My Problems with Cosplay Photography

Warning this is  going to be very ranty in places.

Cosplay has long been my favorite thing to shoot as a photographer. Shooting cosplay was how I got back into photography, so as you can well imagine this subject is close to my hart. To go one step fervor I my self am a cosplayer. Having been involved in this from both sides of the camera for many years I’ve come to some conclusions.

I think the biggest problem I have with it most of the photos you see, even of the best cosplayers out there are dull and boring. I have fallen into this trap my self, I’ve been really unhappy with my work because of it. That last statement begs the question why are they boring. I’ll talk about this from stand point of just looking at my self and my own work. That said I see this in so many other peoples work. It’s not hard to get a good exposure and make some one look “nice” Any one can learn the settings. The cosplayers them self’s often delighted they have a photo that shows off all there hard work and makes then look good. To me that’s not enough anymore because the image it self is boring. You look at it and go oh its x character from x show.

I want the image to be interesting tell a story. We want our images to be memorable and to do that they have to give us more information then some one posing in front of a camera. It’s great to try and shoot as many people at a event say as possible. I’m going to keep doing that. I will always happily take photos of any one who wants them at events after all they put all that work in. What I propose is to try and take more time with each person/group and try and make a photo instead of just taking one.

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Burning Wire Wool, A Kimono, And A Parasol

Just because the Fox has been quirt dose not mean he hasn’t been busy. It has indeed been a long time since I last blogged on hear. So much has happened in the last year I wouldn’t know where to start, instead I’m going to focus on moving forward. I make no promises about the frequency of my posts but I do intend to start using this site a lot more. With the obligatory apology for not blogging out the way what have I dun most recently worth talking about?

Burning Kimono

That was the working title of the project I recently completed. I eventually settled with the name “Burning Rain” (still not happy with the name). This was a idea that took a few mouths to bring to fruition. The idea stemmed from 2 things.

The first was I have been doing more work promoting Japanese culture this coursed me to do some heavy research in to Kimonos. With a few now in my position I wanted to do a shoot involving them.The second part came from seeing a photo wire wool being spun and the sparks bouncing off. There are many artists who have dun this. It stuck me in all the examples I was able to find the model isn’t very visible.

With the two ideas rattling round my head I remembered a friend of mine from circus society who thought me how to fire spin also dues parasol spinning using a Japanese parasol. About hear is where I get my eureka moment over this shoot.

Burning RainHaving the image I wanted to produce firmly fixed in my mind I was faced with several large problems to trouble shoot. The biggest is one of safety, How do you keep a paper parasol or the vintage kimono catching fire when being sprayed by sparks from burning wired wool being spun. As a side note if you ever do this sort of work make sure not to use synthetic fabric we had to make sure non of the clothing melts. Synthetic clothing is unsafe and must never be used near fire or heat. The other problem was that of lighting so we can see the model not just the sparks. Luckily finding a model was the easiest part of the equation. I went with Faye a beautiful model and confident fire performer.

With my camera fixed to a tripod I had the model dressed in a vintage kimono and parasol treated so they would not catch fire. A set of lights in front of her and behind off camera a assistant in the way of another fire performer Rob spinning burning wire wool into the parasol from just off camera. Combining a long exposure to capture the trails and a set of strops to freeze the model and illuminate her this set of images were created.

Just a not about safety. Shots like this should only be attempted if all participants are experienced with fire safety. We had all necessary precautions in place including trained medical personal.

The full set can be found hear; Flickr

As always enjoy…

 

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Wedding Photography

This is a post I’ve been putting off writing as I wasn’t sure what to say, I’ve decided to keep it short. Well sort for me.

I’ve been hesitant about advertising my self as a wedding photographer for a long time it wasn’t confidence or lack of skill. I have dun more shoots and more large scale event photography then I could list but I had not dun a wedding until a few weeks ago. Weddings should be one of the most special days of a couples lives and the photos to remember it by are a big part so I wanted to make absolutely sure I was the right man for the job before I did.

Little about the first wedding I did officially as a photographer. It was a lovely day for the bride and groom. I was there as a second shooter so a lot less stress on me but I still made sure I covered all events from getting ready to the ceremony to the reception. Lets just say it was a long day 18 hours from my door to door let me tell you I was tired. A lot of it is waiting and being ready its not really about machine gunning ever moment you’ll miss the “moment” if you do that but you can’t stop either. Any one interested in this sort of work I’ll warn you its hard work and very very long hours both on the day and in post production you will find it stressful but if your used to events and really know your camera and how to get shots on the move then you will be fine

Now for the shameless self promotion!

