Today we sit down and interview the ever amazing and talented Blanko Cosplay based in New York. Not only is she a talented cosplay photographer, but she cosplays as well. It’s always an interesting interview hearing from both perspectives of being in front of the camera as well as behind the camera.
Cosplay Photographers: Thank you for joining us today! Can you tell us a little more about yourself, where you’re grew up, where you’re from, and where you currently reside?
Blanko Cosplay: Hello! Thank you for featuring me! I grew up in the Alpine mountains in France and moved to New York City when I was about 8 years old. I’ve been here ever since! I went to college and majored in Photography and currently I am a manager at a wedding photography studio in Chelsea, NYC. Oh, and my favorite color is Yellow.
Cosplay Photographers: Oh very nice! I think you’re one of the first cosplay photographers we’ve interviewed who actually has a degree in photography. What made you want to study photography?
Blanko Cosplay: Well thankfully photography is an art, and with any art you don’t need an expensive education to be good at it, although it helps. You just need drive, talent, and to be business savvy (if you want to make money out of it). I went into photography because it was the only thing I was somewhat decent at so I just played my strengths. Went right into it and straight through college.
Cosplay Photographers: How did you get into photography?
Blanko Cosplay: I was a cosplayer at the time, and when I picked up my dad’s camera, I immediately started photographing other cosplayers.
Cosplay Photographers: Ohhh, so you started out as a cosplayer! Does being a cosplayer help you as a cosplay photographer?
Blanko Cosplay: Yes, absolutely! It helps me know what directions works, in terms of posing, and what doesn’t. In the end the most helpful thing to do is to put cosplayers in the moment so you get drama through their eyes and expression. Give them a scenario, tell them to squint their eyes with just the bottom lid, pretend you’re an actor for a split second and you got a shot.
Cosplay Photographers: So what did you learn in school studying photography? Do you feel it has helped you any?
Blanko Cosplay: The most important thing I learned was to start projects yourself and to not quit half way. There’s nothing more counterproductive than a person that does not follow through with their plans and ambitions.
Cosplay Photographers: So what are the classes like? Is it very technical, artistic, combination of both? What can someone going into photography school expect?
Blanko Cosplay: Yeah, a combination of both. We learned a lot of new software and also learned video because that’s where photography is going now. In the end the most important classes we had were business classes such as how to brand and market yourself. If you want to go into photography school, expect to take your business and liberal arts classes very seriously, and draw inspiration from other places. If everyone draws inspiration from school and their lifestyles in college then the results are the same kinds of photographs.
Cosplay Photographers: You mentioned you are currently a manager at a wedding photography studio, what does that entail?
Blanko Cosplay: I basically just make sure everything runs smoothly. A lot of equipment and behind the scenes maintenance. On weekends sometimes I’ll do freelance assisting on weddings.
Cosplay Photographers: Can you give us a look into your day-to-day at the studio?
Blanko Cosplay: It changes a lot. Sometimes I’ll be in front of my computer all day doing office work, other days I’ll go around to camera stores running errands for my boss. Sometimes we have in-studio magazine shoots where I’ll be in charge of setting up and metering all lights and equipment, so that when the photographer picks up the camera, everything is 100% ready for them.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you shoot or second shoot any of the weddings?
Blanko Cosplay: No, not unless you count catching tripods and heavy lights that staff knock over before they fall on expensive fixtures and/or people.
Cosplay Photographers: Would you be interested in shooting weddings?
Blanko Cosplay: Maybe, just because I’m curious about it, but to be honest I want to leave the photography industry to become a flight attendant so I don’t really think about shooting professionally all that much.
Cosplay Photographers: Really? Why?
Blanko Cosplay: Depends what photography field you go into. If you do commercial you’re never shooting anything interesting or original. If you’re doing fine-arts, you’re most likely working freelance which is an unsteady paycheck. If you’re talented enough to get an agent- then you did it! I personally don’t think I have that persistence in me, though.
Cosplay Photographers: So then why a flight attendant?
Blanko Cosplay: I’m very interested in traveling, that’s my biggest passion right now. Being a flight attendant permits me to have a steady paycheck while constantly traveling. I also get to visit all my con-buddies!
Cosplay Photographers: Are there any cosplay photographers that you look up to, admire, idolize and why?
Blanko Cosplay: James/GQbravo because he’s bishi.
Cosplay Photographers: James is definitely a good choice. We featured him not too long ago. What about photographers?
Blanko Cosplay: Nick Knight, a fashion photographer that often used to work with Alexander McQueen, because he did a lot of collage and treated photographs like illustrations.
Cosplay Photographers: How would you best describe your photography style?
Blanko Cosplay: I adapt my style to the character so it constantly changes, but I like to think it’s cinematic! At least that’s what I go for.
Cosplay Photographers: What kind of challenges do you find in achieving your style?
