So GameStart Asia 2015 happened over the weekend and I am pretty sure those who went enjoyed themselves loads! There was just a lot to do over a period of two days, and I only got a chance to experience just one day due to work! I managed to squeeze in a few shots of some cosplayers here.
Held in the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre from the 13th to 15th November 2015 (13th being a closed door event for invited guests/media personnel only), GameStart Asia 2015 was a hell of a memorable experience.
Being a premium gaming convention, event-goers can expect cool loot/merch/swag, massive multiplayer tournaments, grand trailers and sneaks of upcoming games and movies on big screens, and gaming software/hardware demos. I even got to try out the Star Wars: Battle Pod machine which has never been released in Singapore.
But what sort of convention would GameStart Asia be without the presence of cosplayers and their epic props and costumes?
It would still be an amazing experience, but seeing cosplayers among the event-goers definitely added a lot more depth and colour. Whenever interaction between a cosplayer and an event-goer happens, the event would feel more alive and personal. Imagine having a little chat with your favourite character? Or just seeing your favourite character come alive right before you?
Some of the more recognizable characters cosplayed by cosplayers include special guest Acanthastar Cosplay‘s Tracer and Angelus of The Neo Tokyo Project‘s Symmetra from Blizzard Entertainment‘s upcoming Overwatch, Alexander’s Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Kiellne’s Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. There’s just too many to mention!
Annie, are you OK? Are you OK? Are you OK, Annie?
But who are cosplayers? What makes them… them?
They are generally hobbyists who take their creativity and passion to a whole new level by dressing up to look like their favourite pop-culture characters. Some create their own costumes and props painstakingly and even go into character to complete the look and feel. Forget your Halloween party-costumers. This is a different league of costuming altogether!
I have worked with many cosplayers ever since I started photography a few years ago and they never cease to amaze me with their attention to detail and intense love for their craft.
Anyway, I have decided to write this post because people were interested in my personal thoughts – namely, my ideas for the top 5 ways of getting epic images out of cosplayers at cosplay events such as GameStart Asia, Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC), International Cosplay Day Singapore (ICDS), Cosfest ASIA, Anime Festival Asia, etc.
There are other cosplay events too as cosplay has become an important and recognizable aspect of our pop-culture. Plus, I usually stick to GameStart Asia, ICDS and STGCC for the games and western/gaming cosplays (I relate to them more since I am more into gaming than anime).
Before you start reading my Top 5 Ways of How to Get Epic Images at a Cosplay Event, you might want to check out my previous article 10 Ways to be a Better Cosplay Photographer first.
This post also follows my personal experience of doing impromptu photoshoots of some cosplayers within GameStart Asia’s area (including the interiors of the hall and the area outside the perimeter) armed with only a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, a Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM and a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM and an iPhone 5S’s LED light for auto-focusing assist. I did not use my speedlights for this event (I wanted to challenge myself).
Hopefully, the following 5 ways will help you in your quest to get epic photos from cosplay events.
Here, I was telling Anakin what would happen if he turned over to the Dark Side of the Force. Or was it an instruction to lean forward? I can’t remember! Photo by Darkon Lore, used with permission.
#1: Do the shoot away from the crowds – DigitalRev recently ran an article which showed some photographers taking cosplayers away from busy convention halls and taking waaaaaay better photos. I know how we love being a part of the crowd, but chances are, you wouldn’t want to have other event-goers in your shots.
It would be weird if Captain America was striking a battle pose, ready to take on Bucky, when Bob was just standing there in the background with his own camera, grinning. No amount of bokeh can save you unless you really want to clone Bob out.
If you had done cosplay photography in event halls, you would also notice that the moment you stop a cosplayer for a shot, a wall of photographers would form even faster than you could say chotto matte kudasai in an exasperated manner, complete with exaggerated sweat droplets.
That could be difficult for you and the cosplayer because the cosplayer would be trying to cater to many photographers including yourself.
Advice on top of an advice: You do not want to be labelled as a selfish or a creepy photographer so do seek the cosplayer’s permission to take him or her elsewhere for a shot and make sure the cosplayer was not in the midst of a photoshoot with another photographer. Respect the other photographers too! When asking the cosplayer if he or she would like to go elsewhere, take their answers seriously. If the answer is ‘no’, move on. Respect his or her wishes. If the answer is ‘yes’, make sure you are prepared for the shots too so you won’t take up too much of the cosplayer’s time.
