#PremiumContent, you’ve seen the hashtag, now meet the man behind it. Kay of Elysiam Entertainment tells us how it all began.
Cosplay Photographers: We just have to start by asking you….What’s #PremiumContent?
Kay: Ahh good ol premium content. It all started when I was hanging with my League of Hot Geeks friends. We stopped to get something to eat at this BBQ place out in the Baltimore area. I can’t remember the name of it but it was featured on TV before. Amazing food there btw. I remember us talking about this idea that a cosplayer had. The idea was to use certain avenues as stepping stones to gain more visibility. Granted everyone does this in some form, but the best way to do these things is in an organic nature. In a way that doesn’t feel forced and needy. Well they pretty much had it laid out what their goals were and how they were going to get there. My issue with this concept is that in order to first become relevant there must be a reason that you should be relevant. Be it your craftsmanship or your modeling expertise that give you an edge in which you stand out amongst others. I began to make a reference to that of Cable TV in which there are Basic channels and then there are Premium channels. I then began to theorize the idea of what makes someone premium in cosplay. The first person that came to mind was my friend Meagan Marie. She is a stand out working professional that is a strong public figure, infused into cosplay. That’s premium content.
CP: Interesting! That’s definitely our philosophy here at Cosplay Photographers: find the people that stand out and bring them to the forefront of the community. So if you had to describe your photography style in 3 words, what would they be?
Kay: Simple, Subtle, Epic
CP: I can definitely see those signatures in your work! How long have you been doing photography in general? And cosplay photography specifically?
Kay: It seems I’ve been doing photography in my head ever since I was young. I would envision elements that I saw from a movie to depict a scene in my head. It would then be transferred to paper through drawings and such. That still doesn’t count though. I think many of us have taken pictures before of our friends. We’ve picked up a camera before and snapped here and there. It doesn’t necessarily start us on the path to becoming a photographer. I believe I got on that path Katsucon 2012. So for almost 3 years now. The cosplay part I can explain in conjunction with why I started photography.
CP: Ahh, so what got you started in photography then?
Kay: When I left New Orleans to come to the DC Metro area I didn’t have many people that I knew in the area. My one friend that I did have Kyo, introduced me to the culture that I know today as conventions. I went at first, and I felt compartmentalized from everything and everyone else. It seemed almost as if I didn’t exist if I wasn’t wearing cosplay. I would literally have groups of people that would come up to us and just talk to him. I was like, what the hell is wrong with these people? I thought it was because I wasn’t cosplaying. So I decided to cosplay. I wanted to be able to understand the culture and be infused in the culture to relate to the people of the culture. Turns out when it came to that I was very particular as I am with everything else. I cosplayed Tousen from Bleach since I fit the character so well, but I could only do that for so long. So my friend Sang who ran Quadrain was taking photos too and getting free badges. I thought to myself, “free badge”. Since I was familiar with how it felt to be snapped, and the hunt for photos, I knew that I could be able to connect with people, because everyone wanted photos. So I guess you could say the motivating factor was all about connecting with people and the community.
CP: What other genres of photography do you like to shoot?
Kay: The genres I tend to gravitate toward in no relevant order is Commercial, Cars, and Portraits.
CP: Who are some of your photography influences in and out of the cosplay world?
Kay: David Hobby, I ran into him at the Columbia movie theater out here in Maryland. No big deal right? Joe McNally, Erik Almas, Joey L, Lindsay Adler, Aaron Nace, Erik Johansson, Calvin Hollywood, Dean Bradshaw, Gregory Heisler Dave Hill, Jay Tablante, Tim Wallace and Scott Kelby. There are probably more, but this is definitely the core.
CP: Yeah, I’m pretty sure every cosplay photographer out there has a bit of strobist in them. That’s quite the dream team you named off there. Speaking of dreams…what’s your dream shoot? Where is it? What cosplays are you shooting? Who are you shooting?
Kay: Let’s see. The landscape would have to look something epic like Hobbiton. There I would be able to get unlimited amounts of photos. There is no way I would go there for just one picture. The cosplays would be from World of Warcraft. No surprise there right? This next part would be the kicker. I’ve always had this concept of Cosplay Angels. It would be a collaborative project with the League of Hot Geeks in association with Yaya, Jess, and Vampy over the course of 2 or 3 days.
CP: That’s some #PremiumContent right there. But back in the real world, what’s been your favorite convention to attend so far?
Kay: The con of all cons still remains to be DragonCon. All of you should come, you will have the time of your lives. I don’t even really shoot much there. I just like the atmosphere.
CP: DragonCon is #1 on our list of future cons to attend! How about your favorite convention to actually photograph at?
Kay: I’m leaning toward Katsucon being my favorite to photograph because if the weather is really good the National Harbor will let your photographs shine. I heard Fanime is a really nice convention to hit up and I plan to visit there in the future, so this could change. The only issue with Katsucon can be the weather. It can either snow or be cold, or it can be mildly warm. It’s a coin flip from year to year.
