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Q&A With Cosplay Photographer: Katie Be Photography

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Katie York is a photographer from Los Angeles, California. I first met Katie in early 2015 through the Doctor Who Community. She was a Twelfth Doctor Cosplayer at the time. I ,myself, was also a Doctor Who cosplayer and also from the surrounding Los Angeles area. I began to follow her on Instagram and very quickly formed a friendship with her. Our shared interest stretched far beyond just Doctor Who and Cosplay.  We talked daily about our fandoms, our lives and our passions. One passion we shared and cared very deeply about was Cosplay Photography. For us cosplay photography was just as important as the cosplays themselves. Photography was our way of celebrating our fandom. Doing our best to bring out the hard work and effort that had gone into making these cosplays. Doing our best to do justice to the cosplays and the cosplayer. Most of what I have learned about cosplay photography I have learned from Katie. She has a very unique style and approach to shooting cosplays. To me, her photos seem softer and more sophisticated than a lot of the Cosplay Photography I have seen out there. She brings out the personalities of the people she photographs just as well as she does the loveliness of their cosplays. It is this unique style that makes her so sought after as a photographer. Her Wonder Woman Cosplay Project, which you will read about below, is touching  and brilliant. I am very honored to be sharing her work and her story with you. 

Photo by VXV Images

Your story, tell us about yourself.
Hi all, I’m Katie! I’m a purple loving lady who moved with my mom and my dog from the east coast (New Hampshire) to the west coast (Southern California) to pursue a career in film post production. I love many things, most of them being my family, my fandoms (Disney, Wonder Woman, Sherlock and Star Trek to name a few.) and my pretend boyfriends (the most recent being Taika Waititi, Karl Urban and Chris Pine). When I’m not behind the lens of my Nikon I can be found running around my second home, Disneyland!

How long have you been interested in photography and storytelling?
Photography has always flitted in and out of my life for quite sometime. I tinkered with disposable cameras all throughout my childhood years. I’d like to point out that most, if not all, of those photos were terrible wide shots of my disinterested dog and my startled Grandma. As I grew older I loved watching America’s Next Top Model for the sole reason of seeing how the photos from the shoots turned out. I was obsessed with the concept shoots and how interesting and fun and statuesque the models always looked. However, if I was to pinpoint when my love for the art solidified it was probably my senior year of high school into the first few months of college when I got to develop and process my own black and white film. At the time I had really NO idea what I was doing but I enjoyed doing it. Shortly after graduating college though, my camera fell by the wayside while I began building the foundation of my career in post production. Fast forward 5 years later, with my very first bonus check from my first real SERIOUS job in my hand, I bought my first DSLR camera and it’s been a passionate love ever since.

How long have you been interested in cosplay photography?
I’ve been interested in cosplay photography for a little over 2 years? I never really thought it to be something I’d be interested in until I started regularly going to conventions around 3 years ago. Walking around the convention floor you can see all the love and dedication these people have for the craft and for the characters they wear. It’s infectious and since I’m nowhere near as handy as they are I felt compelled to contribute to this community somehow. So the photography just fell right into place. I like to consider cosplay photography as souped up portrait photography. The colors and textures and all the different faces make working with cosplayers so rewarding.

What got you started in cosplay/ cosplay photography?
I was a Doctor Who cosplayer for a time and had some friends in our local community who were also into it. At the time I really didn’t even know cosplay shoots were a “thing”. We wanted to get photos outside of a convention setting so I reached out to a friend who knew a friend who had a camera. It’s been history ever since.

Is there any kind of equipment that you prefer to use when shooting cosplay?
I’m not very fussy when it comes to equipment. As long as I have even, natural light and my workhorse lens (a.k.a my Sigma 50-100 mm f/1.8) I’m good to go! That said, what I keep in my kit is my Nikon D3300 body, Sigma 50-100 f/1.8, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8, Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 and Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6. Oh, and a TON of fairy lights. You never know when you need to get sparkly on a shoot.

