Cosplay photoshoot: Black★Rock Shooter

Cosplay photoshoot: Black★Rock Shooter

Well, processing took some time, but at last I can unveil the shots from the Black Rock Shooter photoshoot, executed on 22 October 2011 (Saturday). Starring Madara as Black★Rock Shooter, Kaiya as BRS Kaito ver, and Nadleeh as Black★Devil Girl. We shot at an abandoned warehouse for the grungy look that we were seeking for this particular work.

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Having previously run an art blog, I had some insight into how huke, the original illustrator for BRS, did his artwork. Of course, as an illustrator, he can do whatever he likes, draw whatever environment he wants, etc. But having some knowledge of his process allowed me to start with a general concept of how I want the final pictures to look.

But as with any shoot, the process starts with research. I knew, for instance, that most of the original illustrations for BRS have lighter tones, like turquoise/green types of colours, and deep blacks, as well as a grunge type texture, and of course, the iconic checker pattern.

A checker pattern was not viable in this case. I also made a judgement call to synchronise my blues and colouring with that used in the PVC figure, while still desaturating skin tones and having minimal shading in my lighting. The idea is how the original art can be translated into photos in a way that fitted with my own restrictions (skill, equipment, etc). Thus I allowed a bit of leeway for interpretation.

Translating concept to reality

So I went into the shoot with an idea of the final look in mind. I set up the lights and exposed accordingly. I wanted high contrast between the whites and blacks, so I set up very controlled lights with the aim of lighting the cosplayers only with minimal spillage to the background and surroundings, allowing me to effectively darken the ambient.

I also set up coloured accents: blue for BRS, green for Black Devil Girl which would provide rim lighting for the cosplayers, and also splash colours on the background so we don’t have everything black. Later on, I mixed in other colours (blue with green, purple with blue) to provide even more points of interest.

Keeping in mind the minimal skin shading on the characters in the original illustration, my light modifiers were chosen for their capability to provide even lighting, while still providing a quick drop off to shadows (something an umbrella cannot do).

As a final touch, I shoved another blue light into the cannon. This happened on whim, but it worked quite effectively, though you can definitely tell by the shape of the light that it’s a speedlight. For the curious, that’s a YongNuo YN-460II. My workhorse is the YN560 which has more features and is more powerful, but the smaller 460II fitted nicely into the cannon – something the 560 wouldn’t have been able to do.

The shoot

The shoot itself, since it was among friends, was very fun. True to form, the location was very dirty, but we also had paint flaking off the cannon and the chains, as well as hot and humid weather, and very annoying mosquito swarms. All of which meant a lot of tolerance on the part of everyone involved. I personally really wanted a shower by the time the shoot finished.

Part of the problem of using such controlled lighting is that when the cosplayers move, or change poses, the lights also need to move so they are properly lit. Even more so than normal, it was important to check the shots on the screen and provide clear instructions on posing, not just for the characters, but also for optimum lighting.

The post-processing

Post-processing was particularly heavy for this shoot, due to the original concept.

Because we had time after the shoot, we sat down with my laptop and the cosplayers selected the first round of photos. I then culled these down in accordance with my normal process.

I tweaked the colours around in Lightroom to get the lighting the way I wanted, then it was a matter of diving into each photo in Photoshop. I sourced flames and also a rust texture from CGTextures. On average, each image had three or four layers: one (set to Overlay blending) for the texturing, another two for the flames from the eyes, and another for skin cleanup. Non-destructive masking was used on the layers to tweak their coverage.

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