Mike Rollerson Photographer Interview

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We originally featured photographer Mike Rollerson back in September 2012 (click here) and so we thought it was about time for a catch up!

Mike Rollerson is an event and cosplay photographer who covers a wide range of live events across the U.S. including conventions, circus performances, trade shows, zombie walks and haunted houses. Mike tries to do at least one or two cosplay or costume themed photoshoots a week and there’s usually blood…lots of blood!

Mike Rollerson has kindly agreed to answer a couple of questions about his cosplay and horror themed photography.

How long have you been doing cosplay / horror themed / event photography?

I picked up my first DSLR around 2007 and that’s what really pushed me into wanting to do cosplay and event photography on a much more regular basis. Around 2010 is when I started attending a larger number of conventions and events up and down the state, scheduling photoshoots, moving past the “hall shots” at conventions and actually getting into camera lighting on photoshoots. My local convention, the San Diego Comic Con is where I first found out about the Zombie Walks and had a great time with that.. that eventually led me into doing photoshoots at a number of high-production haunted houses in the area and doing photoshoots on a more regular basis.

How did you first get involved with cosplay / event photography?

My first introduction to cosplay was at E3 1999 – it was my first convention and I had no idea what to expect from it. I wasn’t into photography at the time but brought a cheap disposable camera with me just in case I saw something neat. I was blown away by some of the costumes, set pieces and lighting the booths had set up.. it seemed like something out of a movie. That night I must have picked up a dozen more disposable cameras for the rest of the weekend. I was instantly hooked on it and it became something I knew I wanted to do. The next couple of years I would get a new high-end point and shoot (SLRs/DSLRs were way out of my range back then) – I knew I wanted to do more than these cameras allowed, but it was really my only option at the time.

We love your cosplay photography. What do you love about cosplay?

I love cosplay because it’s so different from what you normally see – seeing some of your favorite characters from comics, anime, cartoons, movies and videogames come to life has always been neat to me. Seeing the level of detail these people put into their costumes is amazing and you can tell they’re really into the character. To me, it’s so different and much more interesting than traditional photography (fashion, weddings, engagements). I was instantly in love with it.

Do you have a favourite event, show?

My favorites would have to be E3 (videogame tradeshow) and Fanime (Anime convention). E3 is what got me into cosplay/photography and showed me what was out there. Fanime is my current favorite due to the great locations surrounding the convention, the level of costumes people bring out to the show and the relaxed environment up there.

Do you do a lot of work post photo on your pictures or is it mainly handled within the camera at the time, or in the lighting eg. studio set up?

I try to get a lot of it in-camera or using actual effects: makeup/props, lighting (regular lighting and effects lighting) and location/environment. From there I do tend to do post-processing to give my photos a different look that really isn’t possible to get directly out of the camera (giving zombie photos a grungier look, color tinting, background detail removal or pulling out more detail, replacing a studio background with an actual location or applying effects not normally possible during a photoshoot). I try to keep my processing time to under 4-5 minutes per photo; I find the longer I spend in editing, the worse off it ends up looking! Typically at conventions I’ll bring anywhere from 3-5 lights and a number of modifiers along with me.

Do you have a preference between the live convention work and studio projects?

I don’t really have a preference – I think each has its benefits. I love working on-location due to all the interesting scenery you can get just by walking a few feet in any direction… the downside being limited by the equipment you can bring out, the weather/wind/sun and whether or not you’d be able to use a location for photos. Studio projects are fun since you have total control over the lighting, effects (wind, fog) and none of the issues with using costumes that you might have on an actual location shoot (people are accepting of horror costumes on Halloween… going out to do a photoshoot in the middle of May gets you some strange looks!). The downside with a studio project being limited on backgrounds or requiring post-processing to replace one.

What’s your next / current project?

I’ve got a couple of big conventions and events coming up in July that I’m really looking forward to (San Diego Comic Con, Anime Expo, a Zombie Walk and a haunted house), after that I’ll be making it out to some others throughout the rest of the year and doing more studio/location shoots to keep content coming on a regular basis. I have a few themed shoots I’d really like to do this year and figure this would be the perfect time.

A special thank you to Mike Rollerson for taking the time to talk to us about his cosplay photography. Now for the photos! – below are a selection of new photographs taken by Mike Rollerson from various shows and shoots across the last year. We’re looking forward to seeing what Mike does next with his photography. For the latest updates and photos and to view his incredible photography portfolio please visit his Facebook and Flickr pages.


All the photographs in this post are Copyright © Mike Rollerson
and have been used with the photographers permission.