March 2012 Featured Photographer of the Month: Abbott Wang
|Abbott Wang||Rowland Heights, Los Angeles, USA||http://abbottwang.com|
We first met cosplay photographer Abbott Wang back at Fanime 2010 and it was love at first sight. The moment we saw him holding that Leica M9, we knew we met the One, the One to be Cosplay Photographer’s Featured Photographer of the Month for March! Abbott Wang is part of the amazing SoCal group that hails many other great cosplay photographers as well, but his easy going outlook, beautiful cosplay photos, and fun to hang out with attitude makes him an excellent choice to join the ranks of Featured Photographers.
He’s already quite a legend here in California amongst the cosplayers and cosplay photographers and if you haven’t heard of him yet, read more of our interview with him below and admire his amazing cosplay photography.
Cosplay Photographers: Thank you Abbott for taking the time out of your busy schedule for us to talk to you today. We’ve been following your work for sometime now and every new set of cosplay pictures just keeps getting better and better! How do you do it?
Abbott Wang: Thank you guys for your kind words. I’m flattered that you think every set is better and better! I feel that some sets are hit and miss, but overall, I hope that they are improving. I take a lot of inspiration from all the wonderful and amazing,talented photographers that I have gotten to know through the cosplay scene.
Cosplay Photographers: Are there any notable cosplay photographers or photographers in general that helped you get to where you are today? Any of them inspire you?
Abbott Wang: Definitely Eric aka Bigwhitebazooka. I first met him at the SoCal cosplay picnic back in… 2009? I have latched onto him like a tick ever since! He has always been kind and invited me to shoot with him, often posing the cosplayers for me. I think i draw a lot of inspiration from him with his creativity in setting up the shots in any given environment, and especially his ability to pose the cosplayers. He has the uncanny ability to elicit the emotion and body language that he is looking for from the cosplayers.
Cosplay Photographers: Funny that you should mention Eric, we are certainly huge fans of the BigWhiteBazooka as well! How often do you look at other cosplay photographers’ work? Speaking about ourselves, we generally look at quite a bit at many cosplay photographers to see what’s out there and draw inspiration from. Do you find yourself doing that as well?
Abbott Wang: I definitely look at other photographer’s work. For me though, it is cyclical. I will go through days/weeks where I will look at other photographer’s work every day (checking DeviantArt, for example); and then there will be days/weeks where I do not look at any cosplay photography. Of course, there is always a constant feed of wonderful cosplay photos in FB. I try to identify what I like about each photograph and hopefully incorporate them into my future work.
(Click to enlarge.) From left to right: Saeko Busijima from Highschool of the Dead. Kio Pan as Elric Edwards from Full Metal Alchemist. Crystal Vo as Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy VII.
Cosplay Photographers: So not only are your photos absolutely amazing, but what really seals the deal for us is your post-processing technique that goes into each of them. How much post-processing or retouching do you do to your images and how much time do you spend on each image to be “Abbott-perfect”?
Abbott Wang: In terms of time spent, it varies… on average, maybe 20-30 minutes? what takes a lot of the time is culling through the images, picking out the best one to post process. And I don’t think there is ever an image that is perfect. i always go back and see that I should have done this… or I should have done that, etc.
Cosplay Photographers: How long have you been in the cosplay photography scene and how did you get your start?
Abbott Wang: I think I started back in 2006-2007 or so, going to maybe 2-3 cons a year only. And I started off with hallway cosplay shots like most cosplay photogs. I’m really shy, so I started with only taking pics at the masquerade, when I didn’t even need to ask the cosplayers to pose or permission. I didn’t really start doing “shoots” until Anime Expo 2009. I think I only did 2-3 at that con. So yeah, I started off as a guy with camera… and nothing has much changed even now.
Cosplay Photographers: Sure, nothing has changed, you’re still a guy with a camera and now a line of gabillion cosplayers who want to be photographed by you! We’re constantly hearing cosplayers wanting to shoot with you Abbott. Which leads to our next question, we noticed that you do almost exclusive private cosplay photo shoots. Do the cosplayers generally approach you, do you approach them, or a combination of the two?
