Sunday, May 13, 2018

Standard Shoot

Last weekend I got to work with the lovely Vida Muerta on building her portfolio, with some standards.  Standard images are simple images with simple backgrounds (black, white, or gray) that encompass a head-shot/beauty shot, a ¾ length image, and full-length image that show off the model’s basic look.  

I did a simple two light set up for these photos with a grey backdrop (see left).  I used two Phottix Indra 500LC Strobes, one in a square soft box with grid and the other in a socked beauty dish set to the sides of the model.  I shot using my Canon 70D, an 18-200mm lens, and a radio trigger to activate the strobes.  I thought about shooting tethered, so there could be some instant feed back for my model, but my in-home studio is not conducive to corded tethered shooting.  So, in lieu of shooting tethered, half way through the shoot we stopped and reviewed the images and reviewed them again at the end of the shoot.

This is a note to models, do not be afraid to ask to review your shots especially if you feel like you are not understanding the direction being given by your photographer.  The benefit to being able to review your shots, is you can see what is and is not working.  As I mentioned I stopped half-way through the shoot with Vida Muerta to review the images to show her what I was seeing so we could discuss what was working and what wasn’t.   This led to more confident posing in the second part of the shoot resulting in more useable photos. I personally, do not mind stopping in the middle of studio shoot to review your images, especially if they are standards for a portfolio.   Also, this is very beneficial to new models so you can see how the poses you are using emphasize parts of your body and what you look like before the editing magic occurs.  I don’t do heavy re-touching on my images, no shrinking, warping, smoothing, or expanding of the body.  I just remove any blemishes that could go away on their own like zits or get rid of stray hairs and make-up flecks.  I do try to keep my images natural in that respect.  

During this shoot I took 191 shots, edited 34 main images doing both color and black &white images for 18 thus resulting in a grand total of 54 final edited images.  However, I only delivered 46 images, thus the return was 24 percent. This is a little below average for me, but I was being pickier then usual on these images.  I shot all the images using an ISO of 100 and an aperture of F5.6.  My shutter speed had an even distribution between 1/100s, 1/125s, and 1/160s.  Finally, my focal length did range from 18mm (one image) to 155mm (three images) with the sweet spot being between 32mm to 50mm.    It should be noted of the 46 images delivered, 13 were in black & white.  I placed them in black and white because it brought more attention to the models face and black & white was working very well for her and her style of posing.

My favorite image from the shoot (right) was when I told her to think 1920s rich tragic heroine. This image reminds me of an old Hollywood image.  The socked beauty dish, acting as the main light, was raised to the models left and pointed down towards her face.  The square soft box was to the models left and about even with face and about a ¼ of the power of the main light.  The image was shot using ISO 100, an aperture of f5.6, a shutter speed of 1/160s, and at focal length of 32mm.  I converted the image to black & white because that was direction the image and mood pointed me.  I also softened the image slightly to put a bit of a glow on the model’s skin.    

Finally, I will say when editing the images from this shoot it was very hard for me to stay away from a darker noir feel edit, because her dress, posing, and facial expression just were leading me that way.  Also, I tend to edit my images a bit to the darker side almost low key, as compared to a bright high key shot.  Thus, is was just difficult to do brighter images.  Overall, I’m happy with how this session turned out.  I also highly recommend working with Vida Muerta and supporting her on her modeling journey through her patreon site (

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Spring Shoot on a Farm

On April 21, I participated in my first fashion group shoot hosed by Allie Taylor Affairs at Barr Family Farms.  This is group event was different then previous group events I have participated in for three reasons, one it wasn’t a cosplay event; two I had to schedule specific times with the models that were attending the event in stead of just working at random; and three the event lasted all day compared to about three hours.   I enjoyed the event, except for the weather which was rather cold, breezy, and cloudy with the threat of rain.  However, since the sky was cloudy, I was able to capture moody skies as my background in several photos.  Finally, one of the nice items about this shoot, is that photographers that participated can submit their photos to RealmMagazine which will be running a special issue showcasing the event.  I did submit photos for consideration but will not know for a month or two if my submissions are to be included in the feature.