You had a photo go viral recently. What is the story there and How do you feel about that?
I did and it was such an incredibly wild experience! But to provide context, I met Steven and Millie a.k.a the Cosplay Parents at Long Beach Comic Con this past September. Running around various circles in the Southern California Comic Convention scene I had learned of Steven and Millie. I had seen many photos of their beautiful cosplays around the internet but I never had the chance to actually formally introduce myself. Until a week before Long Beach Comic Con when my friend looped me in on a tweet from them showcasing their latest cosplay confection. Diana Prince and Steve Trevor. Needless to say, I flipped and the subsequent tweets expressed my enthusiasm. We confirmed I’d love the opportunity to photograph them and that was that.

Fast forward to day one of the con and I had just stepped out of a panel with William Shatner only to look out over the balcony to find Steven and Millie taking selfies in the lobby. Cut to your girl running down three flights of stairs (lugging her gear bag behind her) to catch them. I am nothing, if not enthusiastic about snagging my subjects. Thus our first mini shoot was born and my friendship with them took off. Because the day AFTER that photo was taken, I posted it to my twitter and over the course of 24 hours it went VIRAL. 18k likes, 5k retweets and a retweet and comment by the Wonder Woman Director herself, Patty Jenkins. To top it all off, a week later Steven and Millie and our photo were featured on Mashable and The Chive! Needless to say, that Labor Day weekend became incredibly memorable for both the Cosplay Parents and I.

 

It was so insane watching all of this go down. I wasn’t really expecting the volume of likes this photo would garner and Steven and Millie certainly weren’t expecting the reception they were given. It was such a positive experience not only to see my work so well received and the outpouring of love for what the CosplayParents do but also for the friendship I made with Steven and Millie since then. I know viral things don’t always have a positive outcome but I’m thankful this one was.

Do you have any photos that are your favorite or that you really proud of? 
This is such a hard question as each shoot is very special and like a mother, I can’t pick a favorite out of all my babies, but I would have to say one photo I’m very proud of is a shot I took during my very first WWxKtBe shoot. This shot of Julia in front of these tall buildings encapsulates what I wanted this Wonder Woman project to look like. Powerful and strong and ready to take on the world!

From beginning to now: How do you feel about how far you’ve come in your photography?
Oh without a doubt I am leaps and bounds better than I was when I first started. I’ve learned so much in regards to how I use certain kinds of equipment, to looking at light, to posing my subjects, to how I edit things. Everyday I learn something new and that keeps this hobby fresh and exciting for me. I just love it.

We’ve talked briefly on this subject before. While hopping around conventions, we noticed a lack of female photographers. Many times you and I have been the only female photographers present at a comic book convention.  How do you feel about the need for more female cosplay photographers?
Like every aspect of the workforce there is without a doubt a gigantic need for more female cosplay photographers! I think we as women bring a different view to photography then men might have. As an art form and as a community we should want to see different perspectives from women. I’m very inspired by the male cosplay photographers I follow and would relish the inspiration from up and coming female cosplay photographers as well!

Tell us the story of your Wonder Woman project?
I walked into a movie theater with my best friend Briana on June 7th eagerly anticipating my first viewing of Wonder Woman. I was certainly pumped for what I had seen in the trailers despite not fully knowing what to expect. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins didn’t disappoint. Fast forward nearly 2 and half hours later to Briana and I walking out of that theater changed women. I’ve always prided myself on being an independent woman who had all the things that make a woman walk tall. But after walking out of Wonder Woman for the first time I found myself walking taller and energized. Thank God there weren’t any tanks nearby because there was a VERY good chance I would’ve tried to pick it up ala the No Man’s Land scene.

But something wonderful triggered in my brain that night while Briana and I stood in the empty parking lot taking selfies in my Wonder Woman tiara. I needed to create and I needed it to be focused on this iconic female character and how important she is to strong and impassioned women (like me and the women I surround myself with). I decided that I wanted to start working on an open ended series of photoshoots with all kinds of Wonder Women cosplayers, revolving around the idea that no matter size, age or color we are ALL Wonder Women. This line of thinking is also the same through line to most of the photo work I’ve done since I seriously picked up a camera two years ago. I wanted to highlight all of Diana’s qualities in the women I worked with, effectively boosting their confidence along with the confidence of the women (and men!) who happened to find my photos. This project would also showcase all her different looks, be it from the film, the comics, the animated series or concept work. You name it, I wanted to photograph it. Thus the WWxKtBe (Wonder Woman times Katie Be) project was born.

