Bat family selfie

I’ve been quite fortunate over the past year to work with a phenomenal group of Southern California cosplayers, collectively referred to as “The Bat Family.”  These extraordinarily talented and passionate costumers recreate the personas of a variety of [mostly] DC Comics characters, including The Batman, Catwoman, The Riddler, The Joker, The Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Black Mask, Harley Quinn and the Penguin (among others).  And these folks do it right!

We got together recently for a photo shoot prior to Wondercon.  I photographed each artist individually, and then in small groups.  The shoot culminated in a fun set piece of a Gotham City Rogues version of the familiar (and oft parodied) “Dogs Playing Poker.”

DC Rogues Playing Poker-finished

The Bat-Setup

While I’m a big proponent of compositing for my cosplay artworks, this image is actually pretty straightforward, and apart from adding some smoke and lighting effects, did not involve any compositing of original elements.  The key was lighting it properly.

Working on a blacked-out stage at our church theater, the Bat Family dressed the table with all the poker-related props – chips, cards, Catwoman’s diamond, fake whiskey, fake cigars (cosplay props are AMAZING) – even a fake banana.  (I guess when you’ve got both The Riddler and The Joker at the table, there’s got to be a banana in the mix somewhere)!

 The Bat-Lighting

Lighting was a mix of monoblock studio heads (750WS Travelites) and Nikon SB-800 Speedlights – all triggered with PocketWizards (MiniTT1 / FlexTT5s and Plus IIs).

BTS Rogues Playing Poker

Keylight was a SB-800 in a 22” beauty dish, tabletopped over the center of the group to simulate the type of overhead hanging light you might find in the smoky back room of an abandoned toy factory in the Gotham City warehouse district.

A second SB-800 in a 35” octabox was camera right and a Joe McNally Lastolite Triflip reflector  camera left provided fill for the actors in the foreground.

The pair of 750 WS Travelites with 10×36” gridded stripboxes created some nice background separation and fill for the faces of the characters at the sides of the table.

rogues poker lighting diagramThe image was pretty close to what I wanted straight out of camera.

rogues playing poker SOOC

The Bat-Finish

To create the more atmospheric and painterly finished version involved a few tweaks in Adobe Lightroom: namely, increased clarity, a bit of shadow recovery and a vibrance boost.  A trip to Photoshop finished the look with a couple of smoke brushes for the cigars and cigarette, a bit of light / lens flare via Red Giant Software’s Knoll Light Factory, followed by a Dave Black-esque bit of manipulation involving a copy of the finished image converted to monochrome and HDR-toned (Image>Adjustments>HDR toning) then blended back with the original (soft light layer blending mode).


DC Rogues Playing Poker-finished

A word about playing poker with the villains of Gotham City – they CHEAT!  So, consider yourself forewarned!

I’m looking forward to more shoots with the Bat Family, which continues to grow as we adopt new characters.  For more from this series of portraits, check out: Cosplay Portraits Gallery.