FanimeCon 2016 is right around the corner. I’m really looking forward to taking photos, socializing, buying artwork, and taking part in the night life. These anime cons – specifically Fanime – have sparked a passion for photography I didn’t know I had. So, in light of all the excitement of last year, and in preparation for this year’s con photography, I’ve decided two things: 1) it’s time to get things prepared for the con, and 2) it’s time for a retrospective.
Fanime last year was awesome. It was my first time attempting photography with any degree of seriousness, and I got to meet and shoot a lot of really cool people. But back then, I didn’t know much about what I was doing. I had a DSLR and a couple lenses, but didn’t know how to use it very well; I have a design background, but I didn’t understand the basic principles of photography.
So more often than not, I found myself shooting in burst mode, correcting photos, and hoping that in the hundreds, if not thousands of photos I took, I’d have a few good ones. And I did. But I new I could do better. I knew that all the other photographers around me, like Mike Rollerson and David Ngo, were shooting single shots, taking no more than 20 seconds of cosplayers’ time, and coming out with stellar shots.
As a creative person, I appreciate the hard work, creativity, and artistic perspectives that go into these cosplays, and my goal is to capture this art on camera, and hopefully do so in such a way the cosplayers will at the very least feel proud of their own accomplishments.
So in terms of last year’s photography, what went right?
Angles & composition
If nothing else I think I got that down pat. I didn’t really need to spend much time figuring out the most ideal angles – at least from my perspective – for the models/subjects. To make it even easier on me, each one knew how to pose. Every cosplayer owned the lens; they new exactly how to portray their character, convey an emotion, or just look damn good.
As I said before – I have a background in design. I have my own set of photoshop chops. That, combined with my own creative and artistic perspective played a huge part in the successful outcome of the photos I took.
And that about sums it up for what I did right. So…what went wrong?
Many photos I took were out of focus. This was my first time taking photography seriously, and my first time taking photos of people I had never met before. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get the right shot and instead felt inclined to use manual focus the entire time. Big mistake. This was probably one of the biggest reasons the vast majority of my photos went into the trash bin. The photo of Charmie Sweets as Zero Suit Samus is the only truly out-of-focus shot I kept. A perfect subject, a perfect cosplay, a perfect composition, but the photo suffered from my lack of discipline.
I think I redeemed myself, though, when I caught her Boa Hancock cosplay the next day.
The “Fix it in post” mentality
Being the nervous novice I was, I didn’t want to be a bother to cosplayers trying to enjoy the con, but at the same time I wanted to take as many shots as I possibly could. As a result, I neglected to analyze my environment and adjust my camera settings. Instead, I figured – I’ll shoot in RAW and fix it in post, resulting in grainy, dark, and sometimes awkward shots that I had to edit like crazy to make them even close to presentable.
What I’ll be doing differently:
- Auto focus! There’s no shame in using it, and if it doesn’t work, the focus can always be adjusted manually.
- Adjust camera settings before shooting, and use auto ISO! Auto ISO is the best thing ever made. Period. I will be setting an ideal exposure and focal length, and let the camera adjust everything else on its own. In a controlled situation, I’d be adjusting ISO myself, but in a situation where I want to be shooting things quickly and effortlessly, I want to be thinking about the shot, not the settings.
- Less burst mode! I’ll be focusing on getting shots right the first time around.
So, stay tuned. In the next few posts, I’ll be talking about the camera gear I’ll be bringing to the con, and maybe give a sneak peak into my wife’s upcoming cosplay.