Graffiti Warehouse Meet Up

On April 16th, I made a drive up to Baltimore, MD for the Graffiti Warehouse shoot hosted by D.C. Cosplay Photoshoot group.   The Graffiti Warehouse, as its name implies, is an old warehouse covered with graffiti both on the outside and inside and is used as a creative space for artist.  We had use of the large first floor studio, the smaller third floor studio, as well as the stairwells and hallways.  The warehouse has furniture scattered about that can be used, which I took advantage of for several photos. The space reminded me a bit of one of the studios I would frequent in Dayton, except covered in graffiti.   

For these sessions I used:

  • Canon 80D
  • 2 Speed lights
  • Trigger
  • 1 Light stands
  • 18-200mm lens
  • Tiny soft box

This shoot was held entirely inside. The first-floor studio had all the windows covered so was dark, while the third-floor studio had two walls full of windows so was bright. The hallways and stairwells had small ceiling lights but were mostly dark.  I used 200 ISO for about 70-percent of my images. I did use ISO 400 for the remaining images, except for a few where I was trying to capture light from a pair of light sabers. We will talk about that image later. My aperture ranged from F4 to F11 with most shots being taken at F9. My shutter speed ranged from 1/6s to 1/640s. My shutter speed seemed to be concentrated at 1/100s and 1/200s. My focal length ranged from 18mm to 50mm, with most shots being concentrated in the 18mm.

Let’s talk about light sabers for a minute, and how to get them to show up in photos.  In general, the light sabers are not very bright compared to the sun or a flash, and do not put off a ton of light to look as though they are glowing in in a photo unless you are in a very dark room.  Usually, I just add the glow during post processing, which can be a pain but I’m getting really good at making straight lines in photoshop.  However, in the case of this photo of the_engineers-cosplay as Ahsoka Tano, the studio was rather dim, thus I did my best to capture the glow in camera.  To do this and not have horrible camera shake, since I did not have a tripod with me, I cranked the ISO up to ISO 1000.  I also did not use flash for the image below, all the light is coming from the light sabers.  While this captured the image I was going for, I still had to do work in post.  First thing I did was balance the image, and adjust the exposure slightly. I then got remove some grain from the image, that is the bad part about using high ISOs.  I then went in and selected the light sabers and increase the exposure on them, then copy/pasted them onto a new layer applied gaussian blur, then changed the layer setting to lighten. I did this about three times to create the glow. I then went in and did a little dodging and burning to accentuate how the light was hitting the cosplayer’s face.   I finished by cropping the image to 8.5x11-inches.

ISO 1000, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/200, Focal Length 24mm 

I like this next image of Sara go Bragh as Elastigirl from “The Incredibles” is one of my favorites because it is outside her normal princess cosplays.  I wanted this image to be bright and lean towards high key to show off the shine in the gloves and boots. I balanced for the sky and had a speed light set slightly to my left. In post I refined the exposure. I then selected only the sky, using color range mask, then brought only the exposure of the sky down to bring out the blue. I then went in and removed the reflection of the flash in the window. I then finished the image off with a square crop and a very light vignette.

ISO 200, Aperture F9, Shutter 1/250, Focal Length 28mm 

I like this image of lorcosplay as LeeLoo from the “Fifth Element” because of its overall mood. While it is not the right out the image is slight reminiscent of some of the scenes from the movie of LeeLoo on the ledge of the building. To create this image the flash was raised up high, pointed down towards the cosplayer, and placed as close to the wall as possible. I believe the zoom on the flash was about 50mm. I then stood in the hallway so that the cosplayer, the flash, and I would form a right triangle if we were connected points viewed from above. In post I balanced the image, brightened the cosplayer’s face slightly, then darkened the left side of the image using a gradient mask. I then cropped the image and finished with my standard vignette.

ISO 200, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/100, Focal Length 20mm 

This final image is of Silk by MelPool Cosplay and Spider Gwen by lilium.syzygy. I don’t get to do a lot of group photos, most of my work is of individual cosplayers, so it is nice when I get a chance to practice posing groups. In this case I used the stairs to help posing of the cosplayers beyond a standard side by side.  I had the cosplayers sit on opposite sides of the stairs and at different heights to ensure subject balance and allow the eye to move through the image.  I light this image with one speed light, which was behind me to my right, raised up high and pointed down.  In post I balanced the image and brought the exposure up slightly. I then added a radial mask to the face of the cosplayer higher on the stairs to brighten their face and ensure it did not get lost in the shadows.  I then added gradient masks to both the left and right sides of the image to darken the walls to ensue the cosplayers were the focus.  I then cloned out a distracting light fixture at the top of the stairs. From there I cropped the image and added a strong vignette to finalize the image.

ISO 200, Aperture F9, Shutter 1/125, Focal Length 18mm 

This was a good meet up and I got a lot of nice images from it. I would like to shoot the image of Ahsoka again, because I think I can do it better. I also think I can do it with a mix of light saber light and flash to really get the image from the Mandalorianpromotional material I was inspired by. I also did some “light painting” images with the light sabers as well, but really didn’t have the time to do it correctly. At these meet ups I do not want to hog a cosplayers time, so I usually shoot fast so some of the things I could do well in full one-on-one session I can’t do as well during a meet up. You can see all my final images from the meet up here: GraffitiWarehouse Gallery.


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