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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


ENGAGED | Yinuo&Jason | Central Park NYC & Top of the Rock Engagement Photographer


Let’s step out of our own world for a moment and into Vogue with this editorial-inspired, highly stylized engagement shoot of the most fashionable girl I know and her devilishly handsome, sharply-dressed husband-to-be. Yinuo and Jason met during grad school at NYU–and funnily enough, they are both from the same city in China: Wenzhou. And, to answer everyone’s questions - no, they aren’t working in NYC as models…they just happen to look picture-perfect all the time. 

This engagement shoot is incredibly special to me, and let me tell you why:

Yinuo has been in front of my lens since I first picked up a camera in 2009. It was my senior year of high school, and I had just discovered my passion–photographing people, specifically portraits and fashion. She was one of my first muses, and I’ve only had a handful throughout my life so far. Yinuo and I would head out after school and wander into huge fields laden with the golden light of the setting sun, or weave through the trees in the forests of New Hampshire, to take portraits that I didn’t even know I could take–she was always up for any crazy photo adventure idea I had, and she helped me become used to photographing people and giving artistic direction. My photos of her have won local and national awards. Some of my favorite works are of her, and so when she asked me 7 years later to photograph her engagement with Jason, I couldn’t have been more thrilled at the thought. Conveniently enough I was already in Boston working with clients, so heading to NYC was just a ride away. I just love New York late April! It’s my favorite time of year to be there.

To be honest, I was really nervous about shooting these two at 30 Rock. It was a gorgeous, warm day in Manhattan after a week of rain. Spring was in the air. Not a cloud was in the sky. What was there to worry about? Well–the top of Rockefeller Center on a perfect Saturday afternoon was what to worry about. I had no idea what to expect with the crowds…it took me ages just to get in line and meet Y&J at the top. But I kept my cool; after all, I photograph artists and their costumes at conventions that harbor anywhere from 15,000-60,000 people nearly every other month…I’m used to crowds. But still, New York is a different ballpark in many regards. So, I held my breath on the long elevator ride up 850 feet, and knew that I had to be straightforward and patient with asking sightseeing folks to step aside while I shot.

To say my worries were for nothing would be an understatement–this shoot was a breeze (and not just because I was up 70 stories in the air). Sightseers were more than cooperative with moving out of the way, stepping aside and giving room for me to shoot, and even shouting congratulations and cheering for Yinuo and Jason! It was so cute, and very unexpected. To think I was ready to clamber over incessant crowds to get a shot that would still be littered with people–such was not the case!  It’s funny how my years of experience shooting conventions translated so well into this shoot; I didn’t feel nervous or awkward at all letting people know that we were shooting an engagement. It was such a weight lifted off my shoulders so quickly, that it made the rest of the shoot at Top of the Rock go very smoothly. I was simply ecstatic at the images I was getting. Yinuo and Jason were SO incredibly beautiful together, too–but you don’t need me to tell you that. See for yourself.


After our adventures at Top of the Rock, we took a quick intermission before heading over to Central Park at the entrance to Strawberry Fields. Despite the massive array of beautiful sites Central Park has to offer, the areas around W 72nd offered the best of the best. I knew this part of the shoot would be my favorite, as my specialty is emotive portraiture intertwined with elements of nature. That’s been my niche since seemingly day 1 of picking up a camera and it’s stuck with me ever since.  Yinuo, having been a resident of my lens before, knew this about me and was equally excited.


With the pond, the iconic Bow Bridge and proximity to Bethesda Fountain, this area had everything any couple could want in their ideal Central Park engagement session.

Or should I say every couple? Tons of photographers were out with their clients on this beautiful day! I loved seeing all the happy couples – especially some of the dresses the girls were wearing. But I gotta say, I think I had the prettiest clients. Haha. Just look at these two!

I’m obsessed with the light against Yinuo’s hair in that last photo! She’s like a beautiful doll. And Jason’s hair isn’t to be ignored, either–sharp and stylized! Neither of them spared a detail in their immaculate presentation. I knew they wouldn’t disappoint.

As the shoot wrapped up, we happened upon this beautiful horse-drawn carriage that Yinuo fell in love with. It was the perfect backdrop to tie together this fairy-tale engagement session.

It was pretty surreal to be the photographer for Yinuo and Jason’s engagement before they fly off to China to get married. I’m so thrilled with the results we got and I can’t wait to do more photoshoots like this in the future.

