Cosplay Photography Spotlight – Theorem Productions and the Alter Ego Project
As a cosplayer, getting your photo taken by joyful convention attendees is fun, but being photographed by skilled cosplay photographers is where the real magic happens. I recently had the chance to interview cosplay photographer Marco – also known as Theorem Productions – about his experience with the craft and his interesting new Alter Ego project, which showcases cosplayers both in and out of cosplay.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Marc-Antoine (Marco for short), and I’m a cosplay photographer based in Montreal, Quebec.
What is your favourite thing about cosplay photography?
Cosplay is such a fascinating subject with unlimited possibilities. I’m a geek, and seeing people bring characters to life is just amazing. Who would’ve thought that I’d be taking pictures of my favorite superheroes or cartoon characters? It’s not only a fun subject, but It’s also impressive to look at. Some of these cosplayers have spent months making their costumes, and I want to help them show it off in the most epic way possible.
You’ve done your fair share of location shoots, all of which turn out beautifully. How do you go about choosing/finding your locations to lend to the cosplay?
The process requires me and my assistants, Quincy and Tricia, to do some research. We meet up one week before a con and talk about who we are shooting and what cosplay they’ll be wearing. Then we go about looking for some inspiration from the world the character is set in, whether it be video game stills, anime clips, fan art; whatever we can find. Some cosplayers also have set ideas of what they want, so we take that into consideration. We mix all of those aspects to think about a setting that could work for the character and then we go location scouting to find that setting.
What difficulties have you encountered with cosplay photography? What might you consider to be the hardest part?
There are many difficulties that can be faced in the cosplay photography world. The weather might not be suitable for a certain location on that day, a cosplayer might be late/missing a piece of the costume, or the lighting may not be the best. I could sit here and tell you way more, but the thing that can be the trickiest to work with at a convention is location. We are lucky that, here in Montreal, we have an abundance of locations at our disposals and it’s extremely hard not to find a great setting for your character, but some conventions aren’t so conveniently placed. In those cases, we have to make due with what we have, and be a little more creative with each shot.
What is your process like when it comes to effects and editing your shots?
First off, I look through every single shot and pick the absolute best ones from that shoot. Once I have done that, I start the basic editing in Lightroom for color and tone, before bringing the shots into Photoshop, where I do more elaborate editing like retouching and special effects, sometimes even adding composite aspects to the shot. Editing these shots also requires some research, as I may not be familiar with the character. Some characters don’t require such heavy effects, so I’ll work harder on the color processing and tone to make the photo look its best. Others that require it will get some super powers added to their shots.
Cosplay photography usually involves getting creative – from finding strategic positions to employing a designated ‘cape thrower’. What are a few of the things you’ve had to do to “get the shot”?
This is why my job is so much fun. If you ever see me during a shoot, you’ll notice that I’m laying on the floor most of the time. I’ve also climbed walls, stood on park benches and I climbed a tree once a couple of years back. I’ve had my assistants throw people’s hair in the air to give that sense of movement or have them pick up the model to do a composite shot. Whatever needs to be done to get that shot (but always staying safe, of course!)
What is your strategy for directing cosplayers during a shoot?
My ultimate goal while doing a shoot is to make the cosplayer feel as comfortable as if they were my best friend. I don’t take myself too seriously, and neither do my assistants. We try to have a normal conversation with the model, crack jokes, and just try to have a good time. After all, this is what makes for better pictures. I have an acting background and I try to use that as much as I can while directing a cosplayer. I try to use emotion rather than just posing someone.
What is the Alter Ego project?
The Alter Ego project is an idea that I got when I was browsing through some cosplay pages and seeing them post a before and after selfie, seeing them in and out of cosplay. In these pictures, you’d see these extraordinary differences between the two that fascinated me. Which is how this project was born. It’s an ongoing project that showcases many different cosplayers in and out of costume.
Matching each before and after shot perfectly must be tough. How do you go about shooting and editing these shots to get them just right?
It is definitely a bit tricky; it takes a lot of planning beforehand and making sure that the shots will end up being perfect. I usually plan the setting with the cosplayer and then make sure I shoot it properly. The editing requires me to look at both pictures side by side and resizing them accordingly to make sure they work well together. Once I’m sure about sizing, I edit each picture separately and then tweak them so they work well together.