First Studio Shoot

I had the opportunity to borrow some pro quality studio lights with soft boxes. I also managed to secure a venue for some semi regular studio work. So last month I organised a studio shoot with Neil and some of my favourite cosplayers!


I was fairly anxious, as this was the first time I had organised a shoot, with “pro” equipment, so the usual concerns like “what could possibly go wrong?” and “what if they don’t like the photos?” where amplified. Once we got started it all just went away and I started having fun. Learning to light the Strobist way was great, as I didn’t need to rely on modeling lights (which proved too dim).


The pace of shooting was a little different to what I’m used to. Shooting with Neil at manifest with small flashes, we were popping them at a rate of about 2 shots per second, sometimes faster, trying to get as many shots in 5 minutes as possible.

Annie Film Noir

I shot on black, hoping for more dramatic lighting. Got some awesome Film Noir shots of Annie in her suit. This is the second time I’ve shot with Annie, where at some point I looked at the back of the camera and thought “This doesn’t look that good”, then looking at the monitor back at home and seeing something completely different XD

Annie with Gun

The Bowens Gemini 500s the recycle time is much slower about 1 to 1.5 sec, but it’s fairly consistent across the power range. Thinking back, this is probably a good thing, as lights with different power settings will recycle at approximately the same time.

Gurtrid Barkhorn

For Valkyrie’s vintage dress I wanted to use 4 lights for a nice even lighting This was bad because I only have 3 triggers and Neil was using all 4 for his lights so I couldn’t borrow one. I set the slave cell on one, trying to time my shots in between Neils.

Vintage Valkyrie

Valkyrie was a great model putting up with all of this going. She didn’t miss a beat. The studio lights have a beep when they are ready for the next shot, pretty soon we got a good rhythm going! Shoot, beep, pose change, shoot beep pose change pose…

Vintage ValkyrieVintage ValkyrieVintage Valkyrie

I was really amazed seeing how different Val can look from shot to shot. A truly professional model showing range. πŸ™‚

Sefie’s makeup and costume was epic. The many hours of hard work and detailed make up made me a bit nervous of stuffing something up (eg missing focus or something) but I think these are some of the best photos I took that day.

Sorceress Edea

As the background is on carpet it tends to crinkle up which is a total drag and something we have to be constantly wary of. Sefie’s dress fills the frame really well, and the highlighted edges give good seperation against the background.

This is one of the things I love about low key, dark background, dark clothes, is that it make the details stand out better in my opinion.


I didn’t get much shooting time with Sierra as it was getting a bit late for all of us. Again another very professional model, with incredible costume design skills and a pleasure to work with. Neil helped out using a reflector as a fan πŸ™‚


Overall the day was awesome fun and I learnt a lot about studio lighting and studio management πŸ˜‰ Its also great to be able to hang out with such a great group of people in a creative setting. I hadn’t felt like that since shooting for the first time at Manifest.

You can see my favourite photos from on flickr. Neil’s set is viewable on smugmug.

Confidence and Limitations

Two weeks ago, during the eGames expo, we held our own little cosplay meet on the Saturday. As it was hot, Neil decided it was a good idea to storm the empty car park (eGames was that exciting) and use it as a studio.

So Neil had a nice clamshell setup going, and was getting stunning shots of Siera and Annie. I was just hanging around trying to think of something creative to do in the environment and Annie’s amazing Dagger cosplay.


I only had one flash with the big shoot thorough umbrella.

At the time I wanted to get the amazing shots Neil was getting. With only one flash this wasn’t possible. I looked at the back the back of the LCD and was disappointed they weren’t as good as this. I let my lack of confidence get the better of me and just stopped trying.

This was a really bad move, as when I got to process the photos, the lighting worked pretty well, and was I really surprised how it came out with just one light and shoot through brolly.

I realised how much better the photos could have been if I spent a bit more time shooting with Annie instead of just wishing I had more flashes and giving up.

Dagger from Kuroshitsuji

One light and big brolly gives a completely different mood than the clamshell style and it would have been great working with Annie seeing how to bring out Dagger’s character with just this simple setup. So the lesson for me is, I shouldn’t be thinking “If I only hadΒ I had 2 more lights…“, but instead, think of all the different possibilities and opportunities that become available with the given situation. More importantly, to not just give up. If the first few shots don’t work, staying confident, moving on, and keep shooting.

Armageddon Expo – Melbourne 2009

Last weekend I attended Armageddon pop culture expo. The lighting at conventions usually requires hi ISO and very fast lenses. This was no exception.

Obi Wan Gigi Edgley

This picture of obi wan is not photoshopped. This is actually a forcefx light saber. Using rear sync with slow shutter allows the backround to come through, and makes the light saber glow. Rear sync freezes any blur in the foreground. This also worked for my photo of Gigi Edgley πŸ™‚ I got a nice 8×10 print even though it was ISO 1600. too bad I didn’t get a chance to get her autograph πŸ™

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The cosplay competition lighting was probably the most challenging I’ve encountered though I’ve only been to 3 other conventions.

I shot with my friend and mentor Neil. For Manifest we got to use light stands as the venue was bigger and there weren’t cosplayers running around the stage.

With the ambient looking like ISO 3200 to get a reasonable shutter speed (not even spotlights!). With the nasty prospect of on camera flash looming, I had to think of something. Normally Neil does this but he was too bugged flying in from Sydney the night before πŸ™‚

We clamped an sb28 at 1/8 85mm stage left to a wall partition and we taped another stage right on top of a speaker.

Neil stuck his flash on his camera and duct taped the cyber sync to his camera somehow, me doing the same. This would act as a key light, with the side flashes adding accents hopefully reducing the on camera flash look.

We also turned off motor drive and set for single shot (that sounds kinda cool) to conserve flash recycle time. This was pretty cool, as a few minutes in we learned to time our shots in between hearing the others shutter release!

Toward the end of the competition I was getting lazy, and didn’t change lenses for the group shot. Neil already had his wide angle lens on, so I ran over and ripped the flash from the speaker and stood on a chair and pointed the flash at the stage. This was a panorama stitch.


Overall, I think it all turned out ok. Keep in mind the ambient was practically unusable.

It wasn’t the best lit photos we’ve taken, but much better than with just ambient or on camera flash. This was one of the shoots I enjoyed the most as we pushed ourselves to do the best we could with what the venue provided.

Please checkout other armageddon photos on Flickr, and Neil’s gallery on Smug Mug !