Using the Olympus OMD EM5 on a Cosplay Photoshoot

Last weekend, a friend asked me to photograph her cosplaying as Link from the Legend of Zelda. The theme was to have a dark and a bit foreboding scene/atmosphere to them. At the last minute while shooting though, she said to me, “Oh but I want them to be really nice too though.” That essentially means that I needed to try to find a way to mix both beauty (which is what I usually do) with my darker side. I usually keep the two separate when it comes to shoots, but in this case that needed to be put aside.

So if you were in the same position and shooting in Prospect Park, Brookyln (in NYC), how would you try to pull this off with multiple looks in a couple of hours?

For starters, I threw in a strange challenge: I put my 5D Mk II away for this one and used the Olympus OMD EM5 still on loan to me from Olympus.

Gear Used

Also used was the Yongnuo 560 EX II.


To create a world and a certain mood, you literally need to do the former. With that in mind, I was trained in the classical way to light back in cinematography school. Yes, that’s right: I use video lighting techniques to light still photos.

What is that philosophy:

– Turn off the lights

– Add one light

– See how it affects your scene and move it around until content

– Add more light

– Repeat two steps before

So how do you do this out in the open? If I had proprietary Olympus flashes, it could be done using High Speed Sync. But instead, I was using an extremely powerful monolight: the Impact Litetrek shooting either bare (with the reflector on it that comes standard) or with it aimed into a 42 inch translucent reflector. That way I would get lots of soft light and maintain lots of versatility if I wanted to diffuse any natural light. So in order to this I needed to combine a low ISO, high shutter speed, narrow aperture and the Light Craft Workshop Fader ND Mk II ND filter.

Granted, this is how they used to light a scene back in the film days.

It’s All About Your Lighting

When walking around the park, I looked for some of the most forested and darkest areas that were reminiscent of some of the spots in the Legend of Zelda series. When shooting it is important to not only try to do research into your subject to understand it, but also to be able to adapt to locations.

Here are a couple of photos with the details of how we shot them.

This photo was shot with the LiteTrek camera left. In order to get more of the ambient light, I slowed the shutter speed down a bit to get more of the ambient light and therefore surrounding landscape. The light was set to 1/16th, plus the 42 inch reflector and was around 5 feet away from Spencer.

There was a ton of Lightroom adjustments actually applied to this photo in the form of gradients and minor color adjustments. The left portion of the photo was nearly blown out and way too bright for my liking. The result is an overall even photo. The lighting on Spencer is diffused natural light.

In this photo, the LiteTrek and 43 inch translucent reflector was camera right to light her. But I needed more fill on her left side so I set up a Yongnuo 560 EX II with an Impact Powersync to provide that. For the life of my, I couldn't get the sword to gleam, so that is done in post.

Sometimes the light is super simple: the reflector is diffusing natural light here and I just waited for the wind to move the grass just enough. This was shot at f1 on the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95.

This photo required me to configure the reflector to show soft gold: which is a combo of silver and gold. The Yongnuo was handeld by me and aimed at the reflector: placed camera right. The light hit the reflector and illuminated Spencer. Then a Lightroom filter was applied to get this specific darkly look.

This one was quite easy: it required careful placement of Spencer to illuminate the right spots on her plus the sword. The LiteTrek is being shot bare camera right at 1/32nd power and there is a soft-gold reflector at my feet aiming sunlight back onto Spencer's legs and onto the sword.


While the above image looks very simple, it wasn’t so simple to get it to look like this. It required lots of playing with the colors and saturation + luminance levels to make it look like Kodak Portra.

This photo also didn't look this way originally, but the orangist effect actually reminded me a bit of Lord of the Rings. Granted they are two different universes, but it worked well.

This was done by aiming a Yongnuo flash right at Spencer's face at 1/128 power. Then a gradient was applied and set to blue in order to make it look like she was staring into a blue light.

At the end of it all, it still seems as if the OMD did a damned good job. I was able to recover lots of detail from the blown out areas and the color depth was extremely workable.

More Image Samples

Here are some different looks and images.

So what do you think? How did the Olympus OMD EM-5 do on a photo shoot?

Please Support The Phoblographer

We love to bring you guys the latest and greatest news and gear related stuff. However, we can’t keep doing that unless we have your continued support. If you would like to purchase any of the items mentioned, please do so by clicking our links first and then purchasing the items as we then get a small portion of the sale to help run the website.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.