Left my iPhone 5S with my assistant Raymond and he had to take a selfie… fifty times. Is he celebrating SG50 in his own way? But check out all that purple.
#2: Know your equipment well; get that white balance RIGHT! – Shooting in GameStart Asia’s main hall was a challenging affair. The ambient lighting was generally purple, and it was really dark with the occasional roving spotlights creating patches of well-lit areas that get hidden in the shadows just as quick.
You get purple skin, purple highlights in the hair, purple everything.
It’s like Barney the Dinosaur was stuffed into your camera.
You have to get your white balance settings right so you won’t have to fix it so much in post (not like that’s bad but it’s just extra work, yes?). Or at least get as close as you can.
Depend less on the Auto White Balance function. Try to get your WB right manually before you approach the cosplayers too so as not to waste time. Sometimes, I would use the Pocket Light Meter by Nuwaste studios on my iPhone 5S to get a head start with white balance reading. It’s not entirely accurate but it helps.
Work it such that you get accurate skin tones (or as close as you can) from the get go unless you are going for the ambient light’s effects.
Know what aperture and shutter speeds to go for. Modern DSLRs can handle high ISOs pretty well, but you don’t want to end up with too much noise either. A tripod and a speedlight/flash can help for desperate situations.
#3: Angles are your secret angels – When you go low enough, you might just be able to isolate the cosplayers from the crowd without exiting the busy event halls. Don’t be afraid to lie down but remember to be considerate. Do not lie down in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of a busy pathway.
Be careful of double chins too. You do not want to get unflattering shots. Communicate with he cosplayer. See how he is supposed to tilt his head or how she is supposed to twist her hips to get the most of the shot. See if you can get a nice ceiling to shoot too. Here’s the magic: The ceiling has become your new backdrop. But remember that the rules of composing in photography still apply unless you intentionally want to break them. Here is a good read for composing of shots.
For this shot of Theodora’s Catwoman from Batman: Arkham City, I had her stand and pose where the path of the spotlight would be. I also had us move to the sitting area in front of the main stage where it was emptier and people were unlikely to walk about.
Behind-the-Scenes photos taken by MizDesert on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Check out all that purple! Epic!
And this was how Catwoman looked like in the end in the event hall. She seemed excited at all the purple loot.
#4: Overexposure and cropping to isolate the subject – Other than bokeh, overexposure of the background and cropping of images can help remove unwanted backgrounds/distractions. Let’s get rid of Bob!
A little help from Adobe Lightroom to crop, edit and recover shadows can help an image work. It is best to know your trinity of camera controls – shutter speeds, ISO and aperture – well.
No reflector was used in the following image.
Before: Rocky Go stands ready to fight, with event-goers just chilling out in the background.
After: Rocky Go is ready to kick ass while the baby he is protecting continues to sleep.
If anyone is interested, here are the EXIF/settings for the before image:
Body: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Glass: Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM
Exposure: 1/50 sec at f2.8 ISO 1000
#5: HAVE FUN! Basically, don’t take things too seriously! – You gotta remember that at the end of the day, this is an event. Just like you, the cosplayer is here for the event too, not just to pose for photographs.
Everyone is here to enjoy themselves!
Even Anakin is here to enjoy himself even after turning to the Dark Side of the Force. Photo by Darkon Lore, used with permission.
As with all other photography assignments, be polite and treat your subject with respect.
Get the cosplayer to feel comfortable and to be at ease with you. Some cosplayers are veterans and would be more comfortable standing in front of the lens. Some may not be so and would require a bit more encouragement.
Stay positive! Words of encouragement help a lot. It works both ways – when you remain encouraging, the cosplayer gets to shine and you both get great photos at the end.
In post production/processing, go crazy! But make sure it puts the cosplayer(s) in a flattering light. Do composites, put them in believable atmospheres or environments that work with their characters. Go all out with special effects to make the images more epic!
Well, hopefully those 5 tips would help you loads. If you have any suggestion, feel free to leave a comment below! If you think this is helpful to other people, feel free to share with them!