I worked with five models, providing clothing and prop pieces to four of them.  For two I provided a white lace dress from Enception Rentals and the other two worked with a large blue flower headdress that I made.  This worked out well, because it allowed me to slightly pre-plan the feel/concept of each shoot even though I was not sure what the farm would be like until I arrived on site.  As for equipment I brought a Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, two 430 EX–IIIRT speed lights, two Phottix Indra 500LC Strobes, radio trigger, C-Stand, painters pole, a collapsible beauty dish with sock, light grids, and a basic shoot through umbrella.  All this was hauled around on a rock-and-roller cart, pushed by my husband who acts as my trusty assistant.   I used one strobe on a light stand with the beauty attached and sock for two sessions, then had to switch to a gridded flash on a painter’s pole due to the threat of rain for the remainder of the sessions. I can slip a rain cover, which are just quart sized sandwich bags, over the flash units which I can’t do with the strobes.

I took 538 photos, edited 221 photos, and posted 207 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 38 percent, which is about average for my shoots. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100. I was using an aperture between f5 and f6.3, with 56 percent of the photos taken at an aperture of f5.6.  My focal length ranged from 18mm to 170mm, with most photos being taken between 18mm to 50mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/60s to 1/1000s with the about 53 percent of the photos taken at 1/320s.  This was the first shoot that I used my strobes, and I kept them at ¼ power or less to reduce or remove ambient light.  When I switched to my flashes I was pushing them at a ½ to full power depending on the location.  Overall, I’m happy with how the lighting worked out on this shoot with both the strobes and the flash. Though moving the strobe around on the C-stand is not as quick as moving around with a flash on a painter’s pole which made me change my shooting style slightly.  Because moving the strobe around was more difficult, I started to trying to maximize the location before moving to a new spot or pick locations were the model could use the location in a variety of ways.  In away it was a bit of a learning experience with the strobes, but it did not affect the quality of my photos.  Now we’ll talk about a few of my favorite shots, and you can see all the images here.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/320s, Focal Length 120mm 
This first shot is of Autumn wearing a blue flower headdress I made.  The headdress was inspired by ones I have seen online that cost hundreds of dollars.  This blue headdress cost me about 75 dollars to make.  Because of the headdress, I focused on doing beauty/head shots. Autumn was very nice to take beauty shots of because her skin was nice and she has beautiful blue eyes.  The girl new how to “smize” or smile with her eyes.  This shot is very close up, and I like how the flowers fill the frame drawing focus to her eyes. I shot this with a socked beauty dish mounted on a strobe pointed directly on at the model’s nose. During editing I softened the photo slightly by reducing the clarity and saturation. I also blurred the edges of the photo slightly to further soften it and bring more attention to her eyes.  

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/320s, Focal Length 20mm 

This second photo is of Nyla, wearing the blue headdress. Her soft blue dress was an excellent complement to the headdress.  I like this shot because it is soft yet powerful due to her softness and the moodiness of the sky.  I shot this image with gridded flash on painter’s pole, with the light to the photographer’s right. When editing the shot, I ensured that her face was properly light and bright to make it look like a sunbeam was hitting her.  I then went in and added fake rays of light, peaking through the clouds to emphasize the mood of the shot.   

ISO 100, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/60s, Focal Length 32mm 

This third photo is of Samantha. We shot most of her set in the barn, because it was cold and windy out and this got her out of the wind and cold.  For this shot I asked to think romance and soft. I had the gridded flash on the painter’s pole up and to the photographers left.  When editing the shot, I went dark and dramatic while keeping the seductive feel of the image.  I darkened most of the ambient, and tried to ensure just the model and immediate foreground was lit.  I also increased the saturation of the colors of the image to strengthen it.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/640s, Focal Length 50mm

This final image is Veronica.  I love this image because the dress, the background, the sky, and her posing brought this image together.  I feel the image could be on the front of a romance novel. The slightly rusted fence with the field in the background, the stormy looking sky and the wind-blown hair is what makes the image.  For this image, I had the gridded flash on the painter’s pole up and to the photographers left. When editing the image, I faded and slightly softened the image to give it a more romantic feel.  I also brightened her face slightly, to draw emphasis there. I also applied some soft color grading to the image.

Overall, I’m very happy with how the photos from the group shoot turned out. The models were a delight to work with and the farm provide an excellent backdrop for the shoot.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Nouveau Lady

This year at Katsucon I got to shoot a cosplay concept I have wanted to shoot for several years, a Hannah Alexander  design.  What makes these designs special in my opinion is that  HannahAlexander  takes a character, like a Disney Princess’s cloths and interprets its as art nouveau fashion. So, the character is re-imaged in a dress along the lines of a late 1910 and early 1920s evening gown. The designs are extremely intricate, beautifully colored, and just simply stunning.  Thus, I have been wishing to be able to shoot one of these cosplays.

