Feature Friday: City Light Studio
Happy Friday! February has been a whirlwind, but it’s close to the end, and that means Captain’s Comic Expo is this weekend in Charleston! Today, I am featuring my good friend and photographer John who is the reason I started attending this convention last year. I’m looking forward to seeing him, and spending time with many other cosplayers and friends who have been feature Fridays in the past.
What is your photography name? My photography business is City Light Studio, LLC. I’ve done a ton of weddings and family portraits for the past several years. Over time I decided to post my cosplay pictures under a separate facebook page titled “City Light Studio: Sector C” just so I don’t blow up my cosplay followers and friends with wedding images, haha.
What is your name? John Nettles, Jr.
What do you do when you do when you aren’t behind the lens? Hmmm. Probably drawing … or watching movies, playing Overwatch, designing something, planning future shoots…or napping. I also have a family (Lindsey, my wife, Parker, my 5 year old son, and Ben will be here in April!), and we like to go out and do things together.
How old are you? 31
When did you first decide to become a photographer? Tough question! I think that long before I “decided” to become a photographer professionally I was always interested in photography. I was in a photography club back in high school and always thought I’d have my own dark room in my house one day, haha. After college my wife and I moved to China to teach English for a while. Once we moved back to the states we needed to find jobs pretty quickly, and I decided then, late 2010, to pursue photography as a business.
What made you want to be a photographer? I’ve been “into” art for as long as I can remember. Always drawing or painting as a kid and very involved in visual arts in and out of school. I think that photography just comes naturally with that desire to capture something creatively. So, I’m not sure if there was a time when I thought, “NOW, I want to be a photographer” as much as I just eventually started using photography as another artistic medium.
Tell us about your photography style. Ugh, haha. I feel like the words use to describe photographic styles get played out and sound cheesy real quick, but here it goes: I guess I’d say “photo-journalistic” or somewhat “documentary”-like. I like for my images to tell a story. I’m not sure if that’s an effect of me shooting a ton of weddings OR if I’ve always enjoyed capturing “raw stories” and that’s what got me into wedding photography. I don’t, generally, like to shoot ultra-posed, eyes-straight- to-the- camera shots. That’s not to say that I don’t pose subjects for shots, though. I like to anticipate reactions and try to capture something that’s more “raw” than “posed.” I often times encourage situations or dialog to help elicit the type of emotion that I intend to capture.
What is your weapon/camera of choice? I pretty much always have “Jess” with me. Jess is a Canon 5Dmkii and she usually has either a 50mm/1.4 or 100mm/2.8L attached to her. I especially love the 100mm for portraits and cosplay. If I don’t have a ton of space or light to shoot then I switch to the 50mm. My “walking around downtown” lens, though, would be a 24-105mm/ f4 zoom.
What is your favorite cosplay photograph you have taken? Explain. UGH! All these tough questions! This one is hard because I have a lot of pictures of my son that I love, but that might be a bit biased of me, haha. Even so, though, there’s still a picture that I keep coming back to in my mind, so I guess that’d have to be my favorite. It’s of Tara as Lara Croft and we shot it at Botany Bay near Edisto Beach, SC. First of all, Botany Bay was an amazing place to visit and shoot at. Unfortunately, it was pretty much completely washed away by Hurricane Matthew last year. I’m so thankful for the times I’ve had to shoot there. The shoot with Tara was great, as always. I’ve played the game and I love Lara Croft so having a real life Lara at a location that is very Tomb Raider-esque was especially awesome. At the end of the shoot Tara agreed to kneel down in the water and we just got a sweet shot with a wave crashing behind her as she’s faux fixing a bandage on her arm. That pic was also published in the cosplay section of the official Lara Croft “20 years of Tomb Raider” book.
What is your favorite aspect of photographing cosplay? Probably that I get to interact in real life with characters that I love. It’s part being “star struck” and part being excited to use a section of my art to tell these stories through images. Cosplay is also something that I love doing with my son. It started out as me dressing him up as characters that I wanted to be, but as he has gotten older it has also evolved into him wanting to cosplay as characters that HE connects with and wants to portray.
