We here at JoypadAndMe have always been a strong supporter of the cosplay scene, featuring many different cosplayers from around the world and some of their costumes and creations. An important aspect of any good cosplayer has to be the photographer they use for their shoots. Sometimes it seems, the photographers get forgotten about or their hard work is not brought to the forefront as often as maybe it should be and we feel that we can do something to rectify that. We have seen Nicole’s work on this website before in the form of Nikkie Lamb’s interview and cosplay gallery and we thought it was high time to have a chat to the woman behind the camera and get her views on cosplay, photography and the thought and process that goes into a cosplay shoot and the eventual final product.
What got you interested in the world of cosplay and to make it a focus of much of your photography?
I have always been interested in cosplay before I even got a camera, I had seen it becoming more popular and I started following a few cosplay photographers on Facebook. I was never all that interested in shooting cosplay to start off with, I knew I wanted to shoot people but photographing cosplay never crossed my mind until Nikkie Lamb messaged me on Facebook asking if I would do a shoot with her of her Juliet Starling cosplay, this was her first cosplay and my first cosplay shoot! After that I just kept getting asked by cosplayers if I would do a shoot with them, cosplay was never my soul focus but it just seemed to become the main thing I did.
What was the first camera that you used when you became more serious with your photos rather than just the usual snaps most people take?
My very first camera I got was a Nikon D3200, I still have it, and I only stopped using it in October 2015 when it got damaged and I had to replace it.
What equipment ie. Cameras, flashes etc do you use for a photo shoot and what would you say are the most important pieces of equipment to consider?
The equipment I use on location is very minimal, it’s literally just my camera and sometimes a reflector. (As photography equipment is expensive the expansion of my location equipment is very slow). As for the studio equipment, these are the university studios so I’m limited to what they have in them, they are very well kitted out. They contain: three five hundred watt and a single one thousand watt flash head. The make of which are all Bowens. The use of fixtures and how many lights I use depend on what I am shooting.
The most important piece of equipment to me is my camera, without that I wouldn’t be able to capture the image. I’ve always said that it isn’t the camera which makes the photographer, for example, you could have a top of the range £10,000 worth of camera, but if you don’t know how to use it you’ll never produce the images you want! Learn how to use your camera to its full potential, this is the most important thing. The camera I use now is a Nikon D7100.
Which would you consider to be more important when putting together a cosplay shoot, camera skill or creative imagination?
These are both very important when I comes to a cosplay photoshoot. You need to be good with your camera to produce the quality image the cosplayer is expecting you to produce, but you will also need to be imaginative, cosplayers don’t always want the same boring shots you see, they want something that captures the essence of the character they are cosplaying. If you are looking to edit your image after taking the photographs, you will also have to plan out that image in your head and shoot the image with editing in mind.
With so many different cameras on the market ranging from the classic pocket digital camera, through to the more advanced bridge camera and the wide variety of slr and dslr cameras, is the choice as important as the industry would have us believe?
I wouldn’t say the choice is so important, I do use a DSLR but that’s because it’s my personal choice. I know a lot of amazing photographers that use Compact System Cameras instead of DSLRs and they produce just as stunning images as those who choose to use DSLRs! It’s all up to personal choice and then learning how to use your own equipment to its full advantage.
When setting up and taking a particular photograph, do you consider the editing process before taking the shot or do you look at the photos after the initial shoot with regards to editing?
With my editing it is very minimal, I don’t spend hours and hours in Photoshop doing a composite image as I’m not very good at them and I don’t have the patience! But I do love those photographers who do this, they look amazing and I hope to start trying to do that soon. So because of this no I don’t consider my editing when taking my photos at the moment, in the future when planning to do composite images I will then have to plan my images in advance.
What editing software do you use and what general steps do you take when you work on your photography?
I only use Lightroom at the moment to edit my photos. It’s easy and simple software to use and cuts my editing time down a lot.
The general steps I use when editing is pretty much: I sort out all the images into the ones I like (generally I take around 200 images per cosplay and I whittle these down to around 20/25) you always end up with a few of the same pose etc. I then just adjust curves, colours and my white balance until I am happy with the look of my image and I do the same for all the images in the set adjusting things accordingly to that image.
Are there any lessons you have learnt through your experience as a cosplay photographer that you could pass on?
Yes, researching the character before the shoot is one of the most important things you can do. Especially if you don’t know the character. I make Pinterest boards for all my cosplay shoots beforehand. I’d also say if wanting to do a location shoot, go and research the location, go and see it for yourself, don’t just Google it and look at it on a screen go and see it before the shoot. It may look lovely on Google but as soon as you see It you might decide it isn’t the right place for that character or it wasn’t as good as you expected.
How important for you is the cosplayer you are photographing to be involved in the way you shoot them? Have you ever had a cosplayer try to take over the shoot?
I’ve never had a cosplayer try to take control of the shoot. Generally its more of a collaboration, we both come with a set of ideas and we try to get all the shots we both want. I’ve worked with people before when I have had to give all the direction and it was very hard to think of ideas by myself. I try to persuade my models to make a Pinterest board themselves then I can look at it and see if we are on the same wavelength.
Do you have any influences or people you look up to or take notice of their work within the cosplay and the photography world in general?
Most of my inspiration for my shoots comes from other photographers. I’m really into my fashion photography as well so a few of my inspirations are fashion photographers. My favourite photographers have to be: Emily Soto, Saffels Photography and Hanny Honeymoon, there are loads more but I can’t think of them off the top of my head!
Which do you prefer, shooting outside in the open or in a studio style setting indoors?