I am now booking for Fall engagements in NYC and Boston. Please contact me if interested.


Animazement 2016 | Client Spotlight | NC Cosplay Photographer

(NEXT CON: Otakon. Booking opens June 10th at 5pm EST.
THEN: Dragoncon. Booking opens July 20th.) 

Animazement, Animazement, Animazement… my, you hold a dear place in my nerdy heart. Ten years ago–yes, an entire decade–I attended it as my first con back when it was in the Sheraton. AZ has always been on my birthday weekend, so in 2006 my mom made special plans and got us a nice room nearby, helped me make my first cosplay (Thief Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2, of course), and got me as many roast beef sandwiches that my heart desired that weekend. I can’t believe that was back in 2006… WOW. I had a blast, even though I unknowingly crashed an FF7 shoot in my excitement to be with other cosplayers. (No, like, I literally crashed the hell out of it because I didn’t understand how series shoots work for multiple games–I thought I had missed the FFX/X-2 roll call for the shoot and so I ran in and joined a bunch of Clouds and Tifas. They were merciful on my little teen self, bless.)

So, naturally, AZ has always held a dear place in my heart. Admittedly, being here always makes me miss cosplaying. One day I hope to get back into it. But, I digress! Below you will see a few teasers of my sold-out weekend shooting at Animazement in Raleigh, NC. Stay tuned for more, and follow me on instagram - chezphotocosplay - for frequent updates of my shots from booked cons.


Up first we have Youtuber/Gamer/Streamer Slothymama on Friday as Galadriel from LoTR! Honestly she had the role TOTALLY down, absolutely epitomizing the strong-willed grace of this character. Also, she was super rad to hang out with. And, to top it all off, she surprised me with a delicious little chocolate cake at the end of our shoot because she knew my birthday was Saturday! How freakin sweet was that?! It was delicious–a lucky guess with the dark chocolate. 

Next we have Patricia (patches_smile on IG) and her friend who booked together, splitting the shoot as a Sakizo design and an original illustration based off of a Demon king. They were fun and easy to work with; I always love working with people who split the shoots with friends, even if they aren’t cosplaying ‘together’ technically. The energy is always high. Also, y’all know how much I love me some Sakizo. Patricia told me that she hammered out that gorgeous, elegant costume in less than a month–she made it after she knew I could photograph it, which is super flattering. :’)


Following this we have Molly aka AoKoumori. She won my free giveaway! I worked with her last year and she’s always a BLAST to be around. Like, I live for her goofy facial expressions. Also she has the prettiest dang smile. She hand-dyed the fabric herself in this May cosplay from Guilty Gear, too. Molly is also getting married soon, and Animazement is her bachelorette party! What a fun idea for the newlywed nerd! Lol. Love you Molly. 

Here is pyrefly on Instagram as Genos from One Punch Man. He was such a darling to work with, and it was impossible to get a bad shot of him. He is just so good in front of the camera! And very patient, too, as we had a few run-ins with location issues. I really loved working with him and hope to again soon.


Now we have a client that was referred to me by the lovely amazing Josie aka Guhzoontight who I photographed at PAX East. Here’s Kristi, aka The Geeky Gamer Girl who, if you were also at PAX East, most definitely saw because her cosplay is rad as heck. I’m so glad Josie referred her to me because Kristi was a blast to work with. Also, I remember seeing her costume from PAX and wishing SO BAD that I could’ve photographed her. So, when she booked me for AZ, I was SO EXCITED! Honestly I freaking LOVE this cosplay design of Nova from Starcraft. The colors are my favorite, and those adorable roller derby wheels remind me of a tasty candy that I just can’t place. She was so easy to work with and I can’t wait to show you more from this shoot!


Here is the beautiful Jenna Lynn Cosplay wearing the Stygian Zinogre armor set from Monster Hunter. When I saw she decided to book her MH costume, I was really excited, because I had so much fun photographing Guhzoontight’s. This was a great cosplay, although I have to hand it to her for being a trooper in it due to the heat. Stay tuned for full-body images.


While leaving a photoshoot I ran into this My Fair Lady cosplayer, sharpestitches on Instagram. I usually don’t take hall shots/shots on the move in between bookings, but I saw this and couldn’t resist snapping a quick portrait. I love her big hat!



