Venessa Cosplay

On November 20th, I did a cosplay session with the lovely Allie at Leesylvania State Park located a little south of Woodbridge, Virginia. Allie requested we do the session on a beach if possible because she was doing Venessa, the human version of Ursula, from “The Little Mermaid”. Leesylvania State Park fit the bill because it has a small beach that runs along the Potamic River as well as a nice little pier.

For these sessions I used:

  • Canon 80D
  • 1 Speed light
  • 1 Light stand
  • Trigger
  • 18-200mm lens

To prepare for this session I went through several stills from the Disney animated version of “The Little Mermaid” focusing on all those with Venessa in them. I also looked at a few fanart images to help with the creative process. I like doing Disney Princess session, I love doing ballgown sessions in general. But doing a Disney villain is also fun because you can go a little darker, and not necessarily be bright and cheery. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate on the dark and mysterious villain front and gave us bright and cheery princess weather. That is ok, I adapt.

I shot using an ISO of 400 and apertures of F16 and F18. This is actually a mistake on my part because I did not check the ISO before starting the session, I should have been working at ISO 100 and F8 and F9 to compensate for the bright sunny sky. The two most commons shutter speeds were 1/200s and 1/250 seconds, used to freeze motion and compensate for the sun while still allowing me to use flash. My focal length varied from 18mm to 110mm, with 18mm being the most common.

Allie was very good to work with and very prepared. She knew several of the poses she wanted, which makes my job easier, and brought several props including her dog who looks just like Max from the movie. Her dog was a very good boy who got lots of treats including a piece of real ham.

One of my favorite shots from the session is of Allie walking down the beach with her cape flaring open. Everyone loves a good cape flip and flare. It is nice and dramatic. To get this shot she went down the beach several and started to walk towards me, the flash was placed to my left near where she would start walking. We did a three count to start the walk and the cape flip. It did take several takes but it was worth it to get the shot. I did edit the image slightly, and brightened her face a little bit during post processing. I also used Lightrooms new mask tools on the image to isolate the sky, to adjust that to make it just a slight bit more blue and closer to what it looked like that day. Because of how sunny it was I had to split the difference in my metering so I had to slightly blown out the sky to ensure my model was well lit.

Another of my favorite images is this bright image taken while model holds the trident and her cape blows in the breeze. Note the breeze was not strong enough to move the cape, we did a cape flip to get the movement. The only thing that would make this image better is if it had a stormy sky instead of a bright blue sky. When editing I did attempt to use the sky replacement feature in Photoshop but the image just did not look correct. To get this image the flash was place to my left at about 45 degrees. I metered for the sky and then compensated with the flash. As you can tell by the shadow the sun is behind the model. When I pulled the image into Lightroom to edit, I brightened some of the shadows to ensure even lighting and did some doge and burn in Photoshop. I finished the image off with an ever so slight vignette.

We must close with a couple pictures of the model and her dog. If you remember in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” the dog Max like Ariel but did not like Venessa. We tried capturing this in a couple way. One with her dog running away from her, which is similar to a scene in the movie. (Image 1) We also tried to do a picture of “Max” pushing Venessa over, but the doggo is such a good doggie he couldn’t bring himself to push his mom over. (Image 2) So we just must settle for a happy doggie in the end. (Image 3)


Overall, this was a fun shoot, even if it was a little cold along the water when we started. This was the first time I got to work with a dog as a prop, outside of my own dog, and it was a fun experience for me. Plus, I really love dogs. I’m pleased with how the shots turned out, even if I made a minor mistake at the beginning, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t compensate for. Finally, Allie’s cosplay was very well done and she was very prepared for the shoot. I look forward to working with her again in the future.


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