This week, we interview an up and coming photographer names Kris Ling. I had been a fan of his work for quite some time and now and it was great to finally get to interview him.
How long have you been into photography?
Almost two years, since Fanime 2009. Several photographers, friends, and even cosplayers liked some of the shots I took at the con, so much so that I was even invited to go to several local gatherings. I had a lot of fun at these events and I talked to others about photography. I’ve been in love ever since.
What captivated you to cosplay photography over any other type of photography?
Speaking and writing have never been things I was good at. It makes it hard to tell stories to others. So when I discovered I had a knack for taking pictures, I discovered a means to communicate. Working with other people to set a mood, make a scene, create action in the moment is what I enjoy about taking pictures. The best part of cosplay photography is that the cosplayers and even other photographers are just a blast to be with. I mean, most of them are fellow fans, geeks, nerds, etc.
What are the tools that you use to take your photos?
My camera, of course. (chuckles) I use a Nikon D3000 camera and an SB-600 Flash unit. I have two main lenses, a 35mm Prime lens and a 55-200mm lens. Software wise, I , use Adobe Lightroom 3. I just use it more to manage my workflow and some minor edits. I’m more of a “straight out of camera” style with lights and colors.
Do you like having a theme in your photo shoots? Or do you like to freestyle with the cosplayer?
I have some ideas about what I want to shoot, but it always helps to bounce ideas around to make the most of any shoot. But the fact is that the cosplayer you’re shooting knows the character better than you do, knows how he/she/it thinks and the world the character comes from. I always love it when cosplayers bring their own ideas. They can suggest a shot and I can concentrate on what I got around me to make that shot work. Sometimes it involves posing, coordination, and sometimes it involves standing on ledges to get the shot. Whatever works, right?
What other career/work paths are you in besides photography?
I’m currently studying Computer Engineering at San Jose State University. I’ve always been good with fixing computers and other electronic devices, so I thought it was a natural career choice.
Do you have plans to make photography a profession, or would you like to just be an enthusiast?
I do admit that sometimes I would like to do photography as a career. I would love to travel around the world, meet new people, and create all kinds of new stories from exotic and strange locations around the world. But the problem for me is that would make this a job. It would be a fun job, but then I would be constantly stressed out about cosplay photography. So I’d have to say, I’d prefer to keep this as a hobby.
Recent trends have leaned towards cash prizes for cosplay participants, do you think this is a good idea or could it possibly take the fun out of cosplay?
I think cosplay contests and competitions have been around for a while. Go to some of the smaller cons and they tend to have contests where the cosplayer shows off their work and be judged. Some of them even win awards and prizes. It’s nice to get recognition for all the hard work you put into a project, right?
In regards to Anime Expo’s large cash prize ($10,000? Wow!), I’m scared. I mean it is great giving cosplayers an incentive or reward for their work. But with that much money, I fear that cosplayers would begin to cosplay for the sake of the cash prize instead of for fun. Time will tell, and I might be wrong. But if I’m wrong, I would be glad to be.
What is your advice to those who wish to start-up their own cosplay photography business?
The best thing you can do is to get your camera out and start practicing. Practice on your friends and family. Watch how the sun or other light sources illuminate your subject. For a lot of shots, it’s mostly about how well you’re lighting your subject. Having a good camera and other accessories can help, but if you can’t grasp lighting, your shots won’t come out well, no matter how expensive your camera. Check out the link below, the photographer is using a phone as his camera. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but I hope you get the idea that you don’t need expensive cameras to make a good shot.
Ask the cosplayer you want to shoot for permission to do a few shots. They’ll most likely say yes, and pose, giving you a better shot. You are better able to shoot from a better angle. This does mean you should look decent too. That means proper hygiene. And I am NOT kidding when I say un-scented, especially for conventions.
Having decent software would help too. Colors are very important in cosplay, as well as the shadows. You might even try a little black and white or other effects to enhance a shot. Some of the software your camera comes with could do the trick and software you can download for free legally. Remember: Photoshop helps; Bad shots will never go away. Eventually, when you’re confident that you’d love your pictures to be used for a portfolio, having a model release form would be a good idea. Even if you’re just posting them online for all to see and no money is involved.
What advice do you have for cosplayers who are looking to have professional photos done?
Get exposure at cons. If there’s a con, there’s a photographer somewhere, we usually stand out. (laughs) Try and get cards from those you like at these cons. Find the ones you like and contact us. Set up times and find places to shoot you both can agree with. Find out what your photographer likes to do and how they like to shoot. Working together, cosplayer and photographer, ends up creating the best shots.
If you can’t go to a big con, see if there are any cosplay gatherings around your area. Photographers do some of those as well. Sometimes we get better effects if it’s at a pier or park.