Here at Cosplay Photographers, we’re always looking to shine the spotlight on some of the best photographers we come across, even if they don’t shoot a lot of cosplay photography. Today’s interview is with Dan Almasy, self-proclaimed “Geek, Gamer, Filmmaker, Photographer. Pretty much in that order.” Although he doesn’t usually shoot people in costumes, his work with some of the foremost cosplayers and prop makers in Atlanta, as well as his simple, moody style, caught our eye.
Cosplay Photographers: Please introduce yourself!
Dan Almasy: My name is Dan Almasy. I am a photographer & filmmaker based in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a super dork. I like heavy metal, sci-fi, video games, movies and I drink a lot of coffee. I’ve been making images for over a decade.
Cosplay Photographers: That’s a fairly long time! When and how did you get into photography?
Dan Almasy: My wife is a photographer and when we first met, she encouraged me to start shooting. At first I was pretty apprehensive about some of the more technical aspects of using a camera, but through a lot of patience and encouragement, she was able to help me move past that and get comfortable shooting on my own.
Cosplay Photographers: What equipment did you start out with?
Dan Almasy: In the beginning, I shot with film bodies, a Nikon N75 and a Mamiya 645 ProTL medium format camera. A few years later, we switched to digital and went through a Canon 20D, 30D to a 5D Mark II, which was probably my most used camera body to date.
Cosplay Photographers: What equipment do you use now?
Dan Almasy: Right now I use a Canon 6D and prime lenses with my current favorite being the Canon 135mm f 2.0. Occasionally, I will incorporate off-camera lighting using a few cheap Vivitar 285HV speedlights fired remotely with PocketWizards. For more casual shooting and travel situations, I’m really enjoying the new Fuji cameras like the X100. I really can’t believe how good these little cameras have gotten.
Cosplay Photographers: How did you get in touch with the costuming and prop world?
Dan Almasy: I met the guys from Nightmare Armor Studios during a midnight release for Halo 3 at my local GameStop. They showed up in these great Spartan suits, complete with SMGs and assault rifles. I talked to them about how they built them and eventually I just asked them if they were interested in setting up a photo shoot. It seemed like a lot of fun to me to go out and make photos of this video game stuff in a real world environment. At the end of the day I just like to photograph things that I find interesting. Sometimes it’s people in costumes and sometimes it’s not. I don’t like to label myself as a cosplay photographer or band photographer or commercial photographer; I just like making photos of stuff I think are cool.
Cosplay Photographers: I see you have a few shoots with people like Volpin and God Save the Queen Fashions, both of whom are known as wonderful cosplay commissioners. What’s your favorite part of working with them?
Dan Almasy: What I really admire about both Catherine (GSTQ) and Harrison (Volpin) is that they don’t play around. That seems like a funny thing to say when we’re talking about video game props and costumes but they really are serious about their respective crafts and I find that to be inspiring. If they make something they feel is even just 95% as good as it can be they will tear it apart and start over to make sure that it’s 100%. Although they’re not photographers, I find myself learning a lot from their dedication and their passion as artists.
An unexpected byproduct of working with them is the friendship we’ve developed. We’ll get together for dinner, cookouts and parties throughout the year and of course, Dragon*Con. I’m a firm believer in working with people that you like as human beings. It makes the times we do work together that much more fun and rewarding.
Cosplay Photographers: You do lot of photos with props only, no people. How do you plan out a shoot that showcases the prop, and how is it different from portrait photography?
Dan Almasy: Whenever I do a shoot, my first step is always to think about the mood I want to create. The main difference between something like the “Terrible Shotgun” shoot and a costume shoot can be summed up in one word – control. When you’re doing a costume shoot, you have to think about locations and getting permission for those locations, how weather is often not on your side and you have to watch out for curious folks who want to come up and ask why that guy is wearing a giant green robot head. All of those things take away from what I want to be doing, which is making photographs. With props/replicas I have all the time, I want to set up my shot in a controlled environment with little-to-no distractions. It’s a nice change of pace.
With the “Terrible Shotgun” shoot, there was no real budget, so I just gathered stuff I had on hand to create the ‘set’, including an ammo case, shotgun shells, the trunk liner and cargo net from my car, and an old army jacket – I put it all together on my coffee table. Though the image we ended up with isn’t necessarily tied to the game, I feel like it anchors the prop in a real world scenario while staying true to the spirit of Fallout.
Cosplay Photographers: How do you think your style or post-processing technique differs from other cosplay/costuming photographers?
Dan Almasy: My images are minimally processed for overall tone and white balance and I don’t really use any filters or effects. In ten years when I look back on a photo I took, I would like it to still appeal to me. It’s easy to get caught up in current photography trends, so I try and stay away from that stuff.
While I try to get as much right in camera as possible using lighting, composition and attention to detail, I don’t always catch everything. I’ll usually spend a good bit of time in Photoshop cleaning up fine details like dust, hairs or scratches – anything that might detract from the final image. I want the images I deliver to be as close to perfect as possible, like they might appear in a magazine or advertisement.