Cosplay Photographers: It’s so great to have you as featured photographer this month! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
CMOSs Photography: Hi Cosplay Photographers! I’m Christian. I’m originally from the UK, but now I’m currently based in Sydney, Australia. I’m a full time iOS app developer and I’ve been a hobbyist photographer for about 3 years now.
Cosplay Photographers: What got you hooked on photography?
CMOSs Photography: I first got into photography whilst I was living in Japan. My wife (then girlfriend) decided she wanted to try out cosplay so I joined her at conventions cosplaying characters to compliment hers. We didn’t really know any photographers at the time, so the job of taking our pictures was left up to me. I didn’t know what I was doing and often messed up the shot. Luckily, I was all right with Photoshop, so I started to edit the photos and found I really enjoyed the post production process.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you still cosplay?
CMOSs Photography: I still cosplay now and then. Eventually I accumulated a bit more photography gear and found it quite stressful hauling around a big DSLR and flash stands whilst also being in costume so I pretty much made the switch to photography only at conventions. I still love the creative control you get with taking your own photos, though it can be quite difficult and cumbersome when working with a tripod and self timer. My cosplay page is Dandy Cosplay.
Cosplay Photographers: What keeps you coming back specifically to cosplay photography as opposed to other kinds of photography?
CMOSs Photography: I suppose the thing I like most about cosplay photography is its connection to the character. A typical cosplay photograph can be more than just aesthetically compelling, it can also tell a story. I also think there’s greater appreciation by the viewer. You’re taking a photo of a character people are extremely attached to; you might not get that kind of emotional response with other types of photography.
Cosplay Photographers: What are the staples of your photography gear bag?
CMOSs Photography: I mainly use a Canon 5D Mark II body with an 85mm 1. 2 L lens and also sometimes a 35mm 1.4 and a 14mm. I am pretty into flashes and carry around 3 speed lights with umbrellas.This is mainly because by the time I get around to shooting at a convention, it’s usually quite dark. Recently I am starting to experiment with colored gels and hope I can work them into my up and coming shoots.
Cosplay Photographers: The colors really pop in your photos. How do you decide what colors and lighting to use on a photoshoot?
CMOSs Photography: Thank you! Most characters generally have their own colour scheme and I think it is often important to try and continue that colour scheme in the photo. When I first started out I was snapping quick shots at busy conventions so I rarely had time to get the optimal settings or set up proper lighting. Because of this I spent a lot of time on Photoshop after trying to get the effect I wanted. This made my photos heavily processed, and as a result gave it a colourful, CG effect.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you use any post-processing software besides Photoshop?
CMOSs Photography: I recommend Portrait Professional, especially for female cosplayers, as it does a great job with smoothing the skin and you can also adjust the lighting effects. I’ve also experimented with Photomatix, which is a HDR software. I try not to over do the HDR effect but I often add it as an extra layer at a lower opacity just to make the image pop a bit more. As I mature as a photographer I am slowly moving away from hours of post production and try to get as much of the effect as I can in camera.
Cosplay Photographers: It’s hard to get things “right in camera.” What are some tips you can give to readers out there who are struggling?
CMOSs Photography: I think the most important thing to get right is the composition. A good composition has a halo effect that can make everything else in the image look better. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at this, but one piece of advice I found quite useful was to bring along sample shots from other photographers as a template. Often, you get a kind of mental block when trying to compose, so this is when taking a look at a templates can be very useful. They can also be a big help to the cosplayer when describing a pose.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you have a favorite lighting and composition setup that you fall back on?
CMOSs Photography: I would say I choose my setup depending on the cosplayer involved. If the cosplayer is very strong with a well made costume, I quite like taking close up or portraits shots with my 85mm and a softbox. However, with beginner cosplayers who aren’t yet as skilled at making costumes, I try to compensate by doing something interesting with the shot, like recreate a scene or have an interesting element. For this I generally use my 35mm.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you have any go-to poses for cosplayers who might not be comfortable with posing yet?
CMOSs Photography: Yes, I often work with beginner cosplayers who aren’t comfortable posing, and as a photographer directing the cosplayer it’s something I need to practice more. For females I quite like to pose them lying on the ground, looking back at the camera. I think that’s quite easy to do; the cosplayer doesn’t have to stay in an awkward position and it can be quite beautiful. Males are much easier for me to pose, as I find they are generally much less conscious about their appearance.
Cosplay Photographers: Being self-conscious about appearance is something that plagues a lot of cosplayers. It’s hard to get some people to look natural when they’re nervous.
CMOSs Photography: I would say that some of the best shots I have taken have been when the cosplayer wasn’t posing, and for a split second they were completely natural, so always be ready to capture that.
Cosplay Photographers: Any favorite cosplayers you’ve worked with so far?
CMOSs Photography: Of course I have to say my wife, Michelle Cosplay! I always enjoy working with her and she is the main focus of my work. Apart from that I always have a laugh shooting with BAMF Monkey Cosplay. His acrobatic skills are great and alway make for a good photo.
