Behind the Lens with James Rulison


SMC’s series “Behind the Lens” where we interview some of your favorite cosplay photographers is back again for another run.  Our second entry in “Season 2” features James Rulison from California.

Name: James Rulison
Location: Southern California

Links: | Web | Facebook | Instagram | Flickr |

SMC: What interested you in photography?
James Rulison: I grew up in a small town in Colorado.  There really wasn’t much to do we didn’t have cable TV or even a movie theater.  During the summers the high school put on a summer camp.  My parents signed me up for photography.  I made my first oatmeal box camera at that camp and I was hooked.  Watching the film develop in the emulsion bath was like seeing real life magic.


SMC: What interested you in photographing cosplayers? 
James Rulison: This is a complicated question we have to start at the beginning.  I use to be a professional sports photographer.  One of the many things we did was step by step workouts for sports magazines.  We always had to book multiple models because we knew more then half would flake.  Which always made me dread working with models to create my own unique visions.  My photography business fell apart with the digital revolution and I quietly went back to computer work.  Fast forward to family-man me and introducing my kids to my love of all things nerdy.  Of course I was still a shutterbug but here I was with my point and shoot camera and seeing real live super heroes outside of the convention doors.  Even if I had a stroller the cosplayers wanted me to take their picture.  This was an awakening here I was taking pictures of people who wanted me to take their pictures.  It was such a change from working with athletes on time crunches or flakey models.  I decided to bring my DSLR to the next convention we attended which was almost a year later.  I took photos posted them on my Instagram and suddenly I had followers.  My creative blood began to pump with excitement and I just started taking more and more photos.  There was one week recently last year where I had my full-time day job, full-time father job, and pulled off 5 shoots with different cosplayers all back to back.  Nope, I wasn’t stressed out I was the exact opposite I was tired but with huge smile on my face. Cosplayers are the rare people who actually want you to take their pictures.  To me that is the best gift.  I send out a bat signal saying I want to do some crazy photos like maybe in the mountains next thing I know I have 3 cars loaded with cosplayers heading towards big bear.

SMC: Do you have a preference shooting between studios, outside or conventions?
James Rulison: 
I like all of them for different reasons.  I like studio because it’s a very controlled environment.  I can take my time with the lighting and try different setups.  I can changeout the backdrops, build sets. It’s a flexible solution.  Outside or location based shoots are also fun. You can’t build a forest easily in my garage or large vistas for background.  I guess I could do that if I wanted to composite the image in Photoshop but I try to stay as much in-camera as possible.  I also like the location based photos because it’s exploring our cities and parks, which is fun.  Now at conventions it’s all about the variety.  You go to these shows and you don’t have one or two you have hundreds of cosplayers so my goal is like Pokemon; I try to catch them all.  The big downfall to the convention is shooting locations and how much time you have to spend with each cosplayer.  I know some of the photographers spend upwards of 30-40 minutes with a single cosplayer but that’s just nuts.  Like I said my goal is to shoot as many cosplayers as possible so I travel light. Normally I have my wife as my assistant and we shoot fast.  I normally walk out of a show with several hundred different cosplays.  Not everything I shoot makes it to my instagram but they do all make it to my blog.

SMC: Any upcoming cosplay events you will be shooting (2016 Schedule)?
James Rulison: I am kicking off the year with a bang. I will be at Anime LA (shooting and workshop), LBCE, WonderCon, Anime Expo, SDCC, LACosplay Con, Anime California, ComiKaze, and BlizzCon.  I am sure I missed something and of course I will be doing dedicated shoots with a number of cosplayers throughout the year.

SMC: What photographers inspire you?
James Rulison: For cosplay photography there is a few I like: Nelson Seralbo (@nelsphotos), Jon R (@joits), Dave Black (@daveblackphoto), Matt Austin (@matt_austin_images), Matt Hernandez (@matthernandez), and many more.  I still find inspiration in Ansel Adams images and I have looked at them hundreds of times.

SMC: Any favorite cosplayers you have liked working with in the past?
James Rulison: Oh man this is like playing Russian roulette.  No matter who I name here I will upset someone.  So let’s say it this way.  I treat every cosplayer like a professional.  I respect them, they put in so much work on their costumes both money and creatively. I expect them to respect me and treat me in a similar manner.

SMC: Any cosplayers you hope to work with in the near future? 
James Rulison: Oh man I would like to get east some time and maybe hit NYCC and get photos of the locals out there so maybe not one but more like a few hundred. LOL

SMC: Any cosplay shots you’re best known for?
James Rulison:  I don’t know if there is a single shot out there like that.  I have a shot of Miranda (IG: @saylum) where she is jumping off a rock dressed as Lara Croft up in the mountains.  She has the bow pulled with an arrow notched. That shot went kind of crazy.  Off Instagram I have a shot of the Sailor Moon squad from AX2015 that has like 18K views.  I also have some studio work on the pin-up shoots that have gone pretty crazy on my Flickr account.

SMC: Do you have a geeky side? What’s your favorite way to pass the time?
James Rulison: Oh man I am a super geek.  I love reading fantasy books, urban fantasy, science fiction, and more.  I also play a mean COD. I average about a 2 KD currently in BlackOps 3.

SMC: Any upcoming / ongoing cosplay related projects? 
James Rulison: Yes, I am spending the year working on a project that is soon to be completely announced with Marvel, and DC Comic book characters.  I expect to have the first image released soon.  We have a dedicated website that will be announced at the same time.

I am also conducting a cosplay photography workshop at Anime LA that will include a live photoshoot.

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