Anatomy of a Photo: A Scenic Shot on a Windy Day

I recently finished editing photos from our first con of 2019, MAGFest. (I will post more on those soon, but I am behind on event recaps, so I need to catch up first.) The weather this year at MAGFest was a little warmer than normal (the con takes place the first week of January, typically), which meant we could do some photos outdoors around National Harbor. But it was pretty windy at times, which made for some interesting logistical challenges in getting the best shots. I was able to come up with a couple solutions after the fact through editing, and I thought I would share the results.

Here is the finished final photo. I wanted a vintage-styled picture of me contemplating the water and looking slightly windswept. Accent on the slightly windswept.

However, the strong breezes down by the water had other ideas. Most of the shots we got looked like this one, with way more billowing fabric and blowing hair than I wanted.

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2018 Year in Review

My year in costuming was a bit all over the place, with sudden spurts of productivity alternating with sewing hiatus periods. I went to events pretty consistently throughout the year, but sometimes I just re-wore existing costumes for them. (Which does not really bother me, as I always think I haven’t gotten my effort and money’s worth unless I’ve worn a costume to at least three things.)

I did consistently work at my photography through the year, concentrating on shooting both costuming events and horse shows. Mike and I upgraded both our camera and our editing software in late 2017, and I decided that 2018 was the year to really learn how to use our new gear. I spent a lot of time practicing and reading books on different techniques.

This next year I’d really like to make some of my cosplays that have been on my wish list forever, like Red Hood. I had such a great time doing various Catwoman costumes in 2018, that I’d like to tackle some more of the DC Comics cosplays on my list. In addition, cosplaying Catwoman has taught me to be much more confident as a costumer. I really had to improve my skills with sewing knits and using a serger to make my Catwoman costumes, which was challenging but fun. I’ve also learned how to be more confident in my posing for photographs. Trying to channel a strong character like Catwoman has made me think more about how my hand placement, facial expression, and body position interact with the camera.

Next year I’d also like to work on my confidence behind the camera. I’ve spent a lot of time, brainpower, and money on improving my photography skills, and that has paid real dividends, but sometimes I experience impostor syndrome about my abilities. At times this makes me reluctant to ask to take photos of people at events, especially when others are also taking photos. I don’t want to intrude or step on others’ toes for fear of seeming like a pushy photographer who is ruining the ambiance. I also feel a lot of pressure to produce “perfect” images, because otherwise I might be letting people down. This results in wasted hours of me editing, overworking my raw files and getting stressed. All that being said, I’m not going to back down from this hobby. The only way I will overcome these emotions is to keep going out there and producing images.

Okay, enough with the talk. Here are the costumes I finished this year:

2018 goals
-DC Bombshells Catwoman-Yup!
-Striped 18th century gown-Yup!
-Princess Cadence-Yup!
-Grey silk 1790s waistcoat for Mike-Nope! This one just keeps sadly rolling over from year to year….
-Jason Todd Red Hood costume-Nope! Though I did make the pants, so that’s something.

Knightmare Catwoman (photo by Dan Arango)
DC Cosplay Photo Shoots

Striped 1780s gown
Francaise Dinner

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Rust Manor Photo Shoot (Part 2)

As I wrote in my last post, Mike and I attended a D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup at Rust Manor House last September. I was fortunate to work with a number of excellent photographers as a cosplayer. This post shares the photos of me that resulted.

I wore my dark blue regency ballgown, accessorized with a bunch of bling-y jewelry. I made my necklace and bracelets, while I purchased the tiara from Amazon. (I have the same style of necklace for sale in my Etsy shop.)

Here is the group photo by Jay’s Fine Art Photography.
Rust Manor

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Rust Manor Photo Shoot (Part 1)

In September, Mike and I were able to participate in another awesome D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots meetup. This one was at Rust Manor House in Leesburg, Virginia, and the theme was either historical or fantasy. Rust Manor is an early 20th century house located in the middle of Rust Sanctuary. It has a variety of beautiful rooms indoors, plus a pretty garden surrounding it.

Mike attended as a photographer, while I went as a cosplayer. The weather was a bit hot and very humid that day, so both Mike and I tried to cycle between being inside in the air conditioning and outside. (As a happy side effect, this led to a nice variety of pictures in different settings, both for Mike photographing other cosplayers and for me working with other photographers.) The venue was kind enough to provide chilled bottled water for us, which was much appreciated!

