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Otakon 2018 - Client Cosplay Photography Spotlight


Woah, it’s been a hot second since a blog post.

Otakon just happened this past weekend in downtown DC for its second year there, after being a longtime runner in Baltimore. But whether here or there, Otakon stands true to one thing: IT’S HOT.

But despite the trepidation about the temps, I was still looking forward to it. This is my third Otakon and last year I really enjoyed the versatility offered in downtown DC for locations immediate to the con. Even though the heat was a bit of a limitation for both myself and my clients, we still got some amazing images which you can see and read about below.

I’m from Boston so my trip to DC was yet another 9 hour bus ride, but actually it barely felt like 9 hours at all. We pulled into DC around 6pm on Thursday and I stumbled blearily into the Embassy Suites to be greeted by–wait what–free happy hour?! 

Yeah, this hotel ruled. I had a tequila sunrise that definitely lifted my spirits. 

This year I was also #blessed with a solid rooming situation. I found these two girls through the Otakon 2018 FB group and they ended up being super chill, friendly, and respectful. 10/10 would room with again.  After a much needed shower I met up with Cee of Ruinous Cosplay for a chat and before I knew it, it was dark out and I still hadn’t gone to scope out for any new locations! So off I went. To get all sweaty again.

Whatever.

I noticed on my taxi ride to the hotel that the library across the street from the con was under construction. That wasn’t a huge deal for me, but it did make me wonder about the  cos/tog crowds being denser in more desirable shoots areas. I was right. It definitely was cramped. But y’know what? If I can do Katsucon every year and get the images I do, I could do this. 

Here’s the thing about shooting cons with me: It takes me about half a day to figure out a formula of sorts. When I figure out that formula, I stick to it. Often that means clients are taken to the same places and there is some similarity among finished images. But that really doesn’t bother me; people aren’t paying me for my photos to be different from everyone else’s who also book with me. They’re paying for strong images, and if a spot works, I’m gonna plant my butt there and shoot.

Cons do not give time for me to casually experiment. My shoots are short and I need to know what works and what doesn’t and every year it’s a grab bag with weather, crowds, etc. Even Katsucon, I con I could walk through with my eyes closed, makes me anxious because you never know what the new year is going to bring in terms of crowds and weather that can completely thwart an entire weekend of packed shoots. So once I feel out a con vibe, I discover some new shots and angles for trustworthy locations (could be as generic as I Like This Building or as specific as I Like This Shadow in This Corner at 2pm Let’s Go There). Then, it’s smooth sailing for the most part! 

 Usually I try to limit myself to no more than 15 shoots a con, but I overbooked and Saturday I had nine shoots instead of my planned five (oops). Thankfully, I paced myself with one shoot every hour on the hour for the first half of the day, followed by a few back-to-backs to tie it up. In the middle of it all, Cee brought me some food, which really really made my day, lol. The last time I had a helper at a con to make sure I didn’t plotz was Katsu 2016. I forgot how nice it is to just have someone bring you a sandwich lmao. Cee is the real MVP (and now I have discovered Potbelly’s delicious shakes?!). 

Oh, and I even cosplayed myself too! I was Princess Garnet from Final Fantasy IX with Disastertowncosplay’s Zidane (he won Best Journeyman for it!), and on Sunday I did a quick chill shoot with my darling Heir Apparent Cosplay as Draco with her Hermione. We both shot with Marie Newby Photography and I’m looking forward to seeing what she captured, even though I’m reeeeeeeally not easy to photograph, lol. Honestly? I don’t know how you cosplayers do it. Sure, I have someone who is new to shoots from time to time but even then, it’s hard to find someone in this community who is Bad in front of the camera. 

I briefly ran into Adoyible Photography/Molly while we were both shooting in the (lovely) Henley Park Hotel. I had never met her before and we ended up chatting for a bit after some shoots and she said something really interesting that struck with me: When doing regular portraiture, people are so much more reserved. It’s hard to bring them out. But in cosplay, people are so open. So receptive and eager to portray. It’s as though being in costume allows people to bloom in front of a camera. And I thought that was a really beautiful thing Molly brought up. I do really love that about what I do. 