Blanko Cosplay: I don’t usually go into a shoot with a vision, I just play with the elements at hand until a picture comes up. That lack of pre-planning is a pretty annoying challenge to overcome.
Cosplay Photographers: How many conventions do you frequent in a year?
Blanko Cosplay: Now that I graduated college and have a real job and money, I try to go to about 5 to 7 cons a year just because I like traveling. Going to conventions is a great excuse to travel!
Cosplay Photographers: I’m starting to get this feel that you like to travel. Any particular favorite conventions?
Blanko Cosplay: Katsucon because I always get trashed there!
Cosplay Photographers: LOL! Come on now, conventions aren’t just for partying now are they? What was your first ever convention? Can you tell us about that experience?
Blanko Cosplay: I honestly don’t remember. I think my first con was in 2006 and I started cosplaying in 2007.
Cosplay Photographers: You’ve certainly been at it for awhile now. What is your favorite cosplay photoshoot that you’ve done so far? And why?
Blanko Cosplay: I can’t say exactly, I try to have fun with every shoot I do. If you’re asking about my most successful shoot- I never know how successful it is until I pull it up on the computer, so I can have awful shoots that end up being my strongest work. However I don’t necessarily have a favorite shoot because there’s always room for improvement.
Cosplay Photographers: What was your first cosplay and how did you get into cosplay?
Blanko Cosplay: I got into cosplay because my friends in middle school introduced me to it and I never thought twice about wearing costumes for a hobby. I think my first cosplay was Sakura, from Naruto. It never got finished though!
Cosplay Photographers: That’s a shame, we would have loved to seen it! Do you use artificial lights in your photography?
Blanko Cosplay: Generally no, I only own 1 speedlight so I’ll use that once in a while. When I did shoots in school I would use a lot of strobes and beauty dishes for studio shoots. I keep to natural lights on location.
Cosplay Photographers: How do you generally work with natural light to get such good lighting in your photos? Any tips?
Blanko Cosplay: Just watch out for awkward shadows on peoples faces. I usually backlight because the light on the face will be more even. In the end, just make sure there’s as much details in your highlights/shadows as possible, then bring it into photoshop and start creating colors and lights that never existed in the original photograph. Think of it as an illustration or a painting instead of a photograph, if that makes sense.
Cosplay Photographers: How did you learn to do all this? Are there links that you can share for us to learn?
Blanko Cosplay: Honestly I learned all this from my professors. I don’t really follow tutorials ever, I just use a lot of masking. Sorry, I don’t know any specific links!
Cosplay Photographers: Do you shoot in RAW or JPEG? Why?
Blanko Cosplay: I rely a lot on post processing so always in RAW! JPGs have very little details in them and aren’t as sophisticated when it comes to color processing. You’ll notice that instead of changing colors in the different tones of the image, it will just put a color wash over the entire thing because the pixels in a JPG are all compressed.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you use Lightroom and/or Photoshop?
Blanko Cosplay: Yup! I use both.
Cosplay Photographers: What is the biggest trick/tip you learned in Lightroom? What about Photoshop? What would you recommend a beginning photographer learn to do first in each program?
Blanko Cosplay: Split toning and selective coloring/exposure.
Cosplay Photographers: How difficult is to learn how to split tone as well as selective coloring/exposure? We know a majority of this might be more artistic decision, but there must be some baseline?
Blanko Cosplay: With Lightroom and Photoshop, it’s not difficult at all. You just adjust sliders. When we did it in the darkroom it was a pain in the butt. You would have to put your developed print in a bleach bath to lighten the shadows, then put it in a color bath so that the color would go in the shadows, but not put a color wash over the whole print. Or something like that. I’ve only done it once or twice and I’m pretty sure I did it wrong.
Cosplay Photographers: Can you walk us through your process from after a shoot or con?
Blanko Cosplay: When I download my images, they go into Photo Mechanic first, which is a really excellent and super fast program to use when you’re sorting images (I would highly recommend it, they have free trials available if you’re interested). After sorting, I’ll pull them up in Lightroom and do as much exposure/coloring as possible and finally bring them into Photoshop for retouching and more fine tuned color matching.
Cosplay Photographers: Yes, we definitely like Photo Mechanic! Not cheap, but very useful when working with large amounts of RAW photos for sorting and picking. What kind of retouching do you do?
Blanko Cosplay: When in Photoshop, I’ll do a lot of blur, warping, removing distracting objects, cleaning wrinkles, faces, brighten eyes. I will use liquify a lot too.
Cosplay Photographers: In the case of liquify, are you using this to dramatically alter a person’s weight/appearance from what they typically would look like in person?
Blanko Cosplay: Not a lot, just slight touch ups that aren’t too visible but make a world of difference. I’ve liquified my friend’s faces to make them look angrier a couple of times. Most of my liquifying are touch-ups that in person, it looked fine, but in the photo it looks really wack.