If your reading this and your looking for a photographer for your wedding (told you shameless self promotion) what would you get if you hired me. In short you’ll get me for as much of the event as you want me covering. I’ll be a fly on the wall you won’t notice I’m there apart from the formal photos I’ll get as quickly as I can so you can go back to enjoying your big day. So basically contact me for a in depth discussion on what your needs are and if you think I’m right for the job

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Kitacon IV

I’ve been to all 4 kitacons that have run so far I may not have ever spoken highly of this convention credit where is due this was there best year yet in all aspects now I could criticize them in lots of small ways but that would be unfair. It would be unfair because they got the most important thing right they managed to make a large scale convention relatively drama free and every one seemed entertained well dun guys!

I attended the contention as press I tried to give the best coverage I could but was only able to attend Friday and Sunday so I missed some of the best parts of kitacon but this couldn’t be helped. I had my first wedding to shoot that day well worth missing a day of a convention for and I know there was some amazing photographers there like Nert to make up for my absence. The Wedding when amazingly well but that will come in a serpent blog post.

Friday

it might of been business as usual as far as convention photography go but you should never treat it as such or your photos will show it I jumped right into it and tried to make the most of my limited time at the convention and spent the day hunting cosplayers. As much as I was trying I seemed to take a lot less photos then normal but the ones I did take seemed better quality and had a better ratio of keepers. I believe I learned a valuable lesson from the last few events I went to about thinking more about what I am shooting and making sure I have a good subject. I got back little before midnight leaving me just enough time to empty my cards and put batteries on charge.

Sunday

After a really long day Saturday at the wedding I was in a bit of a sorry state when I arrived at the event quite early. Good job it took a little wile before the days proceedings really kicked off but I turned to the photographers best friend coffin maybe not healthy but you have to do what you need to get through a shoot.

I was determined to make up for the lost day so I didn’t stop shooting from 9am – 3am yes I took brakes but not many. First big task of the day came in the shape of Cosplay Chess a very funny show with some amazing costumes on display after working with the show all through rehearsals you get to find out what’s coming up and as much as I hate spoilers when your working knowing something coming up before hand you can make sure you have the right settings and are ready for it. This was no exception during the show one of the players was going to get hit in the face with a cream pie. This was garneted to look good especially if I could get the shot but even then you can’t be full prepared anything can happen like another photographer running past you filing on a steady cam *shakes fist at him* you know who you are but this was a blessing in disguise I had to crop the shot a lot tighter then I would of and it makes for a much more interesting photo so to the other guy who jumped in front of me Thank you. Just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen you always need to be ready.

After this event came more hunting of cosplayers before Kitas got talent there talent show there was a lot of really interesting acts to witch I got some good shots of the photographers had to fight for good positions this time round with the way it was run but once it started we settled in for the show. I found this time felt different then normal didn’t feel like us photographers were battling each other in fact it felt more like a team effort. I noticed when ever I’d move to capture one side of the stage Nert would move to the opposite site and when ever he moved I found my self matching him only mirrored didn’t feel like we was trying to beat each other just trying to make sure between us and the others there it was all covered this is a new thing that’s been developing over the last few events and I think I’m getting better results because of it it I hope this continues.

Following KGT all that was left was more hunting and the ball/party. I normally hate parties because its really crowed very low light so you can’t get good photos. Not this time however I found my self not worrying about noise even in post it was about picture quality not file quality and having learned my lesson about looking for a subject even in a crowed scene I came away with the best photos of a party to date I even found the noise adds character to the images. I have always been fanatical about making my images noise free one of the many reasons why I love Nikon. I’m glad I moved past this or I’d never have gotten these images.

So all in all Kitacon was a Huge successes pun intoned considering on of the guests was Ellen McLain who was one of the best guests I’ve met at a convention yet so nice and so talkative. What I’ve taken from this event because every time you go out shooting you learn something new is looking and waiting pays off as long as your ready and raciness when that shot is there and also not to worry about noise as much it can add character to some photos. As always the full sets are available on my flickr

Kitacon

Enjoy. . .