At this recent Katsucon, I had the pleasure of working with Sara Cosplay who made the Hannah Alexandra version of Merida from Brave.  I have worked with Sara Cosplay several times in the past, and she does impeccable work.  She made this gown herself, including the intricate burn in designs on the velvet.  So, because of the cosplay and the cosplayer, I wanted to be able to do an elegant shoot that aligned more with the style of the dress then the Disney princess, which is hard to do at a very crowded convention with only handheld equipment. To pull the shoot off, required an assistant holding a light, finding non-crowded areas, and a little post processing magic.

I edited 84 photos and provided 66 final images. I shot with a focal length between 18mm – 35mm with the most common focal length being 18mm.  I used a shutter speed between 1/125s to 1/640s with the most comment speed being 1/640s to get rid of ambient light.  My aperture varied between f5.0 and f7.1, with most images being taken at f5.0.  I’m now going to discuss a few of my favorite images.

ISO 400, Focal Length 32mm, Aperture f5, Shutter Speed 1/320s
This first image (right) is my favorite because I think it captures the era and overall concept.  This image was shot in a hallway with several mirrors, the challenge with doing mirror shots is making sure you and your flash are not reflected in the mirror.  For this photo I as sitting on the ground with my camera, with a bounce mounted on the flash, my assistant was standing to my right with second flash held up above the model at an angle.  The flash to the right was considered the main, and the flash on camera was just fill.  When I pulled the shot in for editing, I cropped it to give it a long narrow appearance, balanced out the light and increased the clarity and contrast.  I then applied a baseline pre-set that faded out the photo slightly and gave it a more antique feel by toning the image.  From there I added some vignetting to finish the image off.

ISO 400, Focal Length 20mm, Aperture f5, Shutter Speed 1/320s

This seconded image (left) is very similar to the first except more of a close-up. I used the same exact lighting set up as the previous image. During editing I balanced out the light slightly faded the image.  I found using bold colors and strong clarity settings made the image lose its softness.  During the whole shoot I wanted to keep a softness and relaxed very 1920’s rich person lounging around the mansion feel to the image. I also feel her expression really worked for this image.  I added some brightness to her face, and then finished off the image with some vignetting.

ISO 400, Focal Length 20mm, Aperture f5, Shutter Speed 1/320s
This last photo (right) I just love. The light hit her perfectly and her expression is perfect. The photos in my opinion highlights a relax elegance.  The lighting set up as similar to that of the other two photos. When I brought it into light room to edit I balanced out the light then went in and increase the light hitting her face and upper body. I did this to make it appear more like a solid narrow stream of light was hitting her.  I then increase the clarity slightly and balanced the color out, due to the yellowness of this hallway.  From there I added some vignetting to finish off the image.

While I’m happy with the results of the shoot; I still feel I could have done this whole shoot better. (You can see all the images here.) I wanted to shoot a bit outside under this lovely little pergola but it was raining, icing, and snowing simultaneously during this shoot so outside was not an option. Also due to the weather everyone who was outside was now trying to come inside and due to it being peak hours for the convention it made it traversing the hallways and elevators extremely difficult and took up most of the shoot time.  I felt like I need a full 90 minutes for this shoot to work, because there were a few additional locations I would have loved to shoot at, but not the gazebo. Never, never the gazebo.  But, if I’m being truly honest with my self I would love to reshoot this session in studio with some antique props or a very nice park around sunset.  I love Hannah Alexander designs and hope to be able to shoot more of them in the future. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review of my First Ohio Convention

ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/20

On January 26 and 27, I attended my first convention in Ohio, Ohayocon, and have to say it is very different vibe from the Washington, DC conventions I attend.  First, I have to say getting my badge/wristband went relatively smoothly, parking didn’t seam to be an issue at the convention center it was held at, and the vendor room (after I found it) was spacious and didn’t feel congested.  However, I didn’t feel like there was the same level of energy, at this convention compared to the previous conventions I have gone to.   I was expecting the convention to be similar to something like AnimeUSA, small but lots of energy, collaboration, and, meeting new people and a fair bit of cosplay. I felt it was a little more like AwesomeCon (DC’s comic con) where people go panel to panel and there isn’t much cosplay but without the excitement and big-name guest of a comic con.  

ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm,
Aperture F8, Shutter 1/125s
I must admit I was expecting to see a lot of cosplay and photographers roaming around, since there were all these photo meet ups posted on the schedule but it didn’t seem like that at all. I went to a few locations were the photo meet ups were supposed to take place and didn’t see large groups of people, and it wasn’t obvious if a meet up was happening. Case in point, I went to the Lolita meet-up at the convention, since I like shooting Lolita, however when I arrived at the location there were Lolitas roaming around but no organizer or lead photographer.  I even asked who the organizer was, and no one spoke up.  I found it rather odd.  I did end up taking some group shots for the Lolitas and some individuals for those that asked.  Also, I’m used to conventions having an “it” spot or a hang-out spot where you could find most of the cosplayers.  If there is one at Ohayocon, I wasn’t able to locate it.

