Photographer Interview with Ken AD

Ken AD is a talented photographer from Florida, who enjoys new and challenging shoots!

Ken AD, photo by CeciliaBot

How many years have you been into photography and what got you into cosplay photography?
While growing up, I used to take photos all the time for fun whether it is for friends or at conventions. However I never really knew photography as an art form and I was never exposed to it nor had any family who partook in it. In 2008, I saw a digital photo class offered and it inspired me once I saw what you could do with photos. It was also there I developed a good foundation and set out to improve.

The next year I met Shawn (NegativeDreamer). During this time, cosplay photography was sorely lacking in Florida. He invited me and some newer photographers to a photoshoot as a means to get better and gain experience. This would become very pivotal to my development as me and the other photographers would motivate each other. It also led to Shawn running a series of photoshoots all over Florida every season.

Tina Czarniecki as Sailor Venus from Sailor Moon, photo by Ken AD

Nowadays, cosplay is my central focus when it comes to photos and what I do mostly during cons.

What regions do you usually cover, and do you charge for photoshoots? Also, how does one get in contact to shoot with you?
The cons I usually attend are in Florida and Georgia. I would love to travel to other states, but I have yet to do so.

Starting out, I used to do it for free with the all day shoots being the only exception. However, there would be times when I would offer and advertise doing free shoots then have people bail or not take it as seriously. The people who seemed to have got the most of it were willing to tip me, even without me asking, which is one of the reasons I charge now.

I consider a shoot not just taking some photos, but an experience. I give direction when needed and look for ways to challenge myself. Looking for that distinct perspective my knees and elbows hit concrete, grass or I’m wobbling over some dangerous platform; I always tire myself out towards the end of a shoot.

Charging also helps since I do not have a lot of money and every convention is roughly 4 hours from me. Plus with what money I do make extra, I use it towards newer equipment so I can make the most out of every future shoot. I try to keep my rates low and occasionally if I see something really rare or an intriguing challenge for me to shoot, I may do it for free. If you happen to be local to me then there is a good chance I’d be open to doing something for free here.

If someone is interested in booking me, they can find me and my work at the following places.

What type of photoshoots do you prefer and why?
For subject material, I like video game based ones as they give me a lot to work with usually.

Location wise, I have grown accustomed to almost anything whether it is urban like a parking garage or a more woodsy area such as Bok Tower. However. I have always preferred during the day and under some shade.

What is some of your favorite equipment you work with and why?
Reeling back to my previous statement, I do not have a lot of money.

For the longest time, I had been limited to a Canon Rebel XT with a 50mm f/1.8. However, last year, I upgraded to a Canon Rebel T2I and was given a 17-85mm f/4-5.6 by a fellow photographer. I currently use a Canon Rebel T2I with a 50mm f/1.8 and 17-85mm f/4-5.6

I like to alternate between the 50mm and 17-85mm as each have a distinct effect. The 50mm is great for dramatic portraits and close ups. The 17-85 is excellent for action shots and scenery.

Eventually, when I can afford it, I would like to pick up a Canon Mark2, the 35mm f/1.4, and the 24-70mm f/2.8L (this one was really rockin’ when I tried it out). Currently I am looking into getting some flash umbrellas for night time.

What are you excited to be working with in the future and why?
I will be making my return to MomoCon in March and one of my shoots is a Kitty Kaito. If all goes well, this will be my first convention in which I’ll have night time equipment.

I do have a secret wish list of what I would like to shoot that I am seeking to fulfill one day.

What are some of the traits you like to see in other photographers and who do you think does them well?
I always try to keep in good terms with every cosplay photographer. Some such are RisingSun (Maboroshi), BigTallCameraDude, FenyxDesign, Morataya, IM Photography, BellaVoce, GapplePhotos, SimpleBeauty, and ørz_photography; I consider them my photo family. Each one does things a little differently, whether it is their equipment or direction. However, I think as a photographer or as an artist in general, they should always be trying to challenge themselves.

A photographer known as SimpleBeauty told me how it is about capturing the character in action rather than just taking a picture of someone in a costume. That should be the goal for everyone.

Hime no Toki as Princess Kraehe from Princess Tutu, photo by Ken AD

What is your view of the “cosplay scene”?
There are your outspoken elitists, humble leaders and people who just like going for the ride. The ones who seem to be more into it can either be the friendliest people you’ll ever meet or the complete opposite. However, if it wasn’t for all the encouragement and friendships, I have made I probably wouldn’t be as active in it as I am. We are artists. Regardless of how hard we work on things, people outside of it won’t see or understand it the way we do. That is one of the things that make it so special.

What are some of the things you want to see change in the scene?
Sometimes it really feels as if people are sometimes out to get one another or assume some dark overtone over what somebody says and does. I suppose it is human nature in the end.

There is also quite a bit criticism thrown around about different cosplays and photographers. Admittedly, in my early days, I would see something that didn’t look right and chuckle a bit. However, nowadays, as long as the person is happy cosplaying or taking photos then I just sit back and smile. If somebody wants to get better at photos or cosplay, then let’s help them.

People just need remember it is for fun after all.

What is some advice you could give people starting to get into photography?
Working with or hanging out with other photographers in the scene. There is something very invaluable as you can learn from each other.

Equipment wise, even though something like a MarkII would be nice to get starting out, a fancy camera does not automatically make your photos great. Learn your equipment and check out reviews before picking something out. See which features you like and what you can afford. is one website I like to use when considering a new camera. Just remember people want your style; not which camera you used. Also don’t forget lenses!

If your goal is to make money, then cosplay photography will not work for you as there is little to no money to be made. Also I think it is important to build some experience and portfolio before deciding to charge. Go to a con and offer some free shoots and decide if this is what you want to do.

Make as many friends as you can, keep a good attitude, and be humble. Challenge yourself.

What are some of your favorite conventions you’ve attended and why?
Probably EXP Con; it has a good atmosphere and people. I was a big fan of AWA, but it has steadily become more boring and strict.

Chronie and Kiarou as Sakura and Syaoran from Tsubasa, photo by Ken AD

Thanks for the interview, Ken AD! To check out his work and contact him for a shoot, you can check out his Facebook page and his Devaintart!


About Yunie

I am a cosplayer, a nerd, a geek. I am whatever you call me. However, I have a brain and tend to use it.
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