These aren’t official images from your favorite video game. No, that isn’t a photo from the set of “Maleficent” seen above. Surprised? Me too, which is why I was so eager to feature photographer Darshelle Stevens who has become somewhat of a master of cosplay/fantasy photography. “I love crossing reality with the surreal,” she told me. “My most favorite thing is finding an epic location that fits a certain character or theme I’m trying to achieve, and then enhance what I captured in camera with my post processing to give it that final polished style I enjoy.”

What’s even more impressive is that Darshelle focuses on getting as much of a shot in camera as possible rather than fiddling in Photoshop. “You’d be surprised just by glancing at some of my photos, but full composites aren’t particularly my favorite. It’s ideal for me to accomplish most of what I want to achieve on set. Making people ponder as to whether or not my shots are on location is such a gratifying experience. Conceptual photography has always captivated me most, so anything that has a theme or story is what I’m drawn to, and this is why I’ve gotten into Cosplay Photography…it’s provided me the niche I’ve been longing for in my personal work.”

Darshelle’s photographic journey started eight years ago and she’s only been in the professional realm for half that time. “It’s funny, and I feel like a lot of female photographers get their start or ignite their passion this way…but I began just by taking self portraits. When social media was really booming, and way back when MySpace was still king, I was inspired by some of the cool images people were taking just of themselves. So as silly as it may seem, that’s how I got my start. Fast forward four more years to my freshman year in college, that’s when I finally decided to take the plunge to try and turn my beloved hobby into a full time profession. Photography changed my life in a lot of ways, it’s what helped me make the decision to move from Michigan (where I lived until I was 20) to California, where an abundance of opportunities await young artists like myself. Since then, I’ve just been experimenting and sticking to what I love to photograph.”

“My work is essentially my whole being wrapped up in a huge nutshell. I not only do photography for a living, but I do it in my free time as well. Most of the stuff you see is my own personal work, yes I get paid to do my crazy conceptual shoots as well, but my “day job” is full time photo editing for a wedding studio here in Southern California. I dabble in both sides of the spectrum, and I love every single minute of everything I do in the photography world. Just being able to contribute to our society and the many different people that appreciate what we do is one of the higher satisfactions in life.”

When I asked her about her goals and where she wanted to take her photography, Darshelle answered in a way that someone who is hitting their professional stride tends to. “This question is always rather difficult for me because 4 years ago, or even 2 years ago, I would have a completely different answer for you. The one thing that has remained consistent has been my love for conceptual photography. As of now my grander ambitions would probably have to be doing more commercial work for the video game or movie industry…working on promotional images and different sorts of advertising campaigns. I don’t have a specific idea as to what I’ll eventually end up doing, but for now I’d love to stay freelance and just keep working towards being contracted by these bigger known companies…one step at a time.”

Darshelles Favorite Gear

Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II
Canon 35mm f/1.4L
2 Alien Bee 800’s
Vagabond Mini
Paul C. Buff Octobox
Various Umbrellas
Multiple Colored Gels

For editing:
27″ iMac
15″ Macbook Pro (for on the go)
Photoshop CC
Lightroom 5

Darshelles Advice to Emerging Photographers

“For aspiring photographs and fellow artists alike, I’d say just do what YOU love and have fun with it. Stresses and obstacles are to be expected and they are what help you grow as an individual and a creative. Don’t knock the hardships and appreciate each accomplishment, big or small, it’s how you get to where you’re going. Don’t be afraid to try new things, as you never know what opportunity could be waiting behind any given door you’re presented with in life. As long as you stick to being true to yourself and your passion, everything else just kind of falls in place. Just have faith and stay driven and inspired! I believe in you!”

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~Walt Disney

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Be sure to check out Darshelle’s .