The other thing I found a bit odd, in comparison to previous conventions, was the lack of business card exchange.  Usually, I come home from a convention with a stack of business cards, so I can tag cosplayers in hall shots.  I came home with only one person’s cosplay card.  Now, I will admit I messed up slightly by not have my big stack of cards with me, but really my stack of about 30 cards was basically sufficient.  Usually, I go through at least 150 cards if not more at convention.  Also, most people I took hall shots of didn’t ask for cards or turned them down when I offered them.  In addition, I didn’t seem to see a lot of photographer. 

ISO 400, Focal Length 18mm,
Aperture F8, Shutter 1/30s

For the convention I brought my Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX–IIIRT flash, and a bounce attachment.  I figured this was my first time at this convention, I would check out the cosplay scene, go to a few of the meet ups, and focus on hall shots. I was expecting to take significantly more photos then I did. Overall, I ended up taking 112 photos and editing and posting 55 photos, which is significantly lower then other conventions where I’ll post around 180 or more photos just in edited hall shots and that is when I’m doing one-on-one shoots as well.    I was able to capture a few nice cosplays such as this Jedi photo above.  I have to say the middle Jedi is just nailing it. It all comes down to her eyes and the intensity behind them.  While all the cosplay’s in this group are exception and I would like to work with each of them individually sometime, the middle one is just nailing it for me.  I will also say this little Lolita (above left) was perfectly capturing the cute and innocent vibe.  I also like the girl doing Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6 (right). You can see all my edited photos from the convention here: Ohayocon 2018.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with Ohayocon. I’m hoping the other conventions in Ohio and the surrounding area are better and more along the lines of conventions I’m used to. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Queen of the Corn

On January 20, I did a lovely sunset shoot with Vida Muerta in a field of Concrete Corn in Dublin Ohio.  The field contains 109 ears of corn that are about 6 to 8 feet tall and are tribute to Sam Frantz the inventor of hybrid corn.  It is a very interesting field and in my opinion a great place for an artistic/editorial photo shoot.  The theme for this shoot started out as a noble unseelie fay crossed with Game of Thrones due to the shoot being in winter and the cold industrialized feel of the concreate corn.   To obtain the look, I rented a parachute dress and Vida Muerta enhanced the dress based on my mood board with horns; a flower crown; elf ears from AradaniStudios - Elf Ears, Costumes, and More; a staff from Nebuleux, LTD - FatedFires Collection (Dr. Dee); a corset from The Violet Vixen, boots from Son of Sandlar, and a lovely Russian fox pelt from the Lost Viking Hoard. All these items together with the make up and hair artistry provided by Katie McNabb created the look, I like to call “Queen of the Corn.”

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX–IIIRT, one 600 EX-RT speed light, radio trigger, light stand, painters pole, and a basic shoot through umbrella.  I also had a 3-foot ladder for my model to stand on to give her height compared to the corn.  My husband, who is my trusty assistant, held the 600 EX-RT speed light on the painter’s pole to get height. The speed light on the painter’s pole was zoomed to about 105mm and used as the main light.   I mounted the other flash, which was zoomed to 24mm, on the light stand with the umbrella to act as the fill light. I did push both flashes hard, because I was fighting the setting sun, which was behind my model for most of the shots.  I took 129 photos, edited 94 photos, and posted 53 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 41 percent, which is about average for my shoots. For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 100. I was using an aperture between f9 and f4.5, with 84 percent of the photos taken at an aperture of f5 or f7.1.  My focal length ranged from 18mm to 70mm.  I was pleasantly surprised with this shoot, because I did not favor a particular focal length and my shots were evenly spread across the focal range. The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/160s to 1/1250s with the about 42 percent of the photos taken at 1/320s or 1/400s.  The real challenge of this shoot was the fast-changing lighting conditions as the sun started to set behind the trees and balancing the light on the model with the sun setting behind her. 

There are three photos that I like from the shoot that appear to tell a story.  This first one is bold, and shows the noble and strong character.  I like this one because of how the sun is falling behind the model.  I lit this shot by placing both lights to my right, with the main light trained on her face. I also adjusted my camera settings so that most of the background would be in shadow or silhouetted by the sun. When editing I made sure to keep the golden color coming from the sun, and used ‘shadow’ as the starting white balance level when editing in Lightroom.  Also, I did some additional post editing in photoshop to give the photo a bit of a glow.

