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.
Hi, my name’s Philip, and I go by the handle of Knightmare6. I’m based in the City of New York, but I occasionally travel to conventions along the Northeast of the United States. I usually shoot in the New York City tri-state region, but also venture into Philadelphia.
How did you first get into cosplay photography?
I was already doing photography outside of cosplay, but it was geared towards industrial use photos for inspectors and site inspections, so cosplay was a welcome deviation from my normal subjects at the time.
Are you self-taught or did you go to school for photography?
I’m mostly self-taught, although I retained some of the basics from a Photography course in college. The course itself dealt with black-and-white film and was before digital photography was a thing. According to my professor, I was always good at photo compositions, but when I came back into digital photography, I had to learn how to use the different camera modes and get used to shooting digital vs. traditional film.
Do you shoot cosplay for fun or is it a paying job?
I shoot cosplay for fun primarily, though nowadays I do also do a lot of paid shoots, as well as collaborations. My priority, however, is to shoot for projects I feel excited and motivated for.
What equipment do you use?
I’m shooting on a Canon 5D Mark II primarily, and most of my lenses are Canon. Majority of my photos for cosplay are shot on a Canon 24-105/f4, and if I’m using a flash, it’s most usually an off-wall bounce thanks to my Canon 580 EXII with a MagSphere attachment. I rarely use additional slave lights, but if I do, it’s a pair of Canon 480 EX II’s, and the occasional circular 5-in-1 reflector.
Do you shoot “on-site” or do you only shoot at conventions?
I do a lot of cosplay photography on-site at a convention, as well as outside of conventions. Main limiting factor is usually laws and permits, when outside of a convention.
Is there one photo that defines you as a photographer, or a photo you took that felt like the defining moment in your growth?
Not particularly, although people still comment on a shoot I did with the cosplayer, Siryn, years ago, where she was cosplaying Poison Ivy from “The New Batman Adventures,” and we were shooting in an abandoned area that was overgrown with greenery.
Do you have a defined style? If so, describe.
I don’t have a defined style because I like to play and experiment with different editing techniques and outputs. I can easily take similar photos from a shoot and make one bright and sunny, while another photo with the same lighting and composition might be dark and gloomy after I’m done editing.
Are there any photographers who inspire you/you look up to?
I do admire some of the work by many Russian photographers/digital artists, just because of how smooth and noiseless their photos are, such as Pugoffka, Mariya Kozhanova, & Dzikan.
What are your photography goals?
My main goal is to continue to enjoy creating photos that I can enjoy and be proud of, but if fame and money come along, I wouldn’t be one to say “No thanks!” to it, but it’s not a priority.
What are your favorite/least favorite things about the cosplay community? The photography community?
As far as the least favorite thing, it’s the egos and sensitivity. A lot of cosplayers and cosplay photographers in the community have let their popularity and social media reach to get into their heads, and they start acting like celebrities, and people start becoming stepping stones, and it’s sadly pathetic and childish. I’ve seen popular cosplayers who are quick to judge others, but then when they get judged in return are all hurt and play the victim. Everyone’s a person in this community and they need to remember that. Everyone started a the bottom at one point or another, and in cosplay, a person can catapult to the top easily within a short period of time.
My favorite thing about the cosplay and photography community is the creativity and, once again, the fandom. It’s always great to see amazing photos produced by the digital artists and photographers that work on cosplay, as well as a number of detail cosplayers put into some of the more intricate cosplays. It’s also easy to find others into the same series you are into, and you can easily lose track of time just chit-chatting about your favorite series.
Do you have a dream shoot you would like to do?
I’d love to experiment with underwater photography and cosplay more.
What about cosplay inspires you the most?
The thing I love most about Cosplay is the fandom. Cosplayers that are passionate about a character will go all-out and bring said characters to life, and those are the ones I like to shoot because they genuinely care about the character and the source material.
What is your biggest obstacle in cosplay photography?
The biggest obstacle in cosplay and cosplay photography will always be oneself. Sure finances play a part, but that’s if you play inside the box. One of the best things about cosplay and cosplay photography is figuring out how one can pull off that look. In the case of the photographer, it’s my own self-critique. I can easily look at a photo I published and start tearing it apart. The critiques can be like, “Oh I should’ve blended this part better!” or “Damn, I missed the focus here in this action pose!”
Have you learned any life lessons from being a cosplay photographer?
Nothing that I can think of off the top of my head, compared to everything else.
Do you have any golden rules you’d like to share with photographers who are just starting out?
Be patient with cosplayers, talk to them, learn about their characters and poses. Also make sure cosplayers can also bring some poses to the “table,” meaning the photo shoot. Too many fandoms for a photographer to know them all. Always credit everyone involved in your photo, from the cosplayer to the person flipping the capes. From prop makers to even the location. I’ve gotten free products and coupon codes from crediting, so remember that it doesn’t cost you anything but an extra minute or two, and may pay in the long-run.
What is the worst thing a cosplayer can do when dealing with a photographer?
Immediately start asking for photos. It takes time to edit photos, but my usual turnaround time is 1-2 weeks, along I like to deliver photos as I edit. When doing shoots though, I make sure to let the cosplayers know this turnaround window and whether they want to wait for a bulk release of the photos or if they’d rather have them sent as I edit, Most prefer to get them as I edit, that way they have something to immediately show, so to speak.
Crediting is another thing. Always please credit your photographer, and double-check with your photographer before the photo is entered into any contests, galleries, calendars, and such. The photographer owns the copyright, not you, the cosplayer. Even if the watermark is there, still credit them in the captions of the photo, and tag them, if possible.
Is there anything that would make you stop shooting cosplay?
Death. Lack of a camera? Loss of my eyesight? I enjoy cosplay photography, it’s me being able to envision my fandom come to life.
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