You’ve likely never heard of this month’s Featured Photographer, but in the short time he’s been shooting cosplay, MNL Photography has made quite the impression on us. Check out his story and epic photos below!
Cosplay Photographers: Hey My, tell us a little bit about yourself!
My Le: I am currently in the Inland Empire in California, working as a freelance photographer at the moment. I also travel and explore around a lot in search of beautiful places and landscapes.
CP: Do you do photography full time?
MNL: Currently I am still in the freelance stage of photography and I do hope that I will be able to do it full time soon.
CP: What does your freelance work entail right now? Is that what sends you out to all those amazing locations?
MNL: My freelance work right now entails shooting real estate and product photos. Yes shooting real estate does send me to a lot of locations. I currently shoot a lot of homes in the OC area and so I am exposed to a lot of the beautiful places there. Often times I talk about my photography to the clients and they point out some awesome locations to check out which is fantastic as the OC area is just so vast.
CP: How did you get started in photography?
MNL: I got started in photography around my second year of college. At first I was mainly into videography and editing and I didn’t really think much about photography. Sure I snapped some pictures here and there but I never thought much of it until I got my first DSLR. I got my DSLR mainly to do video but people were too busy and I so I didn’t really have anything to film with and so I didn’t want to waste the DSLR so I started learning about photography and soon enough I fell in love with it and I’ve been doing photography ever since and never really looked back at doing videos.
CP: What’s your earliest experience with photography?
MNL: My earliest experience I had with photography was back in high school when I first got my point and shoot camera and I took pictures for club events at school. But I think like with a majority of people, I started off taking pictures of flowers in my yard with my point and shoot camera hehe.
CP: And how did you get started in cosplay photography?
MNL: I’m mainly a landscape and automotive photographer and not so much a portrait photographer (I am terrible when it comes to posing people) but I got into cosplay photography by a random chance actually. I was at home one day and my friend Neill asked if I wanted to go on a cosplay photoshoot. At first I thought I was going to show up and watch some professional photographer do a photoshoot with a cosplayer. Little did I know that the shoot itself had like 5 photographers and a whole bunch of cosplay people carrying out a Game of Thrones shoot. So I was there taking pictures on the side and didn’t think much of it until I showed the cosplayers their photos that I took. I got some good feedback and they really liked the pictures. I don’t normally shoot portraits or take pictures of people, but when I do I like it to be candid or they have to do something epic and this shoot was exactly of that nature and I loved it. Later on one of the cosplayers there, Rachel (Reilena Cosplay) asked if I would like to shoot another solo project with her and so I agreed and I started shooting cosplay since then. I don’t shoot it all the time, only a few so far when I get invited.
CP: How would you describe your style?
MNL: I would describe my style as natural yet epic-looking.
CP: If you had to pick one thing, what would you say makes your photos unique?
MNL: The one thing that makes my photo unique is the lighting. I use natural light 90% of the time and when I show the final result, people often mistaken it for strobe lights.
CP: You definitely know how to capture some epic natural light! What genres of photography do you enjoy most?
MNL: I absolutely love doing landscape, architecture, and automotive photography. Or pretty much anything that doesn’t move (haha).
CP: What have you learned from shooting other genre’s that you’ve applied to your cosplay photography?
MNL: As a landscape photographer by heart I always try to find the right landscape, scenery, or background that matches the costume of the select cosplayer. I don’t want to shoot on just any random background, it has to be a certain scenery that matches whatever the cosplayer is wearing. Also when shooting landscapes I always use the available light so when I shoot cosplay, I never use any flashes or strobes, just all natural light.
CP: What’s a trick that you’ve learned from shooting cars and landscapes that you’ve applied to your cosplay shoots?
MNL: The trick that I apply a lot now to my cosplay photos and shoot is the use of a wide angle lens or just wide shots in general. I often see a lot of cosplay photographers shooting at a longer focal length which does yield great results but I feel that a lot of the beautiful scenery is left out. I also find that shooting wide just makes things look more epic and so I always shoot wide in focal length and rarely use an focal length past 24mm (crop & FF sensor).
CP: Do you ever imagine what characters might fit in a location when you’re taking a landscape photo?
MNL: Yes, every time I take a landscape photo or car photo I always imagine that it’s a scene from a movie and that I wish I had a certain character in the frame. Often times I someone would show me a character that they are dressing up as and I immediately know what place to do the shoot at.
CP: What’s been your most memorable shoot so far? And why?
MNL: My most memorable shoot so far has got to be my first shoot with Reilena Cosplay. She made an Athena inspired costume and we shot it down in Corona Del Mar beach. What made the shoot so memorable was that she went out of her way to get the shots that we wanted. There was one side of the beach that had jagged and slippery rocks and she managed to climb over them and walked quite a distance down the coast line while wearing heels!! yes, she climbed rocks in heels!! now that’s real dedication. I was just amaze at how she didn’t care about herself, she just did whatever it took to get the shots. I was also afraid that I wouldn’t do a good job on the shoot because I just had the bare minimum of equipments and didn’t have any strobes or flashes with me while trying to fight with the sun. So the whole shoot was using the sunset light and somehow I managed to pull it off and it has been one of our most successful and fun shoots to date and also that was the shoot that got me more involved with cosplay photography.
CP: Who are some of your photography influences?
MNL: Some of my photography influences are Gavin Hoey, Serge Ramelli, and Benjamin Von Wong.
CP: Of those photographers, who have you learned from the most?