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Memorabilia/MCM Birmingham Expo 2012

I’ve been going to Memorabilia for many years since I was in high school back in the early 1990s properly my first big si fi event. . . showing my age a bit but I digress. I would like to tell you how many years is been going for but even google doesn’t seem to know but in any case a long time. I’ve watched the show grow to a huge size then fall into obscurity as other shows came along and the internet kicked it. I was worried for a wile the show would die out but MCM Expo picked it up and turned it around. I’ll be honest I had mixed feelings a few years ago when they took it under there wing. I had even more mixed feeling when this time round the added Birmingham Comic Con MCM Expo to run as part of the show now there a mouth full of a title. I have to say I was surprised how well it ran I’ve not had this much fun at a memorabilia since the old glory days so there is life left in the event. Seems MCM know how to run a event in today’s climate and the changes do work.

So as ever I was there helping out a few different people. I was there with DDR:UK I was helping the Expo Cosplay crew with my coverage and I was also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to help out a friend of mine Nert from Many Lemons who is one of the best cosplay photographers in the UK. we was doing some press work for a new magazine. We shot several cosplayers and was also asked to shoot two of the guests at the show. I found there was a big difference when I shot the guests they immediately shock our hands and then when they got in front of the camera owned that space with out any need for direction there is a huge difference between people used to media and cameras and the rest of us and it really shows in the photos The guests where both Voice Actors from the American Dub of Full Metal Alchemist VIC MIGNOGNA voice of Edward Elric and AARON DISMUKE voice of Alphonse Elric.

Walking around looking for photos to cover the event I realised something mind numbingly obvious but we often forget so I’m brining it up now. I took a couple shots of crowds to try and show how busy the event was nut I looked down at the photos to see they were so bad you won’t ever see them, but why was they bad they had no subject! We often get so court up in trying to capture everything we forget a photo needs a subject a story to tell or its just going to be awful after I remembered that my photos got a lot better over the weekend.

Lastly I’d like to mention the masquerade that ran on Sunday. The quality of the entries was fantastic as always and hear is a shocker for you we had good light for indoors was shooting at a reasonable iso for a change to the photos came out much cleaner in terms of noise and sharpness then normal LIGHT makes all the difference only problem I ran into was angle of the stage they put the judges table right in the centre of a small sage this proved difficult think I got good results.

And of cause you want the images
General    Masquerade

Enjoy. . .

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CapitalVibe

Saturday I was invited to see a friends band who I’ve seen before and are pretty damn good there CapitalVibe who are well worth checking out especially if your in the Birmingham area where they seem to mostly play, anyway they played at Route 44 and I was there to capture it.

I have to say Gig Photography isn’t my comfort zone I’ve only shot 3 gigs so far and that includes this one. Saying that it was a lot of fun and not to dissimilar to other events I have shot a lot of.

I packed all my camera gear in to non descript belt paunches and travelled without any lenses attached I was trying to keep a low profile thinking about it might of been better with a simple black shoulder bag but we live and learn anyway I was very mobile with my belt pouch system. I get to the gig and I’m greeted by my old friend “challenging lighting conditions” we go way back know I was going to be facing this I took 2 lens with me a 50mm f/1.4 witch is a phenomenal piece of glass but ended up not using it at all and instead just used the 24-70 f/2.8 I’ve not had this lens all that long but again it has stunted me with its performance I was able to shoot most of the night near enough wide open and at a low ISO and still came back with sharp images. How ever the camera hadn’t a clue I started on Aperture priority that lasted all of about 30 seconds before I switched to full manual mode I think for actual gig work that’s a must.

I didn’t run in to any real problems I think the trick this time was simply being able to get right up to the stage with the right gear

I processed these a little different then normal only in the fact instead of using Adobe Photoshop CS5 I used the new CS6 beta and let me tell you its confusing the new Camera Raw 7 has totally changed its sliders so where I would normally go straight to the Recovery slider I have to play with a couple others to fix my highlights a problem I always have with the high contrast scene I normal end up shooting but all in all I have to say this new version is so much better its slowed my work flow down but the results I’m getting are much better hopefully as I get more used to it my speed will return and talking of speed the new content aware tools are now lightening fast not that I used them for this edit but just saying.

As always hear is the full set… Enjoy

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Minami Con 18

I am lucky enough to be my 3rd year at Minami con the longest running anime convention in Europe to my knowledge the only older ones are in Japan but I may be wrung.

