One thing that’s crucial to sharing your horror cosplay with a wide audience is having a good photographer. We interviewed often-submitter Soulfire Studio to tell us about how to take a good photo, what it’s like doing cosplay photography—and tips on getting a great horror shot!
1) What area do you work out of? What cons do you frequent?
I currently work out of Central North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and sometimes Charlotte depending on the situation). As far as cons go, I generally tend to travel up and down the east coast.
Yearly, I attend Ichibancon, Katsucon, PAX East, Animazement, Otakon, Dragon*Con and Anime USA.
In the past, I have attended Anime Weekend Atlanta and I hope to attend Ohayocon and New York Comic Con this coming year (I’ll also be at RTX this coming summer, but that’s more of me attending as a fan).
Although, I have been known to make special exceptions depending on the interest I get for certain cons. The more interest I get, the more likely it is that I’ll attend for shoots with people!
2) How do you find cosplayers to shoot?
I’m actually very fortunate to have a ton of my friends cosplay. Through them, I have met just about everyone I have worked with in the past (and the future). Surprisingly enough, Central NC seems to be a mini-hub of cosplay!
Outside of personal connections, I also contact cosplayers if I know they’re going to be at certain cons I’ll be attending. Recently, I contacted both Sheila of AiCosu and Rana McAnear (the face model of Samara and Morinth from Mass Effect) because I heard they were going to be attending PAX East.
I absolutely love working with new people, I will always jump at the opportunity to work with new cosplayers!
3) How is shooting horror different than other cosplay photography?
I know it sounds odd, but, the shoots themselves (for horror cosplay) feel different than regular shoots. It’s almost as if horror cosplay relies more on how the cosplayer becomes what they’re cosplaying than normal. A lot of the time with shoots, you can get away with being unfamiliar with a series. But, with a Horror shoot, If there is something missing, or anything is mistranslated between the cosplayer and the photographer, it will definitely show in the end product.
Both the cosplayer and the photographer need to have a good idea for how the game/anime (or wherever the cosplay comes from) feels. And, if you aren’t familiar with the series, do your research! Youtube videos of play-throughs are fantastic (My favorite is watching Day9 play Amnesia. I screamed like a little girl).
For example, Fatal Frame and Amnesia both scare the pants off me. Is that going to translate into a creepier photo with a really in depth feeling for how helpless you really are in those games? Oh, most definitely.
In truth, a con feels like it’s missing a little something if I don’t do at least one horror shoot! My friends spoil me.
4) What do you feel is important when setting up a horror shot?
For horror shoots, the environment/location of the shoot is very important. I’m not saying you need to be in a Japanese garden or an old abandoned mansion, or even a burning town (although, that would definitely help). You just need an area devoid of unwanted energy and life.
For example, at Animazement, the location of the con is a super modern building with lots of shiny poles, (large) open windows, and colorful carpet. That kind of sucks for horror shoots. But, what most people forget is that empty car garages, enclosed hallways (generally used for maintenance) and stairwells are perfect for horror shoots.
Angles are fantastic tools in horror shoots. I am a huge fan of making it seem like the cosplayer is attacking the camera or that they’ll be emerging from the photo within the next few moments. Most horror games and animes are very intense series’, angles definitely help bring that in to the shoot. One of my favorite ways to work with angles is to have the cosplayer move and act in character as I move around them with my camera and take photos (this works especially fantastic with Fatal Frame ghosts). You’ll have more than a few photos you can’t use, but the ones that turn out are phenomenal.
Besides the location and angles, the lighting is also important. If you have a hotshoe flash, use it to bounce the light off a nearby wall instead of diffusing it. Sometimes, you want as much contrast as possible so you can play with the expression and pose of your cosplayer. Be sure to play and experiment with it!
One of my favorite mistakes (or, rather, ‘adventures in lighting’) was at AWA two years ago. I was doing a shoot for my friend’s Bubble-Head Nurse and her boyfriend’s Pyramid Head (From Silent Hill) in an empty stairwell. The stairwell walls were made of brick and I didn’t account for the fact that any flash bouncing off the walls to provide fill light would be the brownish-red of the brick itself.
A few moments after I took the photos, I was really disappointed and beating myself up…until we looked at the photos. The red light helped pick up the latex and paint the two of them had used to create the dirt/soot/bloodied look on their cosplays and skin which added to the already ridiculously creepy feel of the shot itself. After that shoot, I used the same technique for another Silent Hill shoot the next year and it worked just as well.
5) What kind of gear do you have?
I currently shoot with my Nikon D300, two lenses ( a 50 prime for portrait shots and a 18-135mm lens for everything else ), two external flashes ( one SB600 and a Metz ), and an umbrella that I use when I hook up my wireless triggers. I’m hoping to invest in a new lens within the next year (a wide-angle lens) and am saving up for a new body (hopefully a D800!). I tend to drift towards Nikon because I prefer the feel of their cameras, but I have used both Canon and Nikon in the past. They are both fantastic companies.
6) What is your favorite part of cosplay photography?
One thing I have noticed in cosplay photography is that the cosplayers have such a passion and energy for what they do. They really get in to it and it makes my part ridiculously easy! Their love for the character, which led them to create the cosplay itself, really lends itself to a successful photograph. It gives an energy to an otherwise lifeless photo.
7) Anything we haven’t covered?
If you all have any questions on photography, feel free to ask! I don’t bite! Also, if you notice anything about the cosplays I shoot (and/or cosplayers I have worked with) that you’d like to know about, I can direct you to the cosplayers themselves so you can ask. They’re all ridiculously nice people!
8) Where can people contact you?
We send our thanks for a great interview! :)