Jamie Flack is an extremely talented illustrator, graphic artist, photographer and designer who also goes by the alias of Cat & Crown Artwork. With nearly a decade of professional experience under his belt, Jamie began as Head of Creative with the marketing firm Digital Trailblazers that was featured on the 2015 edition of The Apprentice.
As an illustrator and photographer, Jamie has earned a large online audience and a growing reputation among his clients through completing commissions, collaborations, mentoring at conventions, and most importantly for the imaginative design work and fantasy composite images he produces. "I know where the dragons and the heroes are, and I know how to make them look their most majestic," he says.
We got a chance to speak with Jamie during this year's CosXPo, a weekend event designed solely around the basis of sharing knowledge and skill through a series of panels, tutorials and workshops. One of these, a guided outdoor cosplay photography session, was hosted by Jamie, sharing his top tips on composition, symmetry and collaboration. He even made a handy cheatsheet (below) for a rundown on the best cosplay photography practice.
"I started photography at college and took it for an A-Level when I was there. I really enjoyed it, but the technical side of it was always a little baffling, so after the course was finished, I put my camera down for some time.
"I was more focused on digital painting and decided to push my photography to a more art-led style, and that just wasn’t needed in my job at the time. When I went to my first Comic-con, however, I started getting keen into it as a hobby again, and that was about seven years ago now, and here we are!
"I wouldn’t say I've mastered the craft yet, as I still feel very much an amateur when it comes to the physical side of photography. There's so much to learn and tech to look into to get the best results, but I do see my work improving year on year, and that’s what counts."
"My main kit includes a Fujifilm X-T3 as my main camera body. Two lenses, the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2R and 55mm f/2.8, though I stick to the 1.2 mainly. I have two Yongnuo Ice Lights, which provide me with colors and LED light, should I need an extra boost, but I prefer using flashes with gels for that as it's much stronger color- wise.
"I also have a Yongnuo radio master controller, which mounts onto my camera body, and I control two flashes with it. One goes into a standard Neewer softbox for key lights, and then I have the other located somewhere else, sometimes with gels, to provide rim light or background lighting. I also have a standard tripod, three batteries, two SD cards and about four packs of AA batteries for the flashes.
"As for bags, I carry two: a camera one for my more expensive kit, and then my large shoulder bag for the longer, more cumbersome stuff. I also have a compression brace for my back, because cosplay photography plays hell with your back.
"I would say the best thing I can recommend for those getting familiar with cosplay photography would be a solid fixed lens, something that will give you good bokeh. They upped my game massively when I first started because, if you're at a convention, chances are you will have a hell of a lot of people walking past you as you try to shoot. Having a lens that blurs them out and lets the focus be only on your subject makes a world of difference.
"Lens wise for me, my 56mm f/1.2 R is the one I have shot with the most pretty much ever, and it gives wonderful results. The only downside is I have to be about 70 meters away from someone if I want them in full frame.
"The funny thing about my work is that I tend to prefer a studio set up, that I can then control the lighting in properly, ready for editing afterwards, so a lot of my shoots lean more towards finding somewhere where I can do that. I’m also a bit of a homebody, so its preferred for me!
"As for editing, I do a massive amount of post-production work with my photography on Photoshop. I’m primarily a digital painter and illustrator and came into photography as a secondary hobby.
"I like to make my photography, particularly cosplay, a solid mixture of both if I can, as it’s something that’s not always seen in the community in the UK. Adding in special effects, complex backgrounds, that sort of thing will always be something I really enjoy, and it pushes my photography to look more like scenes from films, which is always a massive inspiration to me."
01. Fujifilm X-T3
"I use the Fujifilm X-T3 for its simplicity. I've always used Fujifilm as the person who got me back into photography used it primarily, and I enjoyed the results he got with it, so I bought the same to learn the basics again with."
"The main lens I use is the 56mm f/1.2. I love the results it gives, and it separates the characters from the background so cleanly with bokeh that it's ideal. Again, super efficient and simple to use, which is what I value in my products. I will admit I've not had much experience with other brands, so I’m not sure I could advise too much on why this one is particular is the best, but I definitely love it and find it gives excellent results."
03. Multiple SD cards
When making composite images, it's important to capture multiple shots to be able to select the right angled shot to weave into the image and background. This is why Jamie always carries multiple high-speed SD cards to ensure he never runs out of storage.
We asked Jamie if he had any final words of advice for those looking to pursue cosplay photography.
"Primarily I would say be sure to do it for the right reasons. It can be a very fun hobby, but if you’re going in thinking it can be a job, I would say it’s the wrong area of photography for people to pursue.
"I personally treat it as a hobby I enjoy from time to time and since the pandemic, I have very much taken a step back from how many people I shoot at conventions, as I saw myself struggling to keep up with the amount of editing I needed to do, when it’s not always paid work. If you are genuinely keen to work with amazing people and shoot interesting and fascinating costumes, then this is for you – but don’t put too much pressure on yourself, either."