As a photographer who has become reasonably well know in the community I took it as my duty to capture as much of the event as I could but if I’m honest this is just a excuse threes nothing better then shooting a con I’d be in attendance as a normal con goer even if I hadn’t got my camera.

This was a very relaxed and laid back con so there was very little pressure on me I did several shoots of cosplayers in and around the converting witch at this even was difficult as there are very few locations of interest to shoot at the only really good place is the Novertell pool but this year I didn’t get in there the opportunity didn’t present it self this time. The trickiest shoot was a “Air Gear” group where I had to try and shoot a fast moving subject on roller blades. I’ve never used the continues sovo mode on my auto focus but there was no way I could track the subject fast enough so I took a chance and it worked perfectly missed a few frames but I was shocked how well it worked.

 

I also part of the official studio photo shoots. I went along to this wasn’t sure if I was going to be needed but I ended up with a event organiser pass witch was nice.. no pressure there…   The studio was a simple set up there was 3 photographers well few others came and went but 3 of use shared triggers to the studio lighting. This proved fun we had to dance round each other and work as a team to let the strobes re charge between shots and with 3 of us, if we had been trigger happy or fought each other for shots we would of just got black. I’m really happy with my results in the studio despite them using a lighting set up I personally don’t like. we had 5 lights 2 on the white background flagged so they didn’t expose the subject 2 soft boxes one on each side to illuminate the subjects and a catch light with a grid on. your properly wondering why I don’t like that set up and its simple most of the time when I see this the back ground is totally blown out and its just distracting so I did my best to have the background solid white with out being totally blown out and I managed it JUST the histogram dues have a large spike and barely falls away at the edge but it worked out so all is well

The last part I’ll talk about on hear is the masquerade … I’ll be honest with you I hate the masquerades at Minami its not how its organised or the entries with are fantastic its the lighting I know there’s nothing they can do but gah… rage I always shoo masquerades with available light and high ISO something Nikon excels at but there was so little light I had to go to flash witch kept overheating so I had hash light and had to  give my speed light time to cool down between shots I know the safely feature on the SB-900 is a good thing but when your shooting its really gets on your nerves oh well.

All in al I’d say the convention was a huge success and I think the images speak for them self’s and I had a first I only had to batch possess the photos in camera raw I had absolutely no re touching work to do I don’t know if that’s testimony to my skill the subjects I was shooting or the new lens I was sporting the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 (a truly amazing piece of glass) but what ever it was I am exceedingly pleased

Full sets hear

General

Masquerade

Studio

Enjoy. . .

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Fire On Campus

You’ve properly seen recently I’ve been experimenting with shooting fire performances. After a lot of trial and error I’ve got some results I’m proud of.

For the last 2 mouths however I’ve been trying to set up a shoot with to performers I approached who I know through Purple Mermaid Circus Society. All seemed well they both agreed the society agreed to let us use there equipment for my privet shoot then each and ever week since then something unavoidable has happened and even this week I didn’t get the “privet” shoot we had planed but instead there was a event they ran called Fire On Campus witch was a large fire spinning session and I was able to put all my experiments and theory into use and also got to shoot both of my models. I would still like to do this privet shoot but for now I’ll put it on hold as I’ve got some great shots and other projects are looming that I need to give my attention to.

Regarding my experiments a few weeks ago in preparation to shooting fire poi I did a test shoot with my cousin who is responsible for introducing me to poi damn him haha. The problem I had with shooting fire spinners is you need long exposures to capture the trails but you louse all detail in the subject so flash is needed! Not as simple as you might thing you need to make sure you use rear curtain sync. Several burns and many exposures I found a set up for my shoot more or less the same settings I used previously for fire only with a set of speed lights on a light stand off camera going into a shoot through umbrella flash was maxed out by the time of this shoot I ditched the umbel lost to much light and was blowing over to easily.

Come the Fire on Campus shoot I know what I was doing my set up was D300s on a tripod with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a SB 900 on a light stand. Flash was triggered by a inexpensive radio trigger and I controlled the shutter with a cable release to remove vibration. my in camera settings where f/13ish in Bulb mode so I could judge each shots duration depending on what the performer was doing each time and my flash was in rear sync at a 1/1 power level I used a few sets of rechargeable batteries that night.