This post is about the photos that Mike took of others (and that I edited). I’ll follow up with another post on photos of me.

Mike started by working with Amelia of Rey Dot Ham Cosplay in her Shae costume from Game of Thrones. There was this area behind the manor house with a stone wall that had a nice woodsy ruins look.
Rust Manor

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Belle at the National Portrait Gallery

In my last post, I described the photo shoot that Mike and I hosted at the National Portrait Gallery back in August. In this post, I am sharing the photos of me that resulted. I wore my 1740s Belle costume, because I had relatively few photos of it.

I very much enjoyed working with all three photographers that participated. In addition to Mike, we had Dan of Dan Arango Photography and Justin of Rich and Strange Photography. They all produced beautiful images.

I started working with Mike to help him warm up before the others arrived for the shoot proper. Because the museum had just opened, the Luce Foundation Center was almost empty, allowing us to get some nice shots with nearly the whole room to work with.
Portrait Gallery Shoot

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Summer Shoot at the National Portrait Gallery

Now that I have finally finished my Costume College posts, I can move on to recapping events from the rest of the year. In August, Mike and I hosted a historical costumer photo shoot at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum building in downtown Washington, D.C. Our goal was to introduce some of our historical costuming friends to the concept of an on-location cosplay photo shoot, along the lines of the format used by the D.C. Cosplay Photo Shoots group. Although making a costume is rewarding in and of itself, it’s also a great feeling to capture all that work in a beautiful photograph. But for that to happen, you need to partner with a great photographer and find an appropriate setting.

I wanted to have at least a couple photographers participating in addition to Mike. Mike can only really handle about 5 models in a shoot without exhausting himself. Happily, two of our photographer friends, Justin of Rich and Strange Photography and Dan of Dan Arango Photography agreed to come. I love both Justin’s and Dan’s work, and I knew they would appreciate the different looks and details that historical costumers would bring to a shoot, relative to the cosplay they normally are photographing. I also thought that together with Mike they would expose all the costumers to different styles of photos and styles of shooting.

The National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum (the two museums share the same location) is a great place for a historical shoot, since it is a beautiful building dating to the mid-19th century. In order to ensure that it would be okay for us to shoot there, Mike contacted the museum beforehand and received permission. The museum is welcoming of photography so long as folks do not disturb the other guests.

Here is our whole group. From left to right we have me in my 1740s Belle costume, Stephani in regency, Glynnis in an 1870s ballgown, Carolyn in a late 1870s day dress, Nastassia in an 1880s walking dress, Tarisa in an 1890s evening gown, Taylor in a court gown, and Maggie in her Titanic Jump Dress. We had a lovely variety of eras and types of costumes represented!
Portrait Gallery

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Costume College 2018: Sunday Photo Shoots

On Sunday, the final day of Costume College, I had a packed schedule of shoots. Since I didn’t have any limited classes, I opted to spend most of my day on photography. I ended up doing two group shoots, three pre-booked shoots with Taylor, Vivien, and Gwendolyn, respectively, plus extra shoots with Stephanie and Kenna. By now I had totally adjusted to the hotel as a shooting location.

First up was the My Little Pony group shoot with Vanessa and Sara. Both this year and last year the three of us have done characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on Sunday. After a weekend of historical costuming, it’s a nice way to mix things up.

Since it was still on the early side, the sun angle was such that we could get a group photo in the Little Poolside Park. (As a reminder, I described my usual photo locations in this post.) Although, we did have to get close to the living wall so that we could all be in the shade.

Here I am lining up the group shot. You can see how the sun limited the area we had to work with. (This photo is courtesy of Stephanie.)
Costume College

The resulting photo. I had my camera on a timer, so I could line things up and then get in the shot myself.
Costume College

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Costume College 2018: Saturday Photo Shoots

On Saturday I had booked one group meetup shoot, two shoots with Vanessa, and one shoot with Meg. By this point I feel like I hit my stride for the weekend, kicking my photos up a notch from what I produced Friday.

The day started early at 8:30 AM with our Maid Brigade Meetup (we decided to do it before classes started, since at least one of us had a class during every possible window for the rest of the day). Because at that time it was shady enough to do a group shoot in the Little Poolside Park, and because it was early enough not to be super warm outside, that’s where we went. (For a description of the photo locations I used throughout the weekend, see my previous post.)

From left to right we have Vivien, Christine, AJ, Ashley, Adrienne, and me. Most of us used Butterick B6229 for our pattern.
Costume College

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