A quick ending note: With my wedding photography business picking up, I see cons being on the backburner for me, but I truly owe so much - if not, everything - to credit to cosplay for how I’ve grown as a photographer and a professional. No, really. I owe everything to this community from the bottom of my heart. And although I desperately want to go to more cons for fun now, and less for work, I’m not sure where to start. It’s ironic; I’ve spent 8 years shooting cosplay but when I want to dip my toe in the community myself, I feel a little intimidated and lost and timid. So, to counter that and hopefully connect with people in a way that I can have some fun at cons too and make new friends, I’ve finally made an FB for cosplay folks to add me! Please do, I would love to connect!! 

Now, onto the photos! These are a select showcase of a fraction of my bookings. Please give these cosplayers a follow. And connect with me too, on IG at chezphotocosplay!

-Riley


Katsucon 2018 - Cosplay Photography Client Spotlight


(Now Booking: Anime Boston, click here to apply
Up next: PAX East, limited availability; booking opens 3/5)

I’m sure I speak for many when I say that Katsucon is, personally, one of the best events of the year to travel to. Every December, I open up booking for cosplayers to apply to work with me as their personal photographer for 20 or 40-minute intervals, and every year I get about 80+ inquiries of super talented folks. When choosing a client, I pay more attention to their costume, the quality of it/their past work, and the relevance of that costume to my personal style - rather than their Instagram or Twitter followers/their general online presence. In fact, some of my clients don’t have an FB or IG at all! All I seek in a client is someone with talent and excitement to collaborate and make some magic. From there I accept about 15 clients total (I try to limit myself to 5 shoots a day but this year it was more like 6-7), ranging from solos to groups. Below is a showcase of some of the shoots from my beloved clients, both repeat and new. 

Listen, I know you’re here to look at pictures, but I do want to talk a bit about Katsucon, because it’s a special convention for me. Though it gets more and more crowded every year, and admittedly quite overwhelming with the sheer number of people, I always feel this great sense of accomplishment after this convention. Katsucon, I think, puts a lot of pressure on cosplayers - I’m seeing this now, as I read feedback from the community this past week since the con wrapped up. A lot of people pour themselves into their work to showcase at this convention, and that can come with two things: Excitement, or Stress. I’m used to seeing a mix of both with people who come to me on the day of their shoot - of course, if you’re excited and satisfied with your work, then it’ll show and you’ll be exuberant and stoked - just as much as it will show in your face if you’re stressed, or maybe not as thrilled with how things look, or how your day is going. I know cons can be a coinflip for many and I’m so sorry if you didn’t have a great time…please try to remember you’re in this to have fun! In the end, I’m here to do one thing for you as a client: make you happy after all the  blood, sweat, and tears you put into your work (and trust me, with how sharp those needles are and how scalding those heat guns are, I know there’s definitely blood involved). 

After many years of traveling to do this, I understand conventions can be stressful. With all the people and the insulated community, there’s a lot of needless competition and inevitable “drama” that can really throw off your day. I get it; as a photographer and less of a cosplayer I’m certainly more of an observer and I see how the three days at a con can either be really freaking amazing, or really awful. But if you can put on that costume and I can get you some bomb photos for just twenty or forty minutes of your time, then I feel like–at least there’s that, you know?

I feel like I say this every year but this was my busiest year of bookings yet! Or maybe it felt moreso than usual, because for the first time in many years, I actually cosplayed for once! It was only on Thursday, but I was Princess Ashe from Final Fantasy XII (aka the best one sorry, go by The Zodiac Age already, what are you waiting for). The costume was made by several very talented women in the cosplay community I’ve met over the years: Coffee Cat Cosplay, Sarah Shortcake Cosplay, Gingerybiscuit, and MissKoumori. The quality of their work is outstanding and I was so pleased with the final result - I hope to have a formal non-convention shoot with her after I get a new wig because, well, I may not have taken the best care of mine and it wasn’t in the best shape. Oops. But wow–I didn’t even make this costume save for like, two tiny things, and even then it gave me such a window of insight to what all of you go through. And even aside from the costume itself being made–timing it right to put it on in a timely manner, and doing makeup, and making sure everything is in place… y’all work so hard! It was great to step into your shoes for a little bit and be reminded of all the stuff you put yourselves through to wear your work, or even someone else’s, to embody a character. I had a lot of fun, and I look forward to sprucing up Ashe’s wig and wearing her again when it’s warmer. 