ISO 100, Aperture f/5, Shutter 1/1000s, Focal Length 70mm 

This second photo I like because it is soft, and appears like she is beckoning something or someone forward.  The lights for this photo were placed in two locations, the main light directly in front and above the model and the second to my right.  Again, I kept most of the background in the shadows and kept the soft golden color by using the ‘shadow’ setting as my white balance starting point in Lightroom.  I also edited this photo in Photoshop by using a modified orton effect, to give it a softer feel.

ISO 100, Aperture f/7.1, Shutter 1/320s, Focal Length 18mm 

I like this final photo because it exudes power and confidence.  This final photo was taken as the sun was sinking lower in the sky, close to actual sunset and heading into blue hour.  The sun was also placed behind me, with the flashes placed slightly off center of the front of the model.  I did not modify this photo much, just balanced the lighting and ensured the models face was properly lit and had a bit of glow to it.

ISO 100, Aperture f/5, Shutter 1/400s, Focal Length 60mm 

I like the concept of this shoot and got several good photos, but believe I could have done it better.  I would like to redo the shoot in the spring or summer when it is warmer.  The reason for redoing the shoot is to take more advantage of the dress, which is a parachute material and can easily blow in the wind, without having the model freeze. I also think the shoot could be improved by having a second model act as subject of the “Queen.”  Also, I just feel I could do it better, now that I’m more familiar with the location and how the sun filters through the trees.  Additionally, I am realizing when working with the large parachute dresses I need a second assistant that would handle the dress and to things like tossing and fluffing it. But overall, the shoot went well, and the photos represent the concept I had in my head. You can see the full set of photos here: Queen of the Corn.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Photography Goals for 2018

I’m starting off 2018 in a new city, Dayton, so I have to grow my network of models, cosplayers, and fellow photographers.  I had good network in Washington, DC and would like to build a similar network here in Dayton area.  Thus, my goals are a little simpler this year, and focus on building a network of people to work and collaborate with.

General Photography Goals

1. Find or start a Dayton (to include Columbus & Cincinnati) cosplay and photographer group.
I really enjoyed working with the DC Cosplayer& Photographer group, in Washington, DC. I was able to make several friends and work with some amazing cosplayers.  The group also let me work on my photography on a regular basis, and work in some interesting locations I might not otherwise get to work in.  I also enjoyed the group because of the number of cosplayers that showed up at each event, so you could work with multiple people in the setting, and everything was done on a TFP (trade for print) basis, which benefited both the cosplayer and photographer.  So, I’m hoping there is similar group in this area.  If not, I think I could manage to start a similar group that meets once a month. If you are interested in this please send me a message through my Facebook page Munchkin Photos by Heather or contact me through my photo site Munchkin Photos

2. Attend at least one Ohio based convention in 2018.
I usually attended two conventions in the DC/VA area, Katsucon and Anime USA.  This year I will be attending Katsucon at National Harbor in DC area.  I am also looking to attend Colossalcon, up in Sandusky.  But I will be looking for good cosplay conventions in Ohio and the surrounding areas.

3. Do more shooting outside of conventions.
Last year I did about eight shoots outside of conventions five were cosplay and three personal projects. I would like to balance my shoots out a little bit more and do an equal amount of cosplay and personal project shoots.  You can see the list of my projects in the next section below.

4. Find interesting shooting locations in the area.
While I can set up a nice in-home studio, I want to be able to shoot on location. I had several locations in the DC area that I liked to work, including several parks. I want to be able to find several interesting locations for shoots in the area, which will include both Columbus and Cincinnati.  

5. Find a muse
Finding a muse may take longer than a year. For me a good muse, would be fun and easy to work with, good with collaboration, and has some creative ideas of their own.

Photo Shoot Projects

Besides the above goals, I also have some personal photo projects/shoots I would like to do this year.  (Note the projects listed below are in no particular order.) Last year I was able to complete three of the projects I had planned. Since I’m in a new city, I hope to at least complete one of the projects listed below. It should be noted all the photo shoot projects below are TFP (Trade for Print) projects, meaning that the model/cosplayer would be getting a free photo session and 5 to 10 fully edited digital images from the session.

1.      Victorian/ Steam Punk themed shoot
A few years ago, I did a Steam Punk themed shoot at Fort Washington, in Maryland.  The shoot turned out great even though it rained for the first half.  I would like to do a similar shoot, but based more on traditional Victorian fashion or the book series written by Gale Carriger.

