would be happy to pay you for your time."

This is beneficial because you immediately establish you're serious and willing to pay. If they take you up on it you also no longer have to worry about delivering any copies to them high res or low res! On the other hand some may hear you and respond with "Oh you don't need to pay." Or show them (in camera) and if they like it can then try to swing it to a TPP. Just be prepared to pay if that is the outcome.

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