If the location you want to shoot at is still on convention grounds or in other ways involved with the convention (i.e. it’s another hotel a lot of con attendees are staying at, such as the Double Tree at ACEN), it’s usually very easy to request permission to do a photoshoot in their space!
If it’s just a hallway or other “decorative” area, asking permission typically isn’t necessary (since it’s assumed people will take photos of architecture and interior design work), but if it’s an area where employees are working, you’ll definitely want to ask before you start snapping pictures. Here’s the best way to go about doing that.
Approach the nearest employee you see and ask to speak with a senior staff member about doing a photoshoot in that area. (Example: “Hi, my friends and I were wondering if we could speak to the manager about taking some pictures in the bar area. We want to check if that’s alright – can you help us or find someone who can?”) . Just because you don’t see a manager around doesn’t give you the go-ahead to do whatever you want; a lower-level employee can fetch the manager for you to speak with so you can be sure you’re not going to get in trouble – or worse, get that employee in trouble for giving you permission when they don’t have the authority to do so.
When you’re speaking to the person in charge, have a good, clear idea of what you’re proposing. Simply asking if you can “do a photoshoot” doesn’t give them much to go on. Instead, try something like: “The characters we’re dressed up as work at a bar in the show they’re from, and we would really like to get some photos in a proper setting.” Be sure to include how long you think you’ll need to shoot there; will it take 5 minutes? 20 minutes? An hour? You’ll of course have to be flexible to what they can accommodate, but mentioning you’ll only need the space for 15 minutes can seal the deal. If you have ideas for specific poses (”We want to take a photo of her serving a drink from behind the counter” or “There’s official artwork of him cleaning the bar and we want to recreate that”) mention them, especially if you’ll need to interact with their workspace.
At this point, they’ll either tell you yes or no. If they say no, say thank you and move on. It may be disappointing, but absolutely do not try to sneak around behind their backs to take pictures there. They likely have good reasons for not wanting costumers taking photos in their establishment; it could distract their customers or otherwise disrupt their business. Like I said, a lot of hotels/restaurants/businesses/etc. near conventions won’t mind, but on the off-chance they do, you need to respect that decision.
Now, if they say yes: huzzah! Get in there and take your pictures! While doing so, again, be respectful and courteous. If they ask you not to do something (laying on a table/counter, climbing on furniture, reenacting… ah, inappropriate scenes their customers may not appreciate), apologize and stop doing it. Other tips: don’t make a mess. If you move something, put it back where you found it. Use your time in this space efficiently; don’t dawdle, especially if you’ve been asked to “make it quick.”
Most of the time, employees are really interested in what you’ll be doing, so don’t be surprised if the manager or other team members want to watch – it’s not something they see every day! Even if it feels awkward to have an audience, be polite and answer any questions they have. And of course before you leave, be sure to thank them!
Arranging to do a photoshoot in a location that is completely off convention grounds or not during a convention at all is a bit more tricky, but you’ll generally want to do the same thing, albeit with more explanation. I’ve found it always helps to email or call the location beforehand to discuss the possibility of shooting there, and if necessary, it never hurts to use the “art student” excuse (”My friends and I are art students and need to document some costuming work for our portfolios!”). Again, as long as you’re courteous and able to explain what you want to do, most establishments will be more than happy to let you take pictures on their property!