MNL: The person I’ve learned from the most is probably Gavin Hoey. I started watching his videos on Youtube when I first started learning photography and he showed so many ways to make ordinary things become interesting through different ways to take the photos. I learned most of photography through him and I really like how he makes things very down to earth and doesn’t scare you with big photography terms. Instead, he encourages you to walk around your house and find things to photograph and that’s how I slowly developed my skills over time is by walking around and taking pictures of anything I can find and make something interesting out of it.
CP: We saw an interesting article recently that said many photographers these days, landscape photographers in particular, are shooting for likes and fame and that everything in landscape photography has been done before. How do you feel about that?
MNL: Based on this article I would have to agree with it for the most part. Photographers nowadays are just so focus on getting famous and making money from their photographs that they forget about what makes a picture special and unique for them. If you Google search images of famous places, you’ll probably see hundreds if not thousands of images that are shot at the same angle and same viewpoint. I know that some people make their living off from selling their photographs but I feel like they aren’t connected with their photograph because they take the same picture as anyone else of a particular place. For me personally, I can care less about if my photos sell or not and I tend to focus more on how I can make the picture look more dramatic and really bring out the details in a certain location to entice people to want to visit the places that I’ve been to. It makes me really happy when people see my pictures and ask me where the place is or ask me if I can take them there. I want to be able to inspire people to get away from the city life for just a day or a couple of hours and explore the beautiful locations out there that is often overlooked or hidden away.
CP: Are there any dream shoots you want to do?
MNL: There’s isn’t any specific shoots that I dream of doing. My only dream is to be able to explore the world and take pictures of all the beautiful landscapes out there and inspire people to explore through my pictures. I’m just happy to be able to work with all the talented cosplayers and help them bring out their vision of their costumes through the photographs. The locations that I really want to shoot at are Iceland, Alaska, and New Zealand. The landscapes in these places are just breathtaking!
CP: Ahh yeah, those are definitely some epic locations. So what’s in your gear bag?
MNL: Currently in my gear bag is a:
-Tokina 12-24mm F/4 lens (my work horse)
-Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8
-Rokinon 8mm Fisheye
-MeFoto Roadtrip Tripod
-filters i.e. CPL and ND
CP: Do you have a favorite piece of equipment?
MNL: My favorite equipment is my Tokina 12-24mm and Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lens. These two lens are my most used lens just because I love the wide angle and the fisheye gives a lot of creative use at various angles especially for selfies hehe.
CP: Do you go to any conventions?
MNL: No I do not go to any conventions.
CP: Oh, so how can someone arrange a shoot with you then?
MNL: They can contact me through my email at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me through my facebook, www.facebook.com/
CP: What sort of geeky things are you into these days?
MNL: I actually don’t watch any animes or play any games these days. I’m always out exploring the landscapes and so I rarely have time to play games or watch tv.
CP: Too much shooting, not enough time to mess around, eh? What kinds of geeky things were you into before you picked up a camera then?
MNL: Yeah I’m always out to shooting pictures and don’t have time to spend at home besides editing and sleeping. Before I started shooting I was actually really into collecting Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh cards as well as building Gundam Wing models.
CP: What are some of your photograph goals? Besides getting rich!
MNL: Some of my photography goals is to have my pictures published in National Geographic and other magazines and being able to travel to different countries to capture the amazing sceneries.
CP: What motivates you to keep shooting?
MNL: The thing that motivates me to keep shooting is just the joy of being able to explore new places and meet new people to work with along the way. I can care less about making money or not out of photography. It’s a deep passion of mine and I just want to keep on shooting everyday and doing whatever it takes to get the shot while not breaking and laws or cause any injuries in the process hehe.
CP: Who’s Russell?
MNL: Russell is one of those POP action figures made by the company Funko. They created a bunch of figures from all sorts of TV shows and movies. For me I chose Russell to be a signature part of my landscape photos because 1. he’s really cute with those chubby cheeks and 2. he’s a boy scout in the Disney movie UP. Because he’s a scout he was the perfect choice for me because scouts are always exploring the outdoors and camping and at the same time helping out other people. I can relate a lot to that because I’m always exploring the outdoors photographing landscapes and I always like to help people when they need it. So I pretty much take Russell everywhere I go as we are both explorers hehe.
CP: What does he do for you on shoots?
MNL: For me Russell doesn’t do anything for the shoots besides be my companion and a conversation starter. The majority of the time I’m out exploring I’m usually by myself. With Russell there I feel like I have a friend. I usually add him to my pictures because sometimes a picture doesn’t feel complete to me without anyone in it so I often use him as my “subject” in the pictures to make it less bland. He’s also a great conversation starter and everyone just loves him because he’s just so cute! Kids really love to pose with him and it’s a great way to make a little happiness in someone’s day. He’s now a signature of my photographs and it’s makes me stand out a bit more because people recognize that.
CP: Do you have any tips for new photographers?
MNL: If you’re new to photography the most important tip is to learn the capabilities of your equipment through trial and error and work with what you have. Most people start out by taking pictures of everything which isn’t a bad thing as it helps you to figure out what you like and what you’re good at. For me I did the same thing and it took me a year to figure out that I like to shoot landscapes more than anything. Don’t get caught up in the gear and accessories as they are just tools to help you create a piece of art. Instead focus more on picturing in your head the shots that you want and at the same time how to effectively use your gear to obtain that shot. For me I try to use the bare minimum and the cheapest/most affordable peace of gear that I can buy and use it for the purpose that it’s designed for. Learn your gear and soon you’ll realize that you don’t need highly expensive equipment to produce great work. It’s ok to work for free some times as the results can yield greater benefits in the future. Network and find photographers that shoot the same style or genre that you are shooting and learn from each other.
CP: Thanks for your time, My and Russell!
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