Cosplay photoshoot: Nurarihyon no Mago

Cosplay photoshoot: Nurarihyon no Mago

The third and final shoot for this pre-SMASH! day for zimiel and Karen was for the characters Nurarihyon and Setsura from Nurarihyon no Mago. Having planned the sequence and locations of the shoots, we shot at a bamboo forest, the same one I used for the League of Legends Ahri, which was a walk down from the location we used for Angel Sanctuary.

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While the cosplayers went to get changed, Takuya and I went about setting up for the shoot. I already had a fairly good idea of the sort of look I wanted for this shoot – something dark and warm, with red as accent. So to prep for the shoot, I had bought some cheap fairy lights on ebay, as well as some red lanterns with LED lights to put inside them. The fairy lights are LED-based, pretty bright, and are driven by 3 AA batteries, which is very handy.

Because the bamboo forest is located on a slope, Takuya had a critical job in ensuring the key light (a gridded beauty dish with a CTO gel inside) was stable. I used cable ties to strap red and green-gelled flashes to bamboos (basically using the bamboos as light stands), which would provide background lighting for atmosphere.

During the shoot, I used a left-over strand of fairy lights in front of my lens to provide the foreground bokeh that you see in some shots. Thank you to Takuya (ordained Bokeh-Master) for the help with that too!

Thank you to the cosplayers and Takuya for your patience and help! It was certainly not the easiest of shoots, especially at the end of a long day, but I believe the results speak for themselves.

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Define: Photographer

Some of you might have noted that for many shoots, I play a part in supplying the props. Is it the role of the photographer to supply props?

If you were at the presentation I did at SMASH!, you might have noted the point about lighting becoming a prop in shoots. But that is only one part of the “extended duties” of a photographer, especially a cosplay photographer working individually.

Because there is a widely-held misconception about what photographers are, and it is this misconception that leads to photographers unconsciously limiting their own development, and for less-informed cosplayers or outsiders to devalue the work of photographers.

What photographers are (and are not)

Photographers are not human tripods. We are not simple button pushers. We are not simply sources of pictures taken with high-end equipment.

In short, we are not peripherals used simply as a means for fulfilling the artistic vision of others.

Photographers are camera operators and lighting riggers. We are location scouts, researchers, and set builders. We are co-producers and co-directors, editors and retouch artists.

We are autonomous artists, who come to the table with an artistic vision.

As a photographer with a compelling picture stuck in our imagination, it is our responsibility to make that happen, and it is in that pursuit that I have spent long hours and countless dollars.

So yes, if that vision requires a supply of props or exotic equipment, it is our role to get those in place, either by individually obtaining them, or negotiating to share costs and responsibility.

Raw supply brouhaha

If you are a cosplayer engaging a photographer, you should do so because you respect and like their artistic vision. A photographer’s artistic vision includes the whole package, from composition to lighting to posing to post-processing.

The fun part is to bring your own vision and create something which is the product of both the cosplayer and the photographer’s creativity. Negotiation and communication throughout every stage of the process is what makes that happen.

So yes, by all means suggest framing, lighting, effects, lens choices, poses and post-processing techniques, if you have opinions about those. A good photographer will be open to those suggestions, and will let you know what works and what does not. But at the same time, do not start micromanaging the work of the photographer. We’re not tripods.

Since I view post processing as a key part of the photographer’s creative process, that translates to a simple, but direct stance that photographs which have not been culled or post-processed by me are considered half-complete works, from my own standpoint as an artist.

Cosplayers have the right to control their image which is propagated to the outside world. It stands to reason that photographers should also have the right to control which of their photographs are presented to the outside world (culling process), and that these photographs are completed to their standards (post-processing).

Process as solution, aka: The Rules

By far, my preference is to go through the following process:

  • Review photos with cosplayers, cosplayers eliminate photographs that they deem as unflattering.
  • Second review as a photographer. Eliminate lacklustre photographs.
  • Post-processing, with consideration for cosplayers’ suggestions (if provided).
  • Send high-resolution outputs to cosplayers for further edits if requested.
  • Inspect and approve final product.
  • Release.

I have, and I do supply raw files to select cosplayers. But they are subject to very strict rules:

  • You must subject the photographs to a rigorous culling process which includes not just your considerations as a cosplayer, but also the technical aspects of focus, lighting and composition. If you simply batch convert all my raw files into JPGs and post them up, you have breached this rule, and pretty much all the other rules.
  • You must have the ability to edit and adjust the exposure, contrast and colours of the photographs in a consistent and accurate manner. In many cases, this means you will need intermediate capabilities in Photoshop or similar software, and colour calibrated monitors.
  • You must post-process the photographs and correct for optimal exposure and colour balance levels. If you post up under- or over-exposed photographs “because that’s how they were taken”, you have breached this rule. If you post up photographs where the white balance and colour cast are deficient, you have breached this rule.
  • Because the files from raw will not have my watermark on them, you have responsibility ensure that every place that the photographs are published in credits and links back to my site, as the photographer. This includes magazines, blogs, social media postings and pages, Deviantart, etc.
  • Finally, any photographs that you have processed from my raw source, and that you wish to publish online (or elsewhere) must first be run by me for my approval. Any corrections or deletions I request must be honoured.

I’m pretty friendly, and I tend to keep my opinions to myself. But I do notice breaches of these rules because I check most social media and artistic community sites rigorously. If I notice repeated breaches on the part of certain cosplayers, I will stop supplying raws to them.

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