Abbott Wang: To be honest, I’m still quite shy in asking people I do not know to shoot with me! So most of the cosplay shoots I do are with people I already know, and I usually get to know them through other cosplay photographers. I do ask people to shoot sometimes, and sometimes I get approached as well (though not that often). So I guess it would be a combination of the two.
Cosplay Photographers: I think after this article is published, you’re suddenly going to find yourself with a very busy shoot schedule because of all the cosplayers asking you to shoot them! What sort of things are you looking for when you do ask a cosplayer for a private photo shoot? Character accuracy? Colors? Attractiveness? Attitude?
Abbott Wang: Yes, I feel that way too, because you guys are my pimp to all things photo shoot related! Since I normally do not have time to watch much anime (and there are soooo many out there), I cannot tell if a cosplay is accurate. I would be lucky if I can even identify the character or the series! I do think attitude is most important. The willingness of the cosplayer to try different things, not caring whether it will work or not. Attitude; however, is not something you can usually tell until after you meet the person. So to answer your question, I’m just looking for something unique when I ask a cosplayer to shoot. Bright colors always attract attention, but it isn’t something I’m looking for. I guess just the overall presentation. Of course, I’d be lying if I said attractiveness didn’t matter, I think we all like people/things that are pleasing to look at.
Cosplay Photographers: What are the sort of things that a cosplayer can do (or have done) to earn themselves on your “Do Not Shoot” or “Never Shoot Again” list?
Abbott Wang: I’m pretty easy going, and so I haven’t encountered anyone that has earned those illustrious titles with me
Cosplay Photographers: Wow! That’s actually quite amazing considering you’ve been doing cosplay photography for 5 or 6 years now and not to ever have a really bad experience is pretty awesome. How many cosplay conventions do you generally attend in a year? How many are you planning to go to this year (2012)?
Abbott Wang: I usually attend just the SoCal conventions. I really do want to attend some out of state cons, but I’m lazy, lol. For 2012, I have attended ALA, and will most likely attend Anime Conji, WonderCon, Fanime, Anime Expo, and PMX. I’m sure there are others that I’m forgetting. I also sometimes attend cosplay gatherings, picnics, etc., such as the annual Sakura Watch Gathering.
Cosplay Photographers: Which are your favorite conventions and why?
Abbott Wang: My favorite convention is probably Fanime. I feel it is the perfect size (not so overwhelming like AX) and pretty decent location for photo shoots.
Cosplay Photographers: Are there any conventions that you wouldn’t attend again? Any reason?
Abbott Wang: Hmmm, I wouldn’t say that there are conventions that I wouldn’t attend again. If it is not too far, I will most likely check it out, if not for just the day.
Cosplay Photographers: How many days do you generally go to an anime convention? Do you ever attend Day 0? And after all is said and done, how many photos on average do you end up shooting total by the time the convention is over?
Abbott Wang: Since I have work, I usually only attend Saturdays and Sundays. If I have to travel for the convention (which is most likely only Fanime), I will attend Friday as well. I have attended Day 0, but it is usually more for hanging out than actual photo taking.
Cosplay Photographers: Geez, where is your dedication?!?! Since we’ve been talking so much about conventions, let’s change it up a bit. Do you ever do or get asked to do private non-con cosplay photo shoots? When was the last time that happened and what did you think of it?
Abbott Wang: Oh definitely! Actually, I prefer non-con photo shoots. You have a lot more time for photos, it’s a lot less crowded, and you can also pick a location for more unique looking photos. Last one I did was 2 weekends ago when I shot Kio Pan at the USC campus in her awesome Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist. I never shot there before, and so it was fun exploring new places.
Cosplay Photographers: Let’s talk tech now, our favorite part, lusting over everyone’s awesome gear. So what camera(s) and lens(es) do you usually use when you’re at a convention? And why?