CP: Do you charge for shoots at conventions?
Kay: There was one even in which I charged for shoots and that was Katsucon 2013. I haven’t since, because I get to control what I shoot. I would rather shoot for myself than to shoot something I didn’t care about for the money. If I’m able to shoot content I care about and make money, that’s the dream right there.
CP: Do you notice a difference between East coast and West coast photographers when it comes to doing paid shoots?
Kay: I honestly don’t pay attention too much to any of that. It’s because recently I’ve just cut myself off to that aspect of the scene. Right now the only thing that matters to me are the relationships that I have with people in the scene and the new ones that are to be made. We ultimately just need to focus on being the absolute best that we can be. If you are cosplaying work on being the best you that you can. If you are doing photography do the same. Whatever artistic expression that interests you, focus on that process. Not the noise that surrounds it. It will only cloud your vision which ultimately you need to create the art you want to create.
CP: How would someone get a shoot with you?
Kay: Contact me! You can contact me via Facebook.com/elysiamguild or on twitter @elysiamguild. Send me a message or tweet me. I strongly encourage that you do. Because if you never try and contact me, you never know if we can ever work together. Whatever ideas and preconceptions you may have about me, I’m going to ask you to throw them away. Too often I hear people are intimidated to ask me for a shoot. You shouldn’t be. It’s either you ask and I shoot you, or I don’t shoot you. Or you don’t ask, and maybe by some stroke of luck I stumble into meeting you and shooting you. If I don’t shoot you, don’t take it personally. I have various reasons why I will and won’t shoot something or someone. And even then there is the other variable of did I take a photo worthy enough of releasing. Don’t ever think you are too good, or not good enough to do a shoot with me or anyone else. You’re only limiting your opportunities by doing so.
CP: What’s in your gear bag?
Kay: Honestly I spent way too much money on crap and it’s not even needed. I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that it is good to have a whole bunch of sht. So I will just give the essentials, because that other stuff I don’t even consider in my bags.
5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm L, Canon 50mm 1.8, 2xYongnuo YN-560 II, Einstein 640, 2x36in Shoot through Umbrellas, 86in Parabolic Soft Silver Umbrella, 74in Octabank, Impact C-Stand, 2xImpact Light Stands
CP: How much of that do you take with you to conventions?
Kay: Depending on how I feel and the event, I can either come in with just my camera and lenses. If it’s a really big event or I expect to work with something I’m really passionate about, I will bring all of it, and my little wagon to tote it around.
CP: What do you bring to location shoots or to the studio?
Kay: I bring all of it, because I would rather have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. That’s generally any professional rule of thumb.
The studio isn’t really different for me. My light shaping tools vary depending on the specific look I want to achieve. My porch can be a studio, a park, etc. The studio is anywhere and everywhere I can set up and take photos.
CP: So what’s next for Elysiam Entertainment?
Kay: That’s a very good question. I have gone through so many changes as an artist. I’m looking for another breakthrough. I always feel that I’m not good enough. I’m not comparing myself to any artist within cosplay, but just the vision I see. I want to put that into effect and not all the time I can see it coming to fruition. Not to mention Blizzard has me jacked into the system right now. Warlords of Draenor is literally taking every piece of free time that I have. I almost forgot what a camera looks like. Hell, I’m writing these questions and checking to see if the servers are up right now. It’s bad lol.
CP: Any advice for new photogs wanting to get into the scene?
Kay: If you want to be a better photographer, follow great photographers. If you want to be better at cosplay photography don’t follow cosplay photography. The reason I say this is simply you don’t want to taint your vision. It’s very easy for you to lose sight of your artistic vision because the amount of cosplay content that gets pumped out is in droves. Many of us who first start, don’t know the first thing about what it is we’re doing. So we snap and snap and snap. Then we post, post and post. About 90 percent of the photos will be awful, and this happens to me still today. So you’ll see many cosplay photographers’ work floating around and you may not have the first clue as to what is a good photograph. If you start imitating what you see, then that’s what you’ll be. Most of us in this aren’t working at the level of the Jay’s and the Erik Almas’s in the world. So the percentages of quality content we can deliver will vary widely. If I were you, I wouldn’t even follow me.
CP: Shout outs, mentions, famous last words?
Kay: I’d like to give a shout out to Blizzard Entertainment, for being a beast. If it weren’t for World of Warcraft, Elysiam wouldn’t exist. I want to give a big shout out to everyone in the community that’s not being jerks. I love you. To everyone else being butt hurt about the evolution of this growing culture, relax a bit. Let’s see where this ride takes us. Everyone that’s apart of it good and bad, you make it what it is today. What I’m really trying to say is hold hands and give hugs. Although there will be individuals that don’t like what I’m saying anyway no matter how inclusive it is. Oh well. Thanks for this platform CP.
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