2.      Photoshoot based off old masters lighting or painting
Lately, I have seen several photos done based off the work of the old master painters. In these photos they either use the same lighting techniques or copy the painting either directly or with a modern twist.  I think this is an interesting concept and would like to try my hand at it.  I’m not sure at this time what master or painting I would like the base the project on, I need to do a bit more research.   In the end I think it will be based on available location or if I want to do it via a studio session.  I’m thinking a studio session would be the easiest to start with.

3.      Do a cosplay shoot based on the artwork of Hannah Alexandra or Sakizou
I love the art work of Hannah Alexandra and Sakizou, but I rarely get to shoot any cosplays based on their work.  So, I’ll be looking for cosplayers who have cosplays based on those two artists. These sessions would either be done on location or in studio based on the cosplay. I would also entertain doing a group shoot for any of these cosplays.

4.      Editorial/Fashion/Fine Art shoots
I love shooting cosplay, but at the same time I would also like to do a more editorial/fashion type photoshoot.  Currently, I have one of these shoots lined up for January.  I also have one other idea floating around in my head.  This idea would be to do a shoot in a white lace or billowy white gown on farm, a little reminiscent of the old romance novel covers.  There are a few dresses on the Enception dress rental site that fit the bill and spurred the idea.  I also think I might like to do a few studio sessions, the focus mostly on beauty or classic portraiture. But we will see were the year takes me on this shoot goal, since my ideas come from locations, photo articles, books I read, or just pictures that catch my eye and I end up pinning on Pinterest

If you any questions or are interested in working with me on any of my goals or projects please contact me through my Facebook page Munchkin Photos by Heather or contact me through my photo site Munchkin Photos

Here is to hopefully a very productive 2018. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review

The year of 2017 was an interesting year for me, I felt as though I did more photoshoots, however only ended up editing about 642 more photos then last year. In 2016 I edited 5,851 images and in 2017 I edited 6,475 images, noting this is the number of photos listed in Lightroom, not the actual number of photos I took over the course of the year. This year I was only able to do the Katsucon convention, because they moved Anime USA to December, which is a hard month due to the holidays. However, I did do more cosplay work outside of conventions due to meet-up events with the DC Cosplayer and Photographer* group and more individual shoots.  I also did three non-cosplay conceptual/fine art portrait shoots this year, of which two photos from those shoots were shown in an art gallery in Alexandria, VA.  I also worked in some landscape and travel photography, during my vacation to Scotland and Acadia National Park, in both cases I was not overly happy with my results. So now let’s look back at some of my overall statistics and favorite photos from the year.  

This year I edited 6,475 photos, (this number may be a little low due to me having to reformat my hard drive in September); my most used focal length is 18 mm, with a shutter speed of 1/100s at an f4.5 aperture, and ISO 100 and ISO 400. You can see the distribution of each of focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO below.

It is always hard to narrow down my favorite cosplay photos to just three, because I end up working with so many amazing cosplayers over the course of the year. It also helps that I have built relationships with several cosplayers through the DC Cosplayer and Photographer group.  Sadly, I will not be as active in the group in the come months or years due to moving out the DC area and to the Dayton, Ohio area.  I’m hoping there is a similar group in Dayton, if not, I think I will start one because of the great relationships you can build in a group like that.  So, I will be braking down my photos by three favorite DC Cosplayer and Photographer (i.e. Meet-up) photos, general cosplay (conventions and one-on-one sessions), non-cosplay portraits, and finally travel.

The DC Cosplayer and Photographer group does its best to have a meet-up about once a month.  I made five of the meet-ups this year, I would have made more but my work and personal travel schedule conflicted for several of the dates.  As I said it is hard to pick just three photos from the year, but there are a few that stand out.   The first is from the last meet-up I attended, it is of Jennifer Glinzak Costumery as a winter version of Sleeping Beauty.  The second image is of JMS Cosplay as Negan from The Walking Dead.  And the last one is of GC-Chan Cosplay as Daenerys from Game of Thrones.

Jennifer Glinzak Costumery as a winter version of Sleeping Beauty
JMS Cosplay as Negan from The Walking Dead.

