Gil Riego Jr. is one of our favorite cosplay photographers from the Southern California Cosplay scene. You can see him at all sorts of conventions and cosplay event throughout Southern California. He has worked with some of the most popular cosplayers around and is happy to work with even the newest of cosplayers. Who he is as a photographer expands far beyond cosplay. He has been published in various different publications including GQ, IGN, Los Angeles Daily News, and Los Angeles Times. But today we are going to talk to him about one of his photography passions, and that is Cosplay Photography.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a valley kid. I was raised in the San Fernando Valley with a Filipino upbringing. I was always a dramatic and sarcastic kid who loved WWE/F and eventually grew up to be the typical shy awkward teen who loved all things geeky. I took a photography class in high school and kinda fell in love with the idea of capturing images. I strayed a bit here and there, but everything always lead to photography. At some point back in college, I took journalism courses and ended up focusing in photography again. I got gigs here and there and started working for the San Francisco Weekly and Examiner. At one point I saw images from various pop-culture sites from events like SDCC and Anime Expo and thought “I could do better than that.” I pitched it to my editor and they got me access to Anime Expo 2014. It was my real first endeavor into mixing the two worlds and since then I’ve been hooked.
How long have you been interested in photography?
I’d say since I was 15. So 20 years this February
How long have you been interested in cosplay photography?
My first time I dipped my toe into it as more than a guy with a camera was in 2014
What got you started in cosplay photography?
I enjoyed the idea of mixing my childhood/teenage fandom of things anime like DBZ and the like and seeing how the community brought them to life. I never was into cosplaying myself, but I figured that I could offer something to the community.
Is there any kind of equipment that you prefer to use when shooting cosplay?
I’ll use whatever I can get my hands on. If you seen me in my progression of going to events, I’ve ran with just a camera and a single lens, to flashes, to reflectors to portable strobes to full studio set-ups. I’m literally up for doing anything that could be different what I’ve done before.
Is there a particular kind of cosplay/cosplayer you like to shoot with?
I’m up for anything. I’m not here to only shoot Spider-Men, Harley’s, Naruto’s or whatever. I like shooting things that will better the people in the community. Whether it’s an original mashup design or the current fandom that’s hitting the town.
From beginning to now: How do you feel about how far you’ve come in your photography?
Leaps and bounds. 20 years of shooting will do that for you. I’ve also been doing a photo a day project since January 2010, and that keeps your wheels moving constantly.
What is a cosplay photo shoot like for you? What do you try to get out of your photo shoots?
It varies for every person I work with. Sometimes it’s quick and dirty, other times we’ll spend meticulous hours on just a few looks. All I want to get from any of my shoots is satisfaction of the model. I couldn’t care less how I feel about my own images because it’s not meant to please me. Clients always come first.
What are your feelings about convention photography? What is your approach to it?
It is what it is. Having the background in journalism, you make due with what you’re presented with. You try to carve out your own space to get original images in the crowded floors. It’s all up to how much effort you want to put into it. I’ve gotten great photos. I’ve gotten okay photos. But it’s a great place to work with people you’ve never met before. They’re are why I ended up creating the LA Cosplay Shootout events, so photographers and cosplayers can meet up and work with those they probably never had the chance to due to the hectic times at conventions.
Do you have any favorite photos from your collection?
I don’t think I have a specific “favorite” of all time. There are shots I enjoy at various moments; They change depending on what I’m shooting, editing or even browsing through. Sometimes I’ll rave about an image I took for a week or so, until I take the next best thing. That’s what I’m always looking for from myself.
Do you do other types of photography?
I do all kinds of photography. Event, portrait, lifestyle, modeling, e-commerce. Photography is my life.
What do you hope for the future of cosplay photography?
Realistically: I just hope that everyone learns. I’m always learning and that improves how I compose, shoot, edit and present my work. You can come in knowing absolutely nothing about cosplay photography, but if you just learn from it, you’ll raise the bar for everyone, but more importantly yourself.
What new things can we hope to see from you in the coming year?
Hopefully a series of some sort. Last year James Rulison did a Gotham Circus series and that was incredible. Hopefully, I can settle down from running from shoot to shoot that I can think of something that would really just connect.
Advice for new photographers out there?
Do it. The more you shoot, the quicker you’ll learn. Work with anyone. Go to meet ups. Admit your newness. Cosplayers will work with you in getting the shots you both want.
Advice for cosplayers when it comes to working with photographers?
Do it. Be open minded to who you’re working with. If they’re new, be patient. If they’re “popular” just go up and ask if they want to shoot. But the only thing you must be, is aware, safe and comfortable.
You can see more from Gil at:
Source: Gil Riego