Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
As a photographer, often we are trying to freeze a moment. Ace Wheelie takes that further by creating worlds. As Variant Cover Cosplay Composites he creates worlds for cosplayers – putting the characters they are costumed as into the fantasy world the originate from.
That’s actually a funny story because I used to not be into photography at all when it came to taking the photos themselves. In high school, I used to retouch images for low level or no-name magazines so I was very familiar with Photoshop. It wasn’t until college that I took a class on how to merge images – and that just opened my mind to so many possibilities! I then bought a camera and took photos of my friends who were in bands that played locally. I actually did that for a long time as a job, but in my free time I would merge images and composite them. That was my real passion but it seemed that people in the photograph realm at the time really understand what I was doing nor were the models and magazine.
When the bands saw them, they wanted me to do promo photos with these digitally created backgrounds. That eventually lead to bigger and better jobs but it wasn’t until a local con called Pensacon happened that I saw where my true potential shined. Now I travel to different comic conventions doing panels and selling my art, as well as working with some of the most talented cosplayers out there!
When was the first time you felt like a professional photographer?
Well to be honest I consider myself an artist, not just a photographer. Even though I’m a great photographer, my Photoshop skills and my photography go hand in hand. I’ve always been one of those people who never really called myself a professional because I feel I’m always learning something new. There was one moment however, where I felt like I “made it” and I can call myself a professional: It was when an international magazine contacted me clamoring to use the images from one of my first cosplay photoshoots! It was crazy! They came to me! It wasn’t like I was passing the image out to ever agency like I had to back when I was working in fashion just begging for images to be published – which quite a few of those where published. But this time, they came to me! It was surreal!
Favorite style or subject to shoot?
I have fallen head over heels with photographing cosplayers! The amount of detail and expertise that the amazing people put into their costumes has blown my mind on multiple occasions. I just want to create images that match that amount of skill and bring it to that next level – to compliment what they have done. I also LOVE shooting bands, both on and off stage in my studio. Music has always been a huge part of my life, especially being a musician myself!
Favorite piece of equipment?
Recently I bought myself a Wacom Cintiq! It is amazing! I can draw on the screen itself! It has saved me so much time and effort then using a Wacom Intuos or even a mouse!If you are an artist and you do your art digitally, then you need to get yourself one of these.
As for photography gear, my favorite thing is lighting! Even though it scares the shit out of me. I’m always like “Let’s try something new and interesting” and 95% of the time it turned out not to be such a good idea but the fun is trying to figure out WHY it didn’t work and have the patience to keep trying till you get what you want.
What is your dream photography gig?
To photograph for Hollywood movie posters! To take the images for any the recent or upcoming Marvel and Star Wars promo images and to edit them would be so amazing!
Any advice for others who are interested in photography?
Never stop learning or think that you know it all. I’ve been doing photography for almost a decade now and I’m still learning new things or find out other ways to do things that give a different look or an easy way to achieve an effect. One thing people don’t realize about any kind of art is that it’s all problem solving and happy accidents. Sometimes you’re put in a situation that you have to think outside the box and solve the problem to get the job done. Then the other times you accidentally press the wrong button but it ends up look amazing or 100x better then what you were planning.
Best piece of advice you got starting out?
My best advice I can give some one who is picking up a camera for the first time is to LEARN YOUR CAMERA. Know all the ins and outs of why your image my be over exposed and what is the best way to correct it, and then get out there and shoot! You’re not going to learn anything by only watching tutorials on Youtube. You have to actually put that information to use for it to embed in your head. Hey, that rhymed!
Right now I offer two packages. The first one is just a plain solid background with high end retouching and the other is where I remove the person from the background and create all the crazy effects and scenes that match that character as well as the high end retouching. The ones that have the fully edited backgrounds get a free print from me as well of their favorite image that I created.
How can someone contact you?
I’m available on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/variantcover as well as twitter and instagram under the username Ace_Wheelie. Or if you happen to be at a con in the Gulf Coast area I’m sure I’ll have a table there.