GC-Chan Cosplay as Daenerys from Game of Thrones

General Cosplay
This year was only able to attend Katsucon, but I did do 21 individual shoots at the convention, which is a lot.  For 2018 I am scaling back the number of individual shoots at Katsucon, because I basically wore myself out and ended up getting con-crud for the first time. I don’t want to do that again.  I also did 9 one-on-one cosplay sessions through the course of the year. Though I’m not sure if I want to call the Lolita shoot cosplay or not, since that is sometimes a lifestyle or fashion choice.  It is hard to pick just three photos for this group, because the individual personalities sometimes weigh into the photo. I must say in my experience the more fun you are to work with, the better the photos come out.  This first photo is from Katsucon of Angels n Demons Cosplay as Reaper from Overwatch, she was so fun to work with. This second photo is also from Katsucon of Sheryl in her wedding dress by Miguo cosplay. I was dying get a few photos in front of this wall (it is like getting the gazebo) and the white on white just worked. This last photo is from a one-on-one session out in a local sunflower field with Sara Cosplay as Belle from Beauty and the Beast (live action version).

Angels n Demons Cosplay as Reaper from Overwatch
Sheryl in her wedding dress by Miguo cosplay
Sara Cosplay as Belle from Beauty and the Beast

Fine Art Portraits
This year I did a few conceptual portrait sessions.  These sessions were based on an idea/concept I wanted to shoot.  In two of the cases I supplied the dress, the model just came with hair and make-up prepared based on a mood board I sent them.  I had three concepts in mind a film noir shoot, a cherry blossom shoot, and a parachute dress & water fall combination shoot. I’m going to pick my favorite from each of those sessions.  The first is from the noir shoot with Orisen Cosplay, which was done in studio with a very large gobo.  The second is from the cherry blossom shoot, also with Orisen Cosplay as the model.  I was so glad she was over 6 foot because the train on that dress is 20 feet long, and she worked it like a champ.  This final image is from the parachute dress session, with Anna a friend of mine as the model.  This photo was basically the last photo taken during the session and it is my favorite.

Model: Orisen Cosplay
Model: Orisen Cosplay
Model: Anna

I was not as happy with my landscapes this year as I have been in previous years.  I think in most cases it was because I just was not feeling it.  I really need to feel some emotion or say capture this moment or place.  While I was in some beautiful places, they didn’t speak to me photographically.  But I did eek out a few nice photos. This first one is from the Island of Skye in Scotland.  This second photo is not amazing, but it is almost on every postcard in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I like it because it is my version of the postcard photo.  This last photo is from Acadia National Park, and isn’t even a landscape but a picture of a piece of large drift wood on a pebble beach.  I like it because it is kind of modern and would be one of those photos you see in a spa or doctor’s office.

Old Man of Storre, Island of Skye
Overlooking Edinburgh Scotland
Driftwood with stones, Acadia National Park

Overall, I think I had a decent year, and am looking forward to staring a productive 2018 in Dayton, Ohio.  I will miss several of the people in DC and the variety of place to shoot, but am hoping to find good people and places here as well.  

*DC refers to District of Columbia, not the comic books.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Portrait Gallery Shoot

On November 11, the D.C. Cosplayers and Photographer group met at the National Portrait Gallery for their monthly meet-up.  The National Portrait Gallery is wonderful place to shoot, especially on the third floor which has what is considered Greek revival architecture. Usually the meet ups are on Sundays, which means there are fewer people at the gallery.  However, this recent meet up was held on a Saturday, which meant there were more people at the gallery, additionally the gallery changed a few of the photography flash rules in a few of the area that used to allow flash.  With the additional people and the photography changes it was a bit more challenging to shoot in some of the areas. 

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18-200mm lens, one 430 EX–III RT, one 600 EX-RT speed light, a Westcott Rapid Box 20-inch Octa Mini light modifier (mounted on metal pin).  My husband, who is my trusty assistant, held the 600 EX-RT flash with the light modifier. (No tripods or light stands are allowed in the gallery.)  I mounted the 430 EX-III RT flash on my camera to act as a trigger and to use as a second light source. I took 244 photos, edited 176 photos, and posted 100 fully edited shots.  Thus, I had a return of approximately 41 percent, which is relatively high and accounts for duplicates, flash misfires, and unflattering poses (I don’t like posting unflattering poses of my models). For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 200 and using an aperture of f4.5, with 88 percent of the photos taken between a focal length of 18mm to 32mm.  I shoot wide in the portrait gallery because, in some of my preferred areas there is not a lot of space, so I can’t back up to use a narrow focal length and still get the shot I want. The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/50s to 1/320s with the about 72 percent of the photos taken at 1/125s, 1/200s, or 1/250s depending on the lighting conditions.  I was not pushing my flash as hard as I usually would, because I was inside, so most of the photos were taken with the flash at about a quarter power just enough to provide separation of the subject from the background.  I also used the flash to create a mood in a few of the photos, based on the background elements as you’ll see in one of the photos. Below, I will discuss two of my favorite photos from the shoot.  You can see all the photos here: "Winter Meet-up"