Cosplay Photographers: How much time do you find that you typically spend fixing stuff in Photoshop?
Blanko Cosplay: I try to spend maybe 5-10 min on each photo. If it’s a big composite, I’ll spend more time. Without counting, going back and altering things, the longest time I’ve spent on a photo is about an hour.
Cosplay Photographers: So what can we expect to find if we looked into your camera bag?
Cosplay Photographers: What’s your favorite lens to use and why?
Blanko Cosplay: I like the 50mm for close up portraits because you can use the shallow depth of field, and it makes the image pretty airy/dreamy. For full body, though, I’ll always go wide with my 24-105mm to create a sense of movement. My favorite thing to do has been to drag the shutter a bit and zoom while the image is being taken, so to create a natural motion blur in the image. It’s really hard to take without blurring faces though. In the end it’s safer to do a manual blur in photoshop.
Cosplay Photographers: Can you show us an example of this?
Blanko Cosplay: Wide Angle:
Cosplay Photographers: Do you find that cosplayers often approach you for shoots or you approach them?
Blanko Cosplay: A little bit of both in terms of at a convention. I do pick and chose cosplayers I would like to shoot with (obviously from my portfolio I photograph a lot of friends multiple times), but because I cosplay as well as photograph I have a really tight schedule and don’t make a lot of room for shoots. I like to make room for hanging out and hanging out. Outside of cons, not a lot of people that aren’t friends contact me, but please feel free to! I’m always open to inspiring/ambitious ideas.
Cosplay Photographers: Have you ever had to turn down a shoot and why?
Blanko Cosplay: Unfortunately yes. I sometimes think that shoots can be work heavy and a hassle so if people contact me for convention shoots, I usually turn them down because I would rather take time to take advantage of the con.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you prefer during con private shoots or not during con private shoots? Why?
Blanko Cosplay: Off site shoots! It’s a lot more personal, you get more creative input and are more selective about what background fits with what character. Something I learned in school that was very useful is that you can’t hide behind a “it just didn’t work out” excuse. A viewer doesn’t see that your model was late or that your location fell through and that the cops chased you out of the perfect location, they just see that a car in the background of your image doesn’t fit the time period your character belongs in. Also the viewer thinks you are the cosplayer you took a picture of, most of the time.
Cosplay Photographers: How do you choose locations for your off-site shoots? Do you research before hand or just randomly wander around?
Blanko Cosplay: I brainstorm ideas with the cosplayer and whoever else is involved with the shoot. Sometimes I’ll scout!
Cosplay Photographers: How long do your photoshoots typically last at con? What about private photoshoots?
Blanko Cosplay: I try to take no more than 20 minutes because I burn out pretty quickly. Also I’m used to shooting for 1 or 2 images. Once that is done cosplayers typically ask for a few shots for their own and I’ll shoot for that too.
Cosplay Photographers: Is it hard to find cosplayers to photograph in New York?
Blanko Cosplay: Not too hard, NYC is full of talent!
Cosplay Photographers: What about finding locations in New York?
Blanko Cosplay: Nope. There are so many resources here: urban, suburban, random forests in Upper Manhattan, and if you need anything else you usually don’t have to travel too far for it.
Cosplay Photographers: What is your absolute favorite place to shoot at?
Blanko Cosplay: A location is like a costume, why would you shoot the same costume twice???
Cosplay Photographers: If a new cosplay photographers was to ask for your advice, what are the top three things you would tell them?
Blanko Cosplay: 1. Take some time out of the shoot to shoot for yourself, not for the cosplayer.; 2. Take on more than one role, such as a stylist, director, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for things; 3. Take a lot of pictures.
Cosplay Photographers: What advice would you have for a cosplayer asking for advice when getting photographed?
Blanko Cosplay: Take on many roles. Just keep in mind that every element of your costume is very important: making your costume, makeup for your costume, styling yourself (wig, overall look, etc.) and acting the part. It’s a lot, but that’s why cosplay is so insane.
Cosplay Photographers: So how did you come up with the handle Blanko Cosplay?
Blanko Cosplay: It’s the name of the first tequila I ever got wasted with, but with a “C” instead of a “K”.
Cosplay Photographers: Anything else you want to add before we finish up this interview?
Blanko Cosplay: Just remember to know the difference between shooting for yourself and for the cosplayer. If you shoot for the cosplayer, it becomes a contest between photographers on who can take the best picture of that cosplayer. If you shoot for yourself, you are essentially creating your own vision and it is something that is personal and unique.
If you found this article interesting, be sure to join our Facebook group, Cosplay Photography Discussion Group. It is a place for cosplay photographers of all levels to learn from each other. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook as well!
Notice a problem with this article? Let us know.