Ladies and gentlemen! It’s Thursday! Which means it’s KCCP member of the week day, and today, we’re featuring someone who is incredibly talented: photographer Justin Stiles.
What got you into photography and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve always been interested in creating images and artwork, but was never terribly talented at other forms of visual art such as drawing and painting. Once I made the connection that I could create images that I found appealing by interpreting the world around me with photography, it just clicked.
I’ve been playing with photography and cameras in some form or another since I was in middle school, but I never really took it seriously until about two years ago. After years of wanting to take photography to another level, I finally bought my first DSLR in 2012. The moment I started playing around with it, I knew that photography was something my life had been missing. In all honesty, I wonder how I ever got along without it.
What is your favorite thing to photograph?
One of my jobs, is at a zoo, so I get so many wonderful opportunities to photograph the wonderful animals. Capturing their stories is always fun for me. I also like to do some more obscure type of stuff with still life of every day or unusual objects. People aren’t usually something I’d consider as a “first choice” for photographing, but once I get rolling on a portrait session I remember just how fun it can be.
Why did you decide to photograph cosplayers?
I’m a total geek/nerd at heart. In fact, my first word was “geek” (seriously, ask my mother). I love all things sci-fi, fantasy, video games, comics, books, etc. I, like most cosplayers, see cosplay as a natural extension of that passion. I’ve seen some cosplayers do some absolutely brilliant things with materials I’d never have thought to use. All that being said, even the best cosplayers can use a little help sometimes in realizing their dream of becoming their favorite character.
I believe that’s where a good photographer and a good cosplayer working together can create something spectacular. My interest and goal in photographing cosplay is twofold: First, it allows me to capture a piece of that character in a new and interesting way. Secondly, it allows me to create a collaborative piece of art that helps push that cosplayer one step closer to actually being the character that he/she loves.
What type of camera do you prefer to use?
I shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i. Really, I’ll take any DSLR as long as I can have a few minutes to get comfortable and learn how to adjust the functions and settings on the fly. I don’t plan on upgrading my camera body anytime super soon, but a few new lenses may be in my future.
What is your editing program of choice?
I do most of my organization and basic processing of RAW files in Apple’s Aperture. Occasionally I’ll pull it into Photoshop CS5 if I need to do something more advanced than Aperture offers, but for at least 95% of my photos, Aperture is all I need.
What is the best advice you’d give someone who wants to get into photography?
First, get shooting with what you have. Can’t afford a DSLR? Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, and there’s a lot you can learn about photography by just playing with a phone camera.
Secondly (and to some extent, this ties in with the first point), learn how to use the equipment you have to the maximum of it’s ability and your ability. Too many “photographers” out there try to fix their own shortcomings by buying more expensive gear. There’s nothing wrong with expensive gear.. What I do have a problem with is those who buy a camera because they know it’s what another photographer uses. Buying the same camera as the guy down the street won’t make you as good of a photographer as he is, it will make you the owner of a camera that was probably too expensive for your needs.
In short: Make the most of what you have, and learn, learn, learn. No amount of equipment can replace know how and practice.
Have you considered cosplaying?
Yes, and I have done a little bit of it myself. My current character of choice is Spider-Man. Why? Because Peter Parker is a photographer! Additionally, he was always one of my favorite superheroes when I was little.
As of right now I’ve actually done a Spider-Man cosplay with a modified version of a store bought costume. I also wear it under normal clothes with the sleeves and chest slightly uncovered and a Peter Parker – Daily Bugle press badge. It’s a great cosplay for me, because I can attend conventions and my camera becomes part of the costume.
What are your other interests?
The usual list of geeky things: watching sci-fi/fantasy shows/movies, reading comics (currently working through the Ultimate Marvel line, just got caught up on The Walking Dead), reading books, playing video games (I’ll totally admit to being a Nintendo fanboy), geocaching and cooking (my wife keeps telling me to audition for Master Chef, I keep telling her that I’m not quite THAT good).
If you could have dinner with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
After spending WAY too long thinking about this question, I think I finally settled on Leonard Hofstadter (Big Bang Theory). The two of us are incredibly alike. Short geeky guys who spend a good deal of time juggling being a total nerd and being a “normal guy”. I also have a tendency to emulate his sense of fashion (more often than not by total accident). I imagine we’d have all sorts of fun pop culture things to talk about. I figure that instead of having to pick one of my other favorite fictional characters to have dinner with, Leonard and I could just talk about all of our favorite characters with each other.