While wearing Ashe on Thursday I got to hang out with some fellow togs which I rarely do (I’m definitely shy and often don’t meet fellow creatives at cons). Sorairo-Days/Sarah has been a long-time fave tog of mine. Her work is just so stunning! I also met Neil from Maison_Hikari/House of Light, and he was super funny, we had a great time and I was honored to be in front of their lenses even though honestly, I am a terrible subject and am extreeeeeeeemely uncomfortable in front of the camera…I’m sure I was not their ideal model but thankfully Thursday was quiet enough that we all just kinda played around. (I’m mad jelly of Sarah’s double skillz of being a good model and good tog…and you too Neil). 

Anyway. Less talking more pictures-and-still-talking-because-I-love-to-talk-and-gush-about-my-clients. Below are “Dealer’s Choice” images that I picked that I liked, before the clients get to choose their own favorites in their proof galleries.  Thank you all, as usual, so much for choosing me as your photographer. Katsucon is saturated with them and I’m thrilled to be behind the lens that captures your work.

I have something really special to say about Alexis, @sakythia on IG: she booked her Kida cosplay with me on Friday, and I was working on…like, maybe two hours of sleep. I was really not on top of my game appearances-wise and felt like a horrid zombie. It was bad, y’all. But when I showed Alexis her back of camera previews during the shoot - she literally had to take a minute because she was about to cry. She was so, so happy with them, and like–I dunno man, that heavyness in my dead no-sleep soul just totally lifted at her reaction. It completely turned my day around. It made me smile afterwards for so long that I like, wanted to just hug my camera close because …being able to make people feel that way about their work through my work is just very surreal to me. To collaborate with a fellow creative and make something that garners such a positive reaction from them it just really reinforces why I travel along the east coast to work with new people. Alexis, you are beautiful and thank you so much for choosing me. Your kind words during the shoot really turned a sour day around.

I often don’t have time for “for fun” shoots at Katsucon, but I did have time as usual to snag some shots of J Hart + Garnet Runestar in their Sakizous, Cowbutt Crunchies in her Seraphim, and a few of Sorairo-Days. Those will be published in the coming days.

Also, wearing Ashe got me thinking that I’d really like to get back into cosplaying this year. I’d love to join a group or pair up with someone, so if you’re organizing anything for future cons and have an open spot, let me know and I’d love to see if it can work out! 

Thank you for reading. Please go give these cosplayers a follow on IG or Twitter. Happy cosplaying!


Riley

CHEZPHOTO


Dragoncon 2016 | Sakizou Group | Luxury Cosplay Photography by CHEZPHOTO

I’m probably repeating myself like some Sakizou-obsessed parrot… but um, have I mentioned how fulfilling it is to me as a photographer to work with these kinds of cosplayers?

Don’t answer that question, because I know I have. I’m at least a self-aware parrot.

I’m also certainly not unique for loving these designs to begin with. Why else would seamstresses slave away for endless nights, finishing the perfect seams, bedazzling the 1000th crystal, ruffling the perfect ruffles (clearly you can tell I sew by how I’m describing this, LOL) to achieve the level of ethereal elegance and fantasy that this illustrator imagines? There’s nothing like these illustrations come to life! Um. Then again, I’m biased.

There’s a certain chemistry I have as a photographer with these sorts of costumes; I tend to visually fall right into place with what I see in terms of these designs. And I find that the photos I take of these costumes are clearly my favorite–and in turn, become my best. I’ve become somewhat of a go-to photographer for Sakizou cosplayers to book with - and this is indeed the Literal Opposite of a Problem. (Honestly, I should probably set up a separate gallery page just for my Sakizou work! For now you can check out my Sakizou blog tag to view what I’ve done so far.)

However, I also find that photographing Sakizou costumes are the most challenging shoots I do. I found myself pondering this while editing this set, honing in on every detail–it almost became stressful, and when it comes to shooting/editing Sakizou shoots, this is usually the case. This is because these costumes are so, so overwhelming. The sheer amount of minute detail on these costumes calls for a lot of attention from a photographer - it demands them to give as much justice to the piece as the client deserves. I never want to deprive the viewer and the creator anything in my images–for Sakizou it is no exception.