I much prefer shooting outdoors, you are free to find your own location which is sometimes what makes the whole shoot, and it’s one of my favourite parts about location shooting as I get to find some of the prettiest places. I do like shooting in a studio I just find it very limited to what you can do in them, they are defiantly a winter thing for me!
You have a unique perspective when it comes to cosplay photography as you are a cosplayer yourself, does this in any way effect the type of photos or the settings for your photographs?
Nope, this doesn’t affect my style of photographer in anyway, I was a photographer before I was a cosplayer. I try to do justice to my models character so the locations picked are always what I feel is best fitting for the character that is being shot.
Is it difficult to make the change between photographer and cosplay model or can you blend the two when on a shoot?
Personally I’ve not worked with many photographers. Most of the shots of my cosplays are at cons. When I have worked with photographers in the past, I let them tell me what to do as they all have different styles from me and I can’t see what they see. This being said being a photographer myself has made me very picky with which photographers I want to work with. For example, with my Cinderella cosplay I contacted a few non-cosplay photographers (who are mostly wedding photographers) about doing shoots with them!
Sexualisation is always a talking point when it comes to cosplay and in particular female cosplayers and their costume creations. What are your views on the subject?
I have been accused of over sexualising females within my photography but I disagree with them. Generally my view on this is simple, if the cosplayer is making an exact replica of the character they choose to cosplay and the character just so happens to be a “sexy” character then that’s fine. My problem is when people make a character “sexy” which wasn’t in the first place.
Does this ever influence the way you take photos? Have you ever looked at a costume or a shot/pose and thought how it might be looked at by the general public?
Not really, I do poses which fit the cosplayer’s character, and what poses the cosplayer I am shooting is comfortable with doing. There are always going to be people who don’t like what you do so I do what I feel looks best and that’s how I’ve always worked.
You’ve worked a lot with Nikkie Lamb, a cosplayer we have already featured on our site and it seems that you both have a very good working relationship. How do you feel this affects both your and her side of the photos that you two create?
We’ve a very good relationship with each other, being good friends outside of shooting together does help this, we always have a laugh and have fun on our shoots. She’s very comfortable around me which helps a lot when shooting her as it makes for a very relaxed kind of shoot. I wouldn’t say this effects our photos all too much as I do try to make all my models feel comfortable and relaxed when shooting with me, just when shooing with Nikkie I don’t need to try it comes naturally. We also have similar opinions on what we want out of the shoots, so she always likes the end results.
You’ve recently posted photos with Nikkie Lamb from a more boudoir, lingerie style, how did this choice come about? Were there any different considerations than when doing a cosplay shoot?
This was something Nikkie wanted to do. She came to me a while ago asking if we could do it, we just never had the facilities to do so up until now. For shooting this, it wasn’t much different to doing a cosplay shoot. Obviously there are other things to take into account but I guess I already knew what I wanted to do from following boudoir photographers and doing some research beforehand. It just came naturally.
How has the feedback from these particular photographs been?
Very positive, I’ve never advertised myself as only a cosplay photographer so I think it was refreshing to see and do something new other than cosplay.
Editor: We have chatted to Nikkie Lamb alongside Nicole about this shoot as well as what she has been up to recently and you can find that interview by following this link right HERE.
What have you got planned for 2016 and are there any characters or types of photograph that you would like to shoot given the chance?
I’ve a few things planned for 2016 just nothing as dates yet! Me and Nikkie Lamb have discussed going to Chatsworth house in Derbyshire and shooting all her Disney cosplays here, which is something I’d really like to do. I’d love to try more composite photos this year, maybe more non-cosplay shoots as well. We’ll have to see what 2016 brings me!
What words of advice would you like to pass on to both aspiring cosplayers looking to take part in photo shoots as well as photographers looking to make their mark in cosplay photography and photography in general?
Just do it! 3/4 years ago I quit my forensic science degree at university and with my last student loan I bought a camera. Up until September 2015 I was entirely self-taught and didn’t think I’d ever make it to where I am now. I applied to university for a degree in photography thinking I’d never get a place as I never did art at an academic level before, and I got an unconditional offer I’m now at university studying a subject I love.
If you are a cosplayer or budding photographer and not sure if you’d be any good at it, I was in that same boat! If you want to do it go and do it! It might take you a while to get your foot in the door but just don’t give up and keep doing it and you’ll soon think back and think “why was I so scared of doing that?” JUST DO IT!
Are there any people you would like to mention or thank?
I’d like to thank, Nikkie Lamb, Pixie Cakeface and EeVee Cosplay for letting me photograph them this whole time. Seriously without you guys I wouldn’t be where I am today!
I’d like to also thank Nikkie Lamb separately for giving me the chance to shoot with her, her first ever cosplay showing me how fun it can be to shoot cosplay and never letting me give up when I thought my photography was going nowhere or wasn’t good enough. Telling me to stick at it, and that it is!
I’d also like to give a massive shout out to James and Ryan (mine and Nikkie’s pack mules aka boyfriends) they’ve helped out with SO many of our shoots and without them we wouldn’t of been able to do some of the shoots, have some of the shots we have or of even make it to the locations. They are our biggest fans and support us through everything we’ve done!
Thank you to everyone who continues to support me, it keeps me going and helps me to continue to do what I do and not give up.
You can check out Nikkie Lamb and EeVee Cosplay right here on JoypadAndMe as we have featured both these cosplayers already. The links can be found below
We would like to thank Nicole for taking the time to chat to us and share her thoughts and experiences. As you can see, her range of photos are an amazing collection and we recommend that you take some time out and head over to FaceBook to have a look at her page. The link is below.
If you are a cosplayer, cosplay costume creator or photographer, or know one that you would like to see featured here at http://www.JoypadAndMe.com then please get in contact with us at Graham@JoypadAndMe.com