Word of the Nerd is pleased to present to you a new spotlight feature, our Photographer Spotlight, where we highlight photographers in the cosplay and nerd community. We’ll be featuring both well known and up and coming photographers from all over, so check it out and you may find some new talent in your area, or maybe just a new favorite to follow.
About Cozpho Photography
Hi guys! My name is Nikita Kieselowsky, also known as Nikita Sky and Cozpho Photography. I’m 26 and a crazy cat lady in training with way too many jobs and hobbies, one of them being taking photos. I’m based out of New Jersey, but I do travel to NY and PA quite often. Having a family farm in the Poconos made me more of a country girl, but I enjoy shooting in the city as often as I can.
How did you first get into cosplay photography?
I started out as a cosplayer and made a bunch of friends in the community. We started hanging out more and more, and we were cosplaying together outside of conventions. One winter we did Katekyo Hitman Reborn! together, and decided to take photos. I used my friends Nikon and realized…I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed making people happy with the photos I took. I started saving for my own camera and bought a Canon Rebel T3i for my birthday as a gift to myself. It’s a camera I used for 5 years before upgrading, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Are you self-taught or did you go to school for photography?
Completely 100% self-taught. I got some pointers from a few photographers I’ve gotten to know, but besides that, I taught myself everything I know with the power of Google. I’m sure I’ve done a few hundred hours of research on photography over the past few years.
Do you shoot cosplay for fun or is it a paying job?
It’s a little bit of both. I do shoot weddings and events, but I also REALLY like having my friends dress up for me so I can practice. I do a lot more unpaid shoots than paid shoots, that’s for sure.
What equipment do you use?
TOYS. I have so many photography toys. My babies are a Canon Rebel T3i and an 80D. My go to lens is my 18-35mm f/1.8, but I use my nifty-fifty ( 50mm f/1.8) and my 85mm f/1.4 often depending on the type of shoot I’m doing. I have about 5 Yong Nuo iii flashes I’ve acquired over the years, as well as several sets of cheap color gels to use with them. I’ve also used my car’s headlights as a light source if that counts?
Do you shoot “on site” or do you only shoot at conventions?
I do both, but I have to say I enjoy shooting on site more. I have a lot more freedom with what I can do, what angles I can use, where I can stand, etc. Plus I love bringing characters to life, and, for me, the setting helps that quite a bit. Cosplayers can literally BE the characters and be able to interact with their surroundings. (Plus there’s a lot fewer people to avoid.)
As much as I love on site shoots, I take great pride in taking a photo that doesn’t look like it was taken at a convention, even if it was. I will take a lot of time finding a good location and proper lighting to make an area look the way I want.
Is there one photo that defines you as a photographer, or a photo you took that felt like the defining moment in your growth?
I guess it would be when I shot my friend Kitsunesqueak’s Kenshin I think it’s because I had so many colors and action I could work with, I was able to get several shots that we all adored. I started editing the photos to look more like a movie because that’s how I was seeing it in my head when I shot it. Plus it was a series we both adored.
Do you have a defined style? If so, describe.
My style is….. adaptive. But cinematic. I try to bring a literal scene to life, and I love movement, but my actual process changes on a case to case basis. Sometimes I use soft, natural light, sometimes it’s crazy flashes. Either way, I don’t think I’ve stopped developing who I am as a photographer just yet. I just do what I believe feels right and take the situation in stride. You never know what could change.
Are there any photographers who inspire you/you look up to?
He’s not really a cosplay photographer, though he HAS done it, Von Wong makes dreams a reality. Each photo he takes is surreal and dramatic, with deeper meanings than just what you see in the photo. Before I was sure I wanted to be a photographer, his work inspired me, and he gave me tips on how to create my own style and build my portfolio. Basically, he’s why I continued doing what I’m doing.
What are your photography goals?
I would love to travel, but I would love to do something incorporating my other makeup and artistry skills. I love doing conceptual shoots, putting dramatic makeup on my friends, and coming up with ideas to make a reality.
What are your favorite/least favorite things about the cosplay community? The photography community?
Oh, gosh. Can I go into my pet peeves? As a cosplayer, I don’t like when the photographer won’t give me direction. I can think of several photos that I would love if the photographer had told me I had a double chin or my wig was crooked. As a photographer, I REALLY don’t like when people ask me if I can “just fix this little thing in post.” I don’t mind getting rid of a couple of pimples or stray hairs, but I’ve had someone literally ask me to Photoshop part of their costume on because they couldn’t make it in time.
As far as the community goes, there’s too much hate. I’ve seen friendships get destroyed and people give up their passion, on both sides. I don’t want to say too much on the matter, but it makes me incredibly sad.
Do you have a dream shoot you would like to do?
Anything underwater with flowing fabric, or any shoot with animals. I don’t have a dream shoot, really. Maybe capes? Literally just pretty and badass things.
What about cosplay inspires you the most?
The fact that you can basically mold yourself to become another person entirely. You are giving everything you are to a series and a character that you connect to, and I find that amazing. When walking around a convention, you can find someone else from that series and KNOW you have a common interest. It can make for some fun friendships!
What is your biggest obstacle in cosplay photography?
The crowds. I have severe depression and anxiety, so having crowds around me during shoots can sometimes wear me down SO MUCH that I can’t focus on what I’m doing and don’t get a shot I like. Last year, I tried NYCC and had to leave because of a major panic attack. So I avoid doing shots at a convention for this reason. I’d rather pass on the possibility, for the chance to shoot someone outdoors. More room to breathe, and I can enjoy it and focus more.
Have you learned any life lessons from being a cosplay photographer?
Be patient. Everyone has their weaknesses, and their strengths, but not everyone knows how to use them. Communication is the key to creating something you are proud of, so don’t be afraid to ask for constructive criticism when you’re not sure of what you’re doing. Also, be willing to help others.
Do you have any golden rules you’d like to share with photographers who are just starting out?
Practice, practice, PRACTICE. I was not good at photography overnight, and I still have a lot to learn. Find what you love doing, and do it until you’re proud of it. Then push your limits and try something new. You never know, you could find something you love outside of your comfort zone!
What is the worst thing a cosplayer can do when dealing with a photographer?
Disrespect. Don’t do it. Want to edit a picture further? Ask. The photographer says no? Then don’t do it. Yes, it’s a photo of you. But you don’t own the photo. And make sure you credit who is taking the photo, EVEN IF the site you are using “cropped the logo out” when you used it as a profile photo.
Is there anything that would make you stop shooting cosplay?
I’ll probably always do it in one way or another. But if conventions become too expensive, I would stop going to them. I would never stop bringing characters to life, it’s way too much fun. Even if it’s just with friends.
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