Abbott Wang: Oh yes, i was waiting for this! LOL. I am fortunate to be able to shoot with a lot of different types of gear (because I’m stupid with my money). And so there isn’t ONE camera that I would use at a convention. If I know I will be shooting at night or in the dimly lit places, I will use one of my better high ISO cameras. If it is going to be during the day shots, maybe one of the larger mega pixel cameras. There is a camera for every situation. As for lenses, I usually stick with primes, because I feel they offer the best image quality; OK, I lied, because they offer the largest aperture. I don’t mind moving back and forth to frame my shots. Zoom’s are versatile, but they typically don’t go faster than f/2.8. Here is a tip that I picked up using zooms. Most people use zooms backwards. Here is what I mean. Photographers will get in position, and zoom in/out to frame the shot. You should actually be selecting your focal length first, THEN move into position.
Cosplay Photographers: That’s a great tip! But now you really just teasing us! Come on, list the stuff baby! We want to drool all over the sexy equipment that you use!
Abbott Wang: OK…LOL, my favorite combo is the Lecia M9 with the 0.95 Noctilux. 50mm on a full frame is perhaps my favorite focal length. I have shot entire conventions using nothing but that combination. It is also a manual focus lens and pretty much manual everything, and so I feel very connected to the actual picture taking experience. It is, however, slower since you have to manual focus. For high ISO shots, I like the Nikon D3s. For high megapixel, I like Nikon D3x, Canon 1Ds Mark 3, or Sony A900. For a small camera setup, I like the Sony Nex-5n with Noctilux lens. Favorite lenses (which unfortunately I rarely use because I’m too lazy) are the 200F2 for canon/nikon, Leica .95 Noctilux, Nikon 85/1.4G, Sony 135/1.8. If i have to go wide, maybe Nikon 24/1.4G or 35/1.4G. The Nikon 14-24 is also very versatile.
Cosplay Photographers: Holy crap, we think we just passed out from all that awesomeness!!! I don’t think we know of any other cosplay photographers who use Leica to shoot cosplay… We noticed that you didn’t list any flashes. Are all your photos ambient or do you use flash?
Abbott Wang: You can get some pretty amazing shots with flash, but I have never taken the time to truly experiment with them. It is something I hope to do in the future. Once I figure out ambient lighting, I will mess around with flashes more But yes, most, if not all of my pictures are ambient/natural lighting. I will use a reflector when the situation calls for it.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you do or enjoy doing any other types of photography?
Abbott Wang: Yes. I really like to do some fashion/glamour type pictures as well. What originally got me into photography was wildlife photography. Unfortunately, I have only taken pictures of animals at the zoo. I would really like to take pictures of them in their natural habitat. Maybe one day
Cosplay Photographers: Sweet, how about fashion/glamour photos of the models wearing wildlife inspired bikinis? What are three things you would tell a cosplay photographer if they asked for your advice on how to improve their cosplay photography?
Abbott Wang: Haha, I would not say no if offered the chance. Three advice, lets see: 1) take as many pictures as you can…. get used to seeing the world through a viewfinder as it can be dramatically different than what you see with your own eyes, 2) look at other people’s photos and ask yourself what is it that you like about the photograph and make a note of it, and 3) talk to other photographers about how they shoot.
No matter how experienced or inexperienced someone is, you can usually always learn something from that person to help you with your own photography
Cosplay Photographers: Sage advice. Is there anything else you want to add that we haven’t asked that you would like to talk about? Otherwise, it has a been a huge pleasure interviewing you and we hope to see more of you at future conventions as well as more of your amazing work!
Abbott Wang: Yes, just one last note. As much as we photographers like to talk about gear, latest camera bodies, fastest lenses, etc; they really contribute a lot less to the final image than you might think. With the exception of a very few, most of us (myself included) are limited by our own skill and vision rather than by our camera and/or gear. Most pictures I find amazing are taken by basic entry level cameras with kit lenses, usually a couple of generations old. Just go out and shoot! and learn from your fellow photographers, regardless of their skill level. Thank you CP for this opportunity and honor of being selected as the photographer of the month. People must have either turned you down and/or you are at the bottom of your list Just joking! Once again, thank you for taking the time and effort in producing this community where we can all learn from each other!