Skwinkography is a friendly photographer from New Jersey, who I have yet to meet, but am loving her talented eye!
How many years have you been into photography and what got you into cosplay photography?
Officially I’d say I’ve been photographing for a little over a year and a half now! The first convention I officially did photoshoots at was Anime Boston 2010, but I had documented my good friend Lauren’s (Vintage-Aerith@Tumblr) cosplays a couple times beforehand.
I had actually photographed her Haruko (FLCL) around Halloween 2009, but later in the spring she was nice enough to drag the costume back out for a final for a digital photography class I was taking! We shot besides the interstate and power plants, and it was seriously so much fun that I’ve been photographing cosplay ever since!
What regions do you usually cover, and do you charge for photoshoots? Also, how does one get in contact to shoot with you?
I’m currently a New Jersey local, so I usually stick to Northeast USA conventions, though I find myself usually attending a lot of cons in Washington DC, Baltimore area, or NYC.
I do charge for shoots, but I try to keep them inexpensive and the money is only used to reduce my convention costs. If anyone wants to contact me, I’m smstober at gmail, but I also operate out of deviantArt, tumblr, or facebook, and I always post my availability schedule for upcoming conventions I’m attending on those sites!
What type of photoshoots do you prefer and why?
The majority of my photoshoots are scheduled private where cosplayers typically hire me before the convention and we meet on a location nearby the convention. Lately I’ve been attending a few gatherings here and there and they’ve been loads of fun, so I definitely want try to do those more!
I’d like to get into the habit of just getting a few quick photos of random cosplayers throughout the convention, but I’m actually super shy and I’m still working up the courage to talk to strangers! It’s definitely on my list of New Years resolutions though!
What is some of your favorite equipment you work with and why?
I currently use a Nikon D5000 (hopefully upgrading within the year if finances allow it!), but my absolute favorite equipment is my SB-600 flash or 50mm 1.8/f prime lens. The flash has been really helpful in low-light situations, and the prime lens has an absolutely gorgeous bokeh and it’s completely manual, so it forces me to consider lighting and focus a lot more than an auto lens might.
What are you excited to be working with in the future and why?
There’s not a whole lot in specific coming up since I just finished my convention season for the year, but I’m definitely excited for 2012! I attended a whole lot of new conventions this year and will be revisiting most of them, which means I’m a lot more familiar with those locations and I’ll be able to be more creative with surroundings!
I’ll also be graduating college in the Spring, which means I won’t be tied to a usual school schedule anymore, so I want to take advantage of this to go to more places, and perhaps do more photoshoots than just at conventions.
What are some of the traits you like to see in other photographers and who do you think does them well?
Some of my absolutely favorite cosplay photographers have this crazy knack for making their images look like they came straight out of the comic, anime, game, or movie! Their photos are always super crisp and colorful, and I’d like to be able to do that one day! I certainly make a lot of attempts to do this in post-processing, but unfortunately location-resources can be really limited so the challenge is making do with what you got!
What is your view of the “cosplay scene”?
I’m going to be really cheesy for a moment, but I’ve completely fallen in love with it. I cannot describe how many fantastic friends I’ve made through the cosplay community and memorable weekends at conventions that I get to keep with me forever. Despite the drama, there is so much love between everyone that keeps me coming back. It’s the cosplayers I meet and all our shenanigans that makes me really hope I can do this forever!
What are some of the things you want to see change in the scene?
Elitism. As a photographer who has only cosplayed minimally, I’ve been able to avoid it for the most part, but I can’t believe some of the stories I hear about elitist cosplayers from others. I really don’t see why there is a problem with friends cosplaying the same characters, and what breaks my heart is seeing or hearing of cosplayers being mocked over the character they’re dressed as or if the costume, props, or wig isn’t up to someone’s standard. We’re all doing this super fun and nerdy thing! I really don’t see why we have to start drama over it.
What is some advice you could give people starting to get into photography?
Practice lots and lots and lots!! Get to know the capabilities of your equipment, experiment with post-processing software, and go to lots of different places! Most importantly- never be afraid to try something new! If your favorite photographer made this really fantastic image, experiment with different techniques so then you have this broad spectrum of types of shots you can get! I can’t describe how many articles I’ve read online about post-processing or how to utilize natural light and how much it’s helped me. Coming from someone who has taken a number of photography classes, I’ve learned way more from googling “photography tutorials” and reading what I found was interesting than anything out of a textbook.
What are some of your favorite conventions you’ve attended and why?
I like a lot of different conventions for different reasons, but I think Katsucon and Anime USA were some of my favorites photography-wise this past year. Katsucon is located at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor just south of Washington DC and I seriously have not been to a prettier convention. There are so many types of locations and backdrops, and the amount of sheer people in cosplay is nothing less than awesome. Anime USA is very similar, but a lot smaller. It’s changing venue next year, but this past November it was located in the Hyatt in Arlington, VA. It was another beautiful and varied location, but because there were less people, it was a lot more personable and easy-going!
Thanks for the interview, Skwinkography! To check out her work and contact her for a shoot, you can check out her Facebook, her Deviantart, her Tumblr, her Flickr account, and her American Cosplay Snapshot account!