Focal Length 18mm, Aperture f4.5, Shutter 1/250s 
This first photo (left) is of JenniferGlinzak Costumery as Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty” in a winter outfit.  Usually, I shoot low-key photos because I like dark shadows; however, I am extremely pleased with how this high-key photo came out.   This was shot in white marble hallway with the window providing a lot of the light which bounces off the wall.  My husband held the light up and to my right, and I up the flash power to half.  When editing the photo, I did increase the brightness and vibrancy. All these elements together bring a light, airy, and playful feel to the photo.

Focal Length 18mm, Aperture f4.5, Shutter 1/125s

This second photo (right) is of OrisenCosplay as Mrs. Lovett from “Sweeny Todd”. This photo is in direct contrast to the first photos. This is photo is a low-key photo that makes use of the shadows and darkness to portray a mood. Even though this shot was taken indoors, I wanted to look as though it was taken outside at night under a streetlight. While I would have preferred that the flash was above her, that would have required a boom or pole, which isn’t allowed.  So, my husband stood to my right with the flash held above his head pointed down towards Orisen to try to give the illusion of light coming from the light post.  When editing the photo, I darkened the shadows, added a strong vignette, and then tinted the photo slightly to give it warm glow.

This last item (Left) is a photo story based on an idea from Ray Dot Ham Cosplay. The story uses seven photos presented in a comic book format to show the Starbuck Lady (Ray Dot HamCosplay) waking up Sleeping Beauty (Jennifer Glinzak Costumery).  The photos were easy to take and edit.  The problem I ran into was arranging them so they fit a rectangular shape without having large white gaps.  This would have been easier if I would have either taken the photos all in the same orientation or had a more even mix of the orientations.  The other issue I ran into was the crop ratios for each photo were slightly off from one another.  Finally, while arranging the photos I tried to make the most important frames larger than the supporting frames to place an emphasis on the highlights of the story.

Overall, I’m happy with how this shoot turned out. 

You can see all the photos here: "Winter Meet-up"

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Halloween Themed Shoot

On October 22 I went to Lake Accotink Park for the Halloween themed DCCosplay meet up.  Lake Accotink Park is a nice area, which has a lake, a wooded area and a few concrete areas.  The location was good for a Halloween shoot, set for the middle of the day since the forest area provided shade and the concrete areas worked well for a more urban setting. 

For this shoot, I used my Canon 70D, my trusty 18 -200mm lens, radio trigger, and two 430 EX –IIIRT speed light.  My husband, who is my trusty assistant, held a painter’s pole which we mounted one of the speed light to the top of without an umbrella.  I did not use an umbrella so I could have a possibility to combat the sun.  I mounted the second flash on a standard light stand without an umbrella and used it for occasional fill or back lighting. I took 300 photos, edited 232 photos, and posted 139 fully edited shots.  For all the shots, I was at an ISO of 200 using an aperture of between F7.1and F11 with 48 percent of the photos taken at focal length of 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/25s to 1/1600s with the about 64 percent of the photos taken between 1/125s to 1/320s depending on the lighting conditions.  I did my basic edits to the photos and the flash ensured I could separate the model from the background.  Overall, the photos are ok.  You can see all the edited photos from the shoot by following this link: Halloween Meet-up.  Below, I will discuss two of my favorite photos from the shoot.

Focal Length: 24mm, Aperture: F11, Shutter: 1/125s
This first picture is actually my favorite from the shoot. It is of JMS Cosplay as Negan from the Walking Dead.  To get this photo we actually got down into the lake run off stream, and I had him get into the tunnel.  I placed the flash to my right angled down onto the model. To edit the photo I darkened the image, increased the clarity, and then added very heavy vignette.  I think this captures the nature of the character and feel of the series.

Focal Length: 28mm, Aperture: F9, Shutter: 1/160s

This next image is of Lena Vokova as Santa Muerte. For this image I placed her up on a large stump, and placed the sun and a flash behind her.  The sun was a bit high to provide the back lighting I wanted, so I added a flash behind her to add a bit of edge lighting.  I placed the main flash down low, pointed up to my right.  To edit the photo I balanced the lighting, darkened the sky, and then added a strong vignette.  I added to vignette to ensure it looked like the model was encircled by light.

Standard Shoot

Last weekend I got to work with the lovely Vida Muerta on building her portfolio, with some standards.  Standard images are simple images ...