I love when my work is challenging for me, and I love when it demands a lot from one image. For designs like these that have hundreds–literally, hundreds–of details strewn about that I know the cosplayer worked hours on perfecting, the challenge comes in how to capture all of that in one image. 

Even then, with these photos that I ended up being really pleased with, I found that the costumes still weren’t shown enough justice… so I have decided to do a special publication of them on my instagram in nine-part photo-tile series for each costume, zooming in on every detail so that you can see just how much goes in to these. Check it out periodically this week on my insta: chezphotocosplay. 

Sakizou cosplays are, as I said before, both a great challenge and an incredibly fulfilling experience for me! Katsucon is coming up and that’s when I book the most Sakizou of the year–and I am counting down the days. Hope to hear from you when booking opens December 15th!

Now, on to the photos!

 In the order featured, find them on Facebook:

Coffee Cat Cosplay

Betsy Bon Bon

Sarah Shortcake

Hold the Mayo Cosplay

Ms Silverfox


See ya soon!

Riley


Dragoncon 2016 | Client Spotlight | Luxury Cosplay Photography by CHEZPHOTO

Booking for AUSA.

Katsucon booking opens December 15th. (Read up on these policies as I have been getting a lot of inquiries lately.)

…Oh man, am I late to this one! But here I am. Life has been quite busy lately. Senior portraits, engagements, weddings…let’s just say my shutter finger has been happily sore!

But last month, I did something I should have done a long time ago–I went to Dragoncon.

If you’re reading this and you’re unfamiliar with this side of my photography career, I travel the east side of the country doing cosplay photography for clients at popular conventions. Dragoncon happens to be one of the largest cons in the country–boasting roughly 75k people a year in downtown Atlanta. Yeah. Over SEVENTY THOUSAND enthusiastic nerds from all different facets of fandoms; sci-fi, television, movies, comics, anime, video games…you name it, it’s at Dragoncon. 

And man. Was it nuts. I have never been to Atlanta before. But I have heard much about the sheer amount of people that completely take over the city for 4-5 full days, and that was so freaking cool to me. Usually I just go to mid-sized cons so this was quite an experience. So, I booked my Airbnb, hopped on a plane, and off I went!

…Only to find, after 15 minutes of dragging my suitcase down the blazing hot Atlanta sidewalks from MARTA, that my Airbnb - a popular Victorian home, rated highly on the site - was the sight of a drug bust (and the Guy apparently on the run), frothing sniffing german shepherds and all. Erm…no, thank you. 

So, what does one do when their fully-booked weekend of photoshoots on Labor Day Weekend in a completely new city with a fixed room budget do in this situation? Well, you could just suck it up and stay there. Chances are it would be fine. But I wasn’t about to take my chances with thousands of dollars of equipment on hand with that as a first impression. So, if you were like me, you would:

1) Call

2) Complain (kindly)

3) Wait

4) Wait more

5) Profit! …eventually…

Thank goodness I didn’t book any pre-con shoots! PHEW! This ordeal took hours.

Airbnb’s customer service was a lifesaver, although a tedious one. I am so grateful I had a kind group of friends staying at a con hotel, so that I could kill time somewhere air-conditioned and close by to the con. Eventually they hooked me up with a different airbnb room in a beautiful home, just 10 minutes from the con. No one else was there so it was like having a house all to myself! Although I mostly kept to myself and after long days of shooting, all I can do is limp to a bathtub and then to a bed. 

But one thing is for sure - Dragoncon is the first con that I’ve been to where I said to myself, ‘Dang… the amount of fun I’d have here might outweigh the amount of money I’d make booking shoots…’

Which means, perhaps count on me wearing a badge for once next year? Who knows. Point is, y’all know how to party, and I want in next time. 

