A friend is writing up an English composition paper about photographers. She wanted people to answer a list of questions related to that. I decided to write up responses for her instead of doing an interview. That should be easier for her and it gave me something to post on here. Here are the questions and my responses.
Question: How many years have you been a photographer (or counted yourself as one)?
Around 2002, so approximately 18 years.
Question: Would you call yourself an amateur, a hobbyist, or a professional photographer?
Question: Are you self-taught or do you have school/formal training? How long did it take before you were confident in your skill?
Self-taught, mostly from online sources and learning by doing. I’d say it took around 7 years to have a solid foundation of knowledge and practice.
Question: What do you feel makes a professional photographer?
Someone that can financially support the majority of their life with photography related work. So that means being able to pay for family related expenses, bills, insurance, loans, transport, and whatever else. I guess that seasonal or part-time photographers could certainly be called professionals as well, but someone that can do it all is definitely in the profession of photography.
Question: What type of gear do you have (feel free to name the camera make and model)?
Right now I have two Canon EOS M50 cameras, a Canon EOS M5, a Canon EOS 30D, and various lenses with support equipment. I have quite a few constant LED lights that I use for photography. My particular focus is a large mix of photography and videography, so I shifted toward constant lighting instead of flash/strobes. Before this gear, I used Nikon DSLRs and before that I used Pentax DSLRs. Occasionally I had other more specialty equipment like a Fujifilm X100F. I make YouTube videos about photography, so it’s an absolute necessity to have multiple cameras. I also often like using two cameras at once in photography situations with a dual camera strap.
Question: Do you have a dedicated space for photography at home?
I don’t have a dedicated space. That is definitely something I strive toward. I’d like a studio space, though it being in a separate location would be ideal.
Question: What made you choose to pursue photography as an interest/career?
I was planning on going to my first anime convention with a college anime club that ended up being in January 2003 called Ohayocon. My friends at the club described to me what happens at conventions. It was all an exciting foreign concept to me at the time. I started doing research and saw pictures online where people dressed up as characters from anime. I learned it was called cosplay.
I eventually found websites like cosplay.com and realized that there were people that went to conventions and took photos of these cosplayers. I remember seeing photos from the photographer “Eurobeat King” and seeing what camera he used. There were other photographers, but for some reason he is the one I remember. I started getting really interested in photography back in 2002 after buying a 2 megapixel Canon S200 Digital ELPH digicam that was similar to his camera, though it was a cheaper model. From there I went to multiple conventions and took photos of people in cosplay. I also cosplayed, but it was less of a focus compared to photography.
I met the photographer Kevin Lillard at Kazecon 2003 and talked to him about photography. He gave me a lot of good information and motivation to keep going. Throughout all of that, I was also doing nature photography and whatever else I could with the camera. Choosing photography as something important to me came down to the enjoyment and it being a great way to connect with people.
Throughout all of this I’d often make websites where I posted photos and I eventually got into making videos about photography in January 2011. At that point I was deeply into it all.
How would you describe your photography style?
I have a heavy focus on composition. I take notice of the positioning of elements in the photo to fit my ideal vision of that scene. I’d call my stuff down-to-earth and not especially flashy. I tend to take notice of and get images with a lot of detail, but that depends on the genre I’m exploring at the time. My coloration and overall look of the photos tends to be true-to-life rather than a hyper-real or surreal look.
Question: Do you have a preferred subject for photography? Why do you prefer it?
My first genre was cosplay photography, so that has a special place in my heart. But I do a lot of nature, landscape, and macro photography as well. I’d like to do more people photography, in general, but it’s a lot more difficult to make that happen. I wouldn’t want to be forced to do one style of photography, so I guess I don’t have a preferred subject.
Question: What kind of thing or quality inspires you to take a photo?
This depends on the genre. For cosplay photography it can be a number of factors in the moment. With taking random hallway photos of cosplayers, the situation matters a lot. There is etiquette involved so inspiration takes a back seat to some degree. What inspires me with it would be the quality of their outfit or a personal interest in the character they are cosplaying.