Cosplay Photographers: What conventions do you usually attend?
CMOSs Photography: Being based in Sydney I pretty much attend all of the local conventions, such as SMASH and SupaNova. I have attended a few conventions in Japan and the UK as well, but I like the laid back nature of Australian cons.
CMOSs Photography: Yes I often set up mini shoots at conventions. Sometimes I’ll get an email from a cosplayer a few days before and we’ll set something up.
Cosplay Photographers: How do you go about setting up shoots?
CMOSs Photography: Generally my wife will arrange this. She will decide with her friends that they want to do a shoot and (if I don’t want to be in the dog house!) I’ll set it up and take the photos. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Many local spots such as botanical gardens and historical sites are becoming quite strict with what they call “Organised Photography” requesting that you book an often expensive shooting session. So we generally try to be as “Unorganised” as possible, many times entering in small numbers and hiding our photography gear and weaponry. Its a shame and I wouldn’t mind having to pay a reasonable fee to shoot but some places can charge at least $1000.
Cosplay Photographers: That happens a lot here in the United States as well. Even a lot of conventions frown on photographers with lots of gear. Are Australian conventions strict about photography?
CMOSs Photography: Some conventions don’t seem to mind as long as you’re not getting in the way. They see it as a great experience for the cosplayers at somebody else’s expense. I think its part of the laid back Australian attitude. However there was one convention which called security guards to escort photographers and cosplayers off the premises for doing shoots outside the convention.
I think conventions need to realise that photography is massive part of cosplay and any convention that encourages this will be popular. I cant say I’ve ever had an issue, though.
Cosplay Photographers: At any rate, it’s really wonderful that you cosplay and do photography with your wife and that you both enjoy it.
CMOSs Photography: I think its very rare for a husband and wife to have a similar hobby, so the best thing is it’s positive impact on our relationship. Apart from that its always great to have some one who you know will cosplay a character for you, especially for characters who are couples. You can also get away with doing more romantic scenes which might be a bit trickier to do with another cosplayer.
Cosplay Photographers: Tell us about your favorite photoshoot you’ve done to date.
CMOSs Photography: One particular shoot I enjoyed was a Metal Gear Solid shoot I did in Japan. We were attending a convention in Tokyo and I was cosplaying as Snake, but the convention location was quite modern which didn’t match the character so we decided to shoot in a nearby park. Japan is quite strict when it comes to cosplaying in public and in many places it is banned, and the park was no exception with a “No Cosplaying” sign at the entrance. Luckily as it was a Metal Gear Solid shoot we were already kitted out in camouflage gear. We managed to sneak past the staff, scale a few walls and get inside.
Cosplay Photographers: That’s ambitious! Did anyone see you afterwards?
CMOSs Photography: Unfortunately were eventually were spotted, but to our advantage the staff member was an Otaku and a big Metal Gear Solid fan. He let us continue and even snapped a few selfies with us.
Cosplay Photographers: Talk about lucky! How were your costumes received by Japanese con attendees?
CMOSs Photography: As we were Western cosplayers in Japan cosplaying as Western characters we were quite popular and after the shoot we even got a lot of positive attention from the public wanting to come up and take photos with us. After the shoot Konami decided to do a small feature on their UK site, so overall it was a great experience.
Cosplay Photographers: Do you have any other stories about about living in Japan and the cosplay scene there?
CMOSs Photography: Of course living in Japan was awesome, as you can imagine the cosplay scene is much bigger, there were small cosplay conventions happening every week! Generally in Japan you cant turn up at a con in cosplay, we did that a few times and were told by the staff that you must enter and leave the con in your normal clothes.
Cosplay Photographers: Why do you think they’re they so strict about costumes?
CMOSs Photography: I think there are two reasons for this. One, if people enter and leave in cosplay then many people don’t see the point in buying a ticket as there are often plenty of cosplayers outside. Two, Japan is quite a conservative country with organised pockets of weirdness that are contained in an organised time and place. Therefore cosplay must be kept in the con and shouldn’t interfere with the general public. Cons can receive a lot of complaints if cosplayers cause too much of a commotion.
Cosplay Photographers: Has anyone ever complained about not being able to wear a costume in public?
CMOSs Photography: I’m not sure where the law stands on this. I assume it’s your right to wear a costume in public. Weapons and face masks I can understand being banned, but apart from that I don’t really see the harm. There are also many closet cosplayers – people who don’t want their family or coworkers to know they cosplay. They often won’t let you take their photo or tag them online.I would sum up cosplay in Japan as much bigger, but cosplay in Australia is much more laid back and enjoyable.
Cosplay Photographers: Your wife is Japanese and I have relatives in Japan who think that cosplay is a bit odd. What do your and her relatives think?
CMOSs Photography: Her relatives are very liberal and don’t seem to mind at all, although her 90 year old grandfather seemed a bit confused. My folks in the UK are cool with it too. I think at first they thought it was a bit childish but ultimately they are very supportive. In addition to that my grandmother quite enjoys sharing sewing tips with her grandson, something she never thought she would do!
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