The Man. The Legend. The Cosplay Photographer: DTJAAAAM!
Links: DTJAAAAM.com | CosplayCollector.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
SMC: Are there any conventions you’ve never attended that you’d like to go to in the future?
SMC: What would you consider would be your Favorite con you normally attend each year?
DTJAAAAM: For the full mix, I would say San Diego Comic-Con remains my favorite. It’s got a little bit of everything: great costumes, the celebrities, freebies, nice exclusives. For cosplay, Dragon Con wins hands down. I love the parade and the sheer variety of costumes seen during the event can’t be beat. Since it’s pretty much a non-stop party for the whole weekend, I’ll usually get very little sleep each night thanks to staying out late to see what new costumes come out at night.
SMC: Do you ever get time at a Con to put down your camera and just be a fan?
DTJAAAAM: I sure do, but it doesn’t typically last too long. No one’s forcing me to shoot, and I’m a bit of a workaholic when it comes to my photos. I get restless pretty easily when hanging out with people or sitting around a panel know that I could be missing out on something cool somewhere in the convention, and usually try to excuse myself pretty quickly to resume the hunt. To me, photographing costumes is the most entertaining part of being at a convention, so I like to keep at it as much as possible.
SMC: How do you budget for so many conventions?
DTJAAAAM: I always try to go as cheap as I can on hotels. Basically, as long as there are no bed bugs, it’s fairly close to the event, and I’m not likely to be killed or mugged in the area, I’ll go with the most affordable option. I was a pretty big video game collector at one point in life, and while I do still enjoy them, I redirected most of that money to my travels. Badges typically aren’t an issue since my work usually qualifies for press/media status. I don’t drink either, so the lack of partying also saves me quite a bit!
SMC: Do you have assistants or do you carry all the camera and lighting gear all by yourself?
DTJAAAAM: Nope, I like to be fairly light with my gear in order to keep on moving easily. However, I have considered and offered to take friends along with me if they agreed to help me do things I don’t really enjoy (such as passing out business cards) to some of the bigger events like Anime Expo. I’ve had a lot of them say they’d totally do it, but they end up backing out for various reasons.
SMC: What lighting set up do you bring? do you bring mini lights for the con floor and large lights/diffusers for private photo sessions?
DTJAAAAM: As I kind of mentioned earlier, I don’t try to use anything too fancy or big since it may bog down my mobility. I use a Canon 600EX-RT mounted on-camera with a Lightsphere knock-off from eBay for the majority of my photos. I know having the flash off-camera would open up a lot more options with my shots, but I find that kind of setup too cumbersome to deal with in my routine. I do have a remote flash trigger and a variety of other diffusers that used to come along with me in case I needed them for a shoot, but they pretty much end up staying at the hotel nowadays.
SMC: Do you have any tips for taking photos on the con floor?
DTJAAAAM: Try not to linger in one spot too long since you never know what may be just around the corner. However, when you do need a break, it can be nice to rest near one of the major walkways where you know many cosplayers will potentially walk by. Let the stream of people go to you! Keep practicing and you’ll eventually learn what settings work best in various lighting conditions by just eyeing it. Also be mindful of other people and try to stick to fairly clear/open areas when taking photos. I’m not going to lie and say that I always abide by that rule, but I try to do so whenever it’s possible.
SMC: How do you approach cosplayers for photos?
DTJAAAAM: Just go up to ’em and ask for a photo! I wouldn’t interrupt if they look like they’re in a crazy rush to get somewhere or doing something like eating. Not all, but the good majority, are pretty much expecting to get asked for pictures so there’s nothing to be afraid of. You’ll always get one or two that aren’t in the mood or can’t stop for a photo, and when that does happen, don’t take it personally. Just deal with it politely and move on to the next target!
SMC: Do you pose cosplayers? or do they generally know how to pose themselves per their character?
DTJAAAAM: I honestly just have the cosplayers pose however the hell they want for a lot of my photos, haha. I’ll request certain poses for characters I’m very familiar with, like those from fighting games. If I do need multiple poses of a character, I can generally rely on my phone as a quick research tool to find reference photos. Thanks, Google!
SMC: Have you noticed a regional difference between cosplayers and their work?
DTJAAAAM: I can’t really say that I’ve noticed much of a difference when it comes to the quality of the costumes. Other than that, I have noticed on social media that the east coast scene tends to come up with more reasons to whip out their cosplays outside of conventions. That side of the country seems to have so many parties or get-togethers involving cosplay compared to the west, though I know groups like Club Cosplay are trying to even the odds.
SMC: When attending as many Cons as you do, what characters or craftsmanship still blows your mind?
DTJAAAAM: The ones I’m happiest to find always tend to be the super weird/obscure characters that I’ve yet to see done before. A few examples of ones that really blew me away and made me eager to share their photos online were Reiko from Mortal Kombat 4, Regan from the Exorcist, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Matador from Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, and Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben. They honestly don’t even need be super fancy or extremely detailed, just good enough for me to recognize what they’re going for. I do also love the ridiculously large costumes that tend to be too intense for walking around the convention crowds. I usually only see those in masquerades or costume contests, but I’ll definitely rush over if I see one glued to a certain spot or at a gathering.
SMC: Who would you consider Your all time favorite cosplayer that you have worked with?
DTJAAAAM: I have many favorites, but would probably go with Jessica Nigri as my answer. Always a pleasure to talk to, and she knows how I like to work, so I can generally count on her to help me get my shots and move on to the next cosplayer ASAP. She’s definitely got the right kind of personality for her fans, and a damn good memory, too.
SMC: Are there any cosplayers out there that you haven’t worked with yet, but would like to?
DTJAAAAM: Quite a few, doesn’t even need to be a full shoot, as one photo would suffice. Kayla Erin, Shermie Cosplay, K-A-N-A, and Jewel Baby Cosplay are a few that spring to mind. Still need to get a photo of Carl Martin as well so that I can once again say that I’ve taken a picture of all the Heroes of Cosplay. Love his monster costumes!
Happy Canadian, as well as a hardcore video game addict. Spends all day and night trying to come up with new ideas for Share My Cosplay. Need help with something feel free to contact me.
he is good. REALLLLLLY good. so good, you never see him coming. just in, then out. and you won’t know till you see the pix online. yep, THAT good!
Seriously, Alex. I met David (aka DTJAAAAM) during the first ever Salt Lake Comic Con in 2013. LeeAnna Vamp recognized him and welcomed him behind her booth. They talked for 2.5 seconds, he snapped two quick poses and then disappeared like lightning—almost as if he had superpowers! I barely had a chance to snag a photo with him: https://flic.kr/p/fMLRRS