The night was a lot of fun I even got to go out my self and do some fire spinning with my own brand new fire heads witch I unfortunately managed to hit my self in the face with almost destroying my glasses. As luck would have it I could fix them but hitting your self in the face with a heavy ball of fire is incredibly scary in that moment you know your alive I have even more respect for fire performers then ever and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Purple Mermaid for letting me take so many photos and look forward to more work with them in the future.

As always hear are the sets for all to enjoy in full on my flickr

Test Shoot

Fire On Campus

Enjoy…

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The Photographers

A little wile ago I had a idea to make a collection of images based round photographers. I mean we never get photos of our self’s when where working and lets face it as a subject matter a photographer using a camera makes for a interesting subject. I also think that if your using a camera your fair game! I know some of my photographer friends who hate having there picture taken and because I know this I will respect it but if I don’t know in advance then your fair game.

So I looked to see what images I already had and started hunting. I set my self some rules, well louse gridlines. They had to have a camera and to be using it in some way. I didn’t mind if it was a compact camera a DSLR or even a video camera nor did I care if it was Nikon, Canon, Sony or other did notice I found a lot more of my own brand but I think I was subconsciously drawn to it.

After just over a year the set is complete I couldn’t of hoped for a better collection. The question is now what? I’ll tell you volume 2 I plan to carry one and once I’ve accumulated enough I’ll start the second one I just get existed about this personal project.

What are your views on this I’d love to hear leave a comment

And one last thing a link to the flickr set Enjoy…

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Telford Expo 2012

First anime event of the year and it went well. I was surprised at how busy it was I’ve been to properly all the Telford expos and I’ve never seen it this busy was nice to see it so full of energy even if it was difficult to walk round.

Spent most of the event helping out at the DDR;Uk stand great people if your into rhythm action games go check them out.

I was about to get a few shots or why would I be bloging about it on hear! So anyway got some walking around. I did get one shot I was a little pleased with saw a friend in cosplay so I asked for a shot, cosplayers are always happy to let you take there photos at events so don’t be shy and ask them but be polite. You see a lot of people taking photos of them little tip for you any one can take a photo of a cosplayer in the middle of a expo flour surrounded by people and lets face it normally this looks naff. My little tip for you is LOOK! . . . look at your surroundings you can almost always find a clear spot with in a few paces of where you find your subject if your polite they will almost always move for you but they are busy so you need to be quick. This time I saw a blank blue wall bit rubbish but 100 times better then a corridor filled with people. The light in this case wasn’t great so out comes the flash but oh wait… harsh shadows I tried something different instead of fighting with the shadow I used the speed light as the primary light sauce just off the camera and moved it round will the shadow itself became a element of the photo some times it better to incorporate a element rather then fight it and you can get results like this from what was essentially a snap shot just by moving the speed light around.

As with all these events I also got to shoot the masquerade. I went up to the shoot this quite relaxed thinking I’ve shot so many of theses its busy as usually and it was but I wasn’t quite happy with my results coming away after. I did get a shoot shot of every entry witch is always my aim at theses I worked hard but just wasn’t that happy and I think I let complacency take me I had the wrung mind set going in. Even when it is business as usable go into the shoot with a fresh eye be existed or you may come away with images that might be quite good but still be unhappy with. Every one who has seen them have been please so I got away with not being quite on the ball this time you may not be so lucky. Properly didn’t help I got back late from a shoot the night before where I was doing some experimental photography till really quite late in preparation for a upcoming shoot hopefully I’ll be able to give you more details about that very soon but it went well.

I always people use any of my images if they are the subject of the photo. This seems only fair I don’t mind how they use it unless its for profit witch is a different kettle of fish. Anyway I as ever digress, I’ve always felt a bit funny when people re edit my photos. The problem is you never know what there going to do to it and there is always a chance they will do something that makes it look dreadful and then credit you making you look bad despite there good intension its a difficult subject to bring up with people. Luckily so far I’ve been very lucky in fact one of my images from Telford was picked up by a cosplayer and digital artist who took some of my shots and re worked them making them look amazing. I would of never thought to have edited it in that way so many interesting elements. I have to say seeing my work taken to a different level is a warm feeling you should check out her deviant art page As ever full set available on flickr enjoy…

Posted in Advise and Tips, Cosplay, Foxy, Masquerade, Photography, Photoshop | Tagged , , | Leave a comment