I loved this shoot of the absolutely stunning Katherine aka Katinka Cosplay as Luka from Vocaloid. She was great to meet and her costume was gorgeous. I’m so glad she booked it with me because this is right up my alley. She is so elegant! And she has some big cosplay plans coming up so you’ll definitely want to give her page a follow.


And here we have Regena of House of Mint & Mint to Be Makeup as Princess Serenity. I have known Regena since I was like, 16 or so–she cosplayed Fran from FFXII in 2009 with me when I crossplayed as  Vaan. Fond memories! Regena is a talented MUA as well as a veteran cosplayer. She’s definitely a go-to for con bookings if you need your makeup done by a true professional. Remember, makeup is part of cosplay too…don’t skimp on it! Look into booking her for your next con. 


Lastly, I ran into Smash Cosplay and Useless Materia Cosplay in their Disney princess costumes based off of Hannah Alexander’s artwork. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get ahold of their full group, but I had to snap a few photos of these ladies. 

As a conclusion:

Animazement, despite being a sold-out con for my shoot bookings in the blistering heat of Memorial Day Weekend in NC, was surprisingly enough my most relaxing con. Probably because it wasn’t in the bitter cold like Katsu and Anime Boston, or in the challenging locations of the seaport like PAX East. I couldn’t believe that I actually had the energy to party and go out Saturday night on my birthday, but I did. Boxcar Barcade in Raleigh was an awesome place to celebrate. 

I really really liked shooting AZ this year. My clients were kind and easy to work with and I’m very happy with the locations around Animazement and the food options in the area too. Overall I give Animazement a 5/5 this year for shooting. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it next year, but who knows where I’ll be! For now, though, I am based in eastern NC and do on-location photoshoots for cosplay in the area. Feel free to contact me.


Sam & Ella | Mother’s Day | East NC & Atlantic Beach Family Photographer


Happy Mother’s Day! Mamas all around the world get to have their spotlight day to shine–but really, how can one day highlight all that mothers do?

My own mother means the world to me. She raised me all on her own (and did a pretty good job of it–I’ve been told I have nice manners) and has encouraged me my whole life to embrace who I am. Weird hair? No problem. Shaved hair? You look adorable! You like to dress up like video game characters and go to conventions? Let me make your costume and bring you lunch! You want to change your name? I love it!

I’m so grateful for my mom and all the creativity she has given me and helped me cultivate throughout my life. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have pursued photography as passionately as I have. My headstrong desire to create is fueled by her feverish encouragement. My mom ignited the flame in me to pursue a life of art and self-fulfillment. I can’t express enough how integral she has been to my growth as a person and artist.

I wanted to celebrate Mothers Day by spotlighting a special mother-daughter relationship in town–Sam and Ella! Ella just turned 4 a little over a month ago, and is seriously such a cutie!!! She fell right into the role of a model in front of my camera! Our shoot was on a VERY windy day–but we made it work! The windswept look works for the pool and beach. ;)

The first bit of our shoot took place at the pool–I absolutely LOVE the matching black and white patterned swimsuits and bandanas! Sam’s red lipstick is just a perfect touch too. These lil’ watermelon slices had a blast in the pool even with the wind!


After our few shots in the pool, we dried off and headed out to Fort Macon with a vintage bike in the bed of the truck. Fort Macon, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, is one of my favorite locations to shoot. The landscape is just gorgeous, I love the expanse of rolling dunes and vegetation surrounding the beach. It’s so open and perfect for photoshoots. I especially love this little path right off the parking lot!


These two are so stylish! Talk about an adorable pair. 


Ella for president 2016!! Free DQ ice cream for everyone all the time. She’s got my vote.

We headed out to the beach to brave the winds. And oh, did we brave it! We almost blew away. But if it weren’t for the wind I wouldn’t have gotten this magical shot:

Ella looks like a painting, doesn’t she?!

We found shelter from the wind behind a dune and settled down on a blanket to play show-and-tell with Ella’s seashells she found along the way. 


These two are just so gorgeous! Sam is such a beautiful mom. And Ella, just look at that hair!! Watch out Sam, looks like you might have a diva on your hands…

We said farewell to the relentlessly windy beach as the sun began to set, and enjoyed some ice cream on the drive home. Until next time, when the weather is warmer and the wind is kinder! Happy mother’s day to you and yours!

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