Since then I’ve done a handful of shoots for this project, which can be viewed here, and I’m looking to do more. So, if anyone reading this is interested don’t hesitate to reach out!

What is a cosplay photo shoot like for you? What do you try to get out of your photo shoots?
I try to make my shoots as easy, comfortable and informal as possible. Usually it’s me and my subject on location during the early morning. The first few shots are always the most nerve wracking for me but once those have gone off, it’s off to the races. There’s something really special about the time in the middle of the shoot where both my subject and I are really gelling. That’s the sweet spot for me. It’s when the best photographs happen because the real personality of the cosplayer comes out. Long story short, it’s plain and simple magic.

Every shoot I do I try to capture the person’s essence. Sure, you can capture the same poses you see from promo photos released from the tv show/movie/video game but to me it’s boring. I want to see the light and determination in a Wonder Woman’s eye as she’s about to step onto No Man’s Land and I want to see the mischief in the set of Deadpool’s shoulders as he’s sneaking up to photobomb someone. THAT is what cosplay photography is all about for me. The emotion. You can have all the fancy gear in the world but if the face is expressionless the photo lacks.

What are your feelings about convention photography? What is your approach to it?
I think convention photography is a skill in and of itself. There’s so much going on and there’s so many people milling around. You really have to understand your gear and how to properly use it because sometimes you only get less than a minute to get your shot. I personally found it difficult to get the space I need to take a shot with the equipment I use daily and that’s kind of frustrating. However, on the positive end of things, there are SO many fresh faces you can meet and network with. This past LA Comic Con I got the opportunity to photograph with a few people who follow me on Instagram as well as people I’ve never met before. Normally I’m more of a one-on-one, location shoot kind of girl but I’m hoping to get more and more comfortable shooting within the confines of a convention.

Do you do other kinds of photography?
I do! I’ve photographed weddings and families, headshots and landscapes. I love photographing everything and everyone!

What do you hope for the future of cosplay photography?
I hope that the community continues to be inclusive no matter the skill set of the photographer and that more and more women start stepping behind the lens!

What new things can we hope to see from you in the coming year?
More Wonder Woman shoots for sure. I also want to start stepping into fandoms I don’t normally photograph. I might not be familiar with the characters but that’s what makes it fun and challenging!

What advice do you have for new photographers out there?
Keep photographing. Never STOP photographing. Take your friends out for mini shoots and practice, practice, practice. Look at what other photographers are doing and figure out what you like about their style and spin it to fit what you want your photographs to look like. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other photographers and ask cosplayers to shoot with you. Watch as many youtube tutorials as possible. I’ve learned so much about editing from youtube it’s not even funny. Finally, just have fun, this is what art is all about, having fun!

 

You can follow along with Katie’s adventures on her social media accounts: 

https://wwxktbeproject.tumblr.com

https://www.instagram.com/katiebe_photography/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/katiebephotography/

Cosplayers photographed above:

https://www.instagram.com/imaginedrealitiescosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/christina.is.crafty/

https://www.instagram.com/badmoosecosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/lotcosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/satinedice/

https://www.instagram.com/iamgeeklectic/

https://www.instagram.com/indymcfly/

https://www.instagram.com/thecurlydoctor/

https://www.instagram.com/juliajcosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/sylviaslays/

https://www.instagram.com/emma_bruton/

https://www.instagram.com/koruption_kosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/maryschwacher/

https://www.instagram.com/collectresscosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/thecollectedmutineer/

https://www.instagram.com/the_rose_explodes/

https://www.instagram.com/letdownyourgoldenhair/

https://www.instagram.com/young.fortinbras/

https://www.instagram.com/imperial_maddie/

https://www.instagram.com/cos_im_nikki/

https://www.instagram.com/miss_laneous/

https://www.instagram.com/dancingdragoncosplay/

https://www.instagram.com/spidermaiden/

 

 

Born and raised under the California sun. Monica can be found around the Southern California comic book and pop culture convention scene. She can usually be seen either behind the lens of her camera or in cosplay. Lover of all things geeks but especially Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Star Trek.