As for my shooting recap: I was only shooting from midday Friday through midday Sunday. I had a true savior for my entire weekend in the form of a pool, surrounded with lush greenery and adorned with twisting, ornate wrought iron, teeming with spiral staircases and stone fountains…oh, and the giant skylight filtering through my darling natural light. Yeah, you can imagine how I fell to my knees in gratefulness, having never been to this con before and coming upon that location through a referral. SOOO… mostly I frolicked in there with my clients, snapping away. Sometimes I dared to visit the ever-popular Hardy Ivy Park…which isn’t a park so much as a gorgeous stone monument. It was kind of like the Gazebo of Katsucon–a very coveted spot for every kind of cosplayer and photographer. I visited it a few times, when the right cosplay fit. Otherwise, you could find me lounging at the pool or sniffing around for some other spot to frame. I really like some of the other locations I’ve seen from other ‘togs at Dragoncon… downtown Atlanta certainly has its gems. 

Anyway, you’re not here for a ramble (though I do it anyway)–ON TO THE PHOTOS!

Three days, 20 photoshoots, 30 cosplayers. What a weekend. 

Note: Not all clients have been featured in this post. Groups (Hannah Alexander & Sakizo) will have their own blog post following this one later this week. Follow me on instagram to see more photos from the these and other privately booked shoots as I update it @ chezphotocosplay 


COSPLAYERS IN THE ORDER FEATURED

Tham as Camilla, Fire Emblem

Sketch Cosplay & Shiva Cosplay as Han and Leia, Star Wars

Sky Pirate Cosplay as Balthier, Final Fantasy XII

BearSatan (Tumblr) as Blackwall, Dragon Age

Guhzoontight as Swashbuckler Tigger (independent design)

Lady Lee Cosplay as Goddess Vaporeon Ginjika, Pokemon

Anime Layer Cosplay as Sakizo’s West Witch

LyddiDesign as Crystal Mercury, Sailor Moon

Tera_Misu (IG) as Princess Jasmine

Kitancosplay (IG) as Ivy Valentine, Soul Calibur

Dossalinithebarber (IG) as Japanese-inspired Boba Fett, Star Wars (independent design)

Leechangchow (IG) as Japanese-inspired Samurai Kylo Ren, Star Wars (independent design)

Megan (no cospage) as Anya, Anastasia 

Amanda (no cospage) as Princess Hilda, The Legend of Zelda

As a conclusion:

Dragoncon,  despite being a sold-out con for me in the blistering heat of Labor Day Weekend in ATL, was filled with costumes that were right up my alley. I love original designs, Disney cosplays, Sakizo, and video games – and my weekend was full of that. All of my clients were brimming with extreme talent and dedication, and it showed in every photo. I found the locations to be accommodating and versatile for many different types of cosplays. I will definitely be coming back, whether or not I have a camera in hand. I’d recommend this con to any con-goer ! 

See ya soon! Stay tuned next for a special Hannah Alexander group and a gorgeous Sakizo group!


Otakon 2016 | Client Spotlight | East Coast Cosplay Photographer

Now booking: Dragoncon. Three slots left per day. 

See other con spotlights here!

Oh man oh man am I behind schedule! Usually I try to get my client spotlights out of the way within a day of the con ending. But life has kinda been kicking my butt since I got back on Sunday… I’m wiped. 

Otakon, Otakon, Otakon. This was my first time in Baltimore ever. And man, were y’all not bluffing about the HEAT. I’ve spent my entire summer in NC and I didn’t think it would phase me. But man. It did. 

In doing so, I locked up most of my shoots indoors. Yikes!, I thought to myself. I’m an outdoor shooter! What do I do?!

Treat this like Katsucon, is what I did–hotel shooting party! Yas natural light, come thru.

 Thank you, Hyatt Regency, for not looking like garbage indoors. And also for having a Starbucks. (praying hands emoji) Looking forward to visiting DC next year for it, though!

So, I apologize, but I didn’t do as many edits for this spotlight as I could’ve. Usually I do more, but again…I hit the ground running after I got back on my train.  Here ya go!

Featuring SorryContinue as Rinoa

Zhrelia Cosplay as Rengar

Rhoulette Cosplay as PROJECT: LE0NA

Milkb0x as Jolyene

Khaleesi Cosplay as Nicki Minaj x KH crossover

RedSonya Cosplay from League of Legends

MoChoiArt as Devil Homura


 

-Riley

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