For my nature photography work it’s a lot more fluid. I look at the scene and how elements like plants, trees, and other parts I see are positioned and shaped. I think that the inspirational aspect of that is a mixture of light as well as shape and the collection of elements. I have so many videos where I am out taking nature photos that dive into this aspect of what peaks my interest and how I position myself to take a photo, haha.
Question: Who or What resources helped you to improve your skill?
Most of my technical knowledge comes from various Internet sources. I started off before YouTube was a thing, but it has helped me a lot since then. Also, my peers in the cosplay photography scene are a great resource. I see how they do things and can learn from that.
Question: How do you prepare for a photo shoot/photography session?
For a private cosplay photography session, I talk with the cosplayer to understand what character they are going to be cosplaying as. If I don’t know that particular anime, I’ll at least do a Google image search to see what the character looks like and also look for any screen captures from the show so I can get an idea on the backdrop. I’d think about and put together a gear kit for the photoshoot. With people photography I’d usually have a portrait lens and a wide angle lens, often using two cameras on a dual camera strap, if it is serious enough. I might put together a lighting kit or bring equipment to bounce light around such as reflectors.
With nature photography, it’s often in combination with making a video, so I tend to bring one camera and lens for the photography and something to do audio and video recording. I like limiting myself here by not bringing too much photography related gear. Narrowing down the photography side makes the entire process smoother. It also helps me focus on and really learn that one lens I’m using or one camera I’m using at the time. It helps my videos have a singular focus.
Question: What typically happens during a standard shoot/session?
A lot of my private cosplay photoshoots happen at conventions. We meet up and talk a bit about what the goals are if we didn’t do that much beforehand. We would then go around to various locations to take photos. I’d pose them and give direction on positioning. A lot of the challenge is finding good locations that fit well with the given cosplayer.
I’ve also done photoshoots and cosplay photography meetups outside of conventions as well. Those tend to be with close friends, often with a small group of people. We’d do the same thing by finding locations that are good for a given cosplay and take photos. In this case it is usually a few cosplayers and photographers, so we’d switch off after a while so each person gets to work with everyone.
With the nature photography stuff it’s a lot less formal. I get my equipment together and decide on a location. I also decide on the type of photos I’ll be taking based on what lens I’m bringing, and if I’m doing hand-held photography or photography on a tripod. This is a lot more whim based. While I’m out there I walk around and look for anything that peaks my interest. When I find a scene that I want to capture I position myself and set up the camera to the exposure I want. Rinse and repeat…
Question: What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?
The social interaction that comes with photography. That can be spending time with friends in the cosplay scene, or receiving positive feedback on my photography videos. I also really enjoy the act of photography in the moment, the first time I’m looking at the photos I took, and getting to the point where I can release a given work publicly.
Question: What is the most difficult part of being a photographer
Everything that comes with people/cosplay photography. There is a lot to it and putting yourself out there when others are involved does make it difficult. The indirect expense of going to conventions or having gatherings all adds up. My cosplay photography, in general, has slowed down a lot due to the expense of conventions. The COVID situation also adds to our current challenges in that regard. The last time I took a photo of a cosplayer was in a casual situation at the last c2e2.
Another major challenge would be making enough money with photography to support my life. In my case I don’t try to make any money with cosplay photography, so that makes it difficult to sustain activity in it.
I do make money indirectly with photography I feature in my videos, but that still isn’t at a sustainable level even with a significant effort the last few years.
I’ve occasionally had paid work in photography, but working with clients isn’t something I especially enjoy. I’d rather teach and explore photography in the form of video content than to be working directly for someone.
Question: Anything else you would like to add?
I think photography is a great hobby and a very difficult profession. It’s really a great facilitator to interact with people that have common interests. I hope that more and more people can find the value in and interest in photography. With my video work I try to promote and explore photography. I want to show people how accessible it is and fun it can be. I want to help people learn and understand its value.