What are some of your dream cosplay shoots that you would like to do someday? Spiderman and Black Cat and Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Full stop. Period. Those shoots have been on the top of my list since forever. WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE. Other than that I pretty much enjoy shooting anything that I relate to or am part of a fandom of, duh, haha. Steven Universe (a Stevonnie shoot would be awesome), Marvel/ Avengers, Disney (Aladdin/ Jasmine. Various princesses), James Bond, there are also some biblical stories that I’d love to photograph.
What is your favorite photograph (doesn’t have to be cosplay) you have ever taken? Explain. Look, I have over 4k posts on my personal instagram alone…I like to take pictures. It’s going to be super hard to pic ONE picture “ever.” RECENTLY, though, I have been taking pictures of the backs of unsuspecting people’s heads and I really like those, haha. Usually pictures have context that lead to a single, or at least a couple, inferred “stories.” A bride and groom in their wedding attire, embracing one another is pretty self-explanatory; the same with a pregnant mother holding her baby bump or a family standing together and smiling at the camera. Even selfies can provide enough context to convey a single story, but a picture of someone facing away from the camera is different. These images are un-posed and natural. These people don’t know they’ve been photographed and I don’t ever meet them nor they me. This gives us the opportunity to write our own stories! Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? Where are they coming from? What is their relation to one another? What are they feeling, thinking, and experiencing? Of course, the big question: WHY? So many questions which have numerous possible answers!
What is the best compliment you have ever received on a photo? There was this little session that I did with my son dressed as Daredevil (Netflix version), and I really didn’t plan on it turning into a big thing. I just knew we had some black clothes around the house and I was itching to shoot so we quickly threw together the outfit and went downtown. We had fun and I thought that’d be the end of it, but the pics went viral and even actors from the show retweeted and commented on them! I thought that was pretty cool, haha!
What is your biggest challenge as a photographer? I’d say the same challenges as anyone in any area of creative arts, which would be putting your heart and soul into work that other people will be viewing and judging. That said, there will ALWAYS be people who criticize or “hate” your work no matter how awesome or inspiring it may be…so learning to be proud and continue to push out work regardless of what others may think takes time.
How do you view cosplay photography differently than your standard photography? I guess the obvious difference would be the costumes, haha. Really, cosplay photography isn’t THAT much different. You’re still telling stories, it’s just that in cosplay photography the subjects are embodying a character or persona that they otherwise wouldn’t be in “standard photography.” Shooting cosplay does feel different than shooting a wedding, for example, but that’s because the stories are different. The same tools are used and same approach (always ready and in the zone) regardless of who/ what you’re shooting.
What is the best advice you have for models as a photographer? Don’t be shy, make some plans for shoots that you’d love have done and then reach out to photographers with those ideas. Find the photographer that matches your level of enthusiasm and go for it! ALSO be careful out there and always remember to put your safety first! Meet photographers before a shoot and try to get to know them. Look at their body of work and speak to people who’ve shot with them before. I’m not trying to scare you – there are just a lot of “faux-tographers” who want to take advantage of an art that I love and that frustrates me. There are a ton of great photographers out there too 😉
What is the best advice you have for aspiring photographers? No matter what, no excuses just pick up an object that takes pictures and get out there and shoot. Yes, you should learn about your gear and solid gear is a worthy investment, but gear doesn’t make the photographer. Use your phone or a cheap point and shoot; who cares! Just KEEP SHOOTING. Also, humble yourself and know that you aren’t the first person to take a cool picture and you won’t be the last. Don’t get into this for “fame or fortune,” just do it because it’s fun and you’ll meet some amazing people and make great friends.
I love when my features get into their answers as much as John. What characters would you like to see John shoot? Pester him below! Also, follow all his social media before you go. Leave a comment for both of us, and don’t forget to subscribe via email or Bloglovin‘ to never miss a post!
John’s Social Media:
Photography Website: www.citylight-studio.com
Art Website: www.johnnettlesart.com
Facebook pages: City Light Studio, City Light Studio: Sector C
Instagrams: @jmnettlsjr, @citylightstudio