Alana Celii on Bringing Fashion Photography to Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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On March 20th, Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the latest installment of its popular life-simulation series. In six short weeks, the game has already sold more than 13 million copies, making ACNH one of the strongest game debuts ever for the Nintendo Switch, and putting it on track to becoming one of the top-selling Switch titles of all time. Alana Celii, NYC-based photographer and photo editor for The New York Times, counts herself among the millions of ACNH fans. Alana recently worked on a project using ACNH’s customizable wardrobe feature to create a one-of-a-kind photoshoot. She was kind enough to talk with us about the project.

Photographs © Alana Celii

M. Brett Smith: So, this is a really unique idea for a photoshoot. If I understand it correctly, you shot images of your Animal Crossing: New Horizons avatar wearing customized outfits that were based off the designs of a real clothing line—is that it?

Alana Celii: That’s right.

Nook Street Market creates customized outfits and designs for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Nook Street Market creates customized outfits and designs for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Who was responsible for the different clothes—the real-world maker and the digital creations? 

Offhours, a clothing line, teamed up with Nook Street Market, an Instagram account that makes custom outfits for Animal Crossing, to recreate their Homecoats in the game. 

Offhours' popular Homecoat, which was recreated by Nook Street Market for the Animal Crossing: New Horizons photoshoot.

Offhours' popular Homecoat, which was recreated by Nook Street Market for the Animal Crossing: New Horizons photo shoot.

Alana Celii and her partner Daniel Dorsa

And then you shot your avatar wearing the customized coats. How did that idea come together initially?

Rebecca Zhou, the co-founder of Offhours, was looking for people to shoot the Homecoats in Animal Crossing. In January, my partner, Daniel Dorsa, and I had shot photos of Offhours’ newest Homecoat, the Lunar. Since we had already collaborated together this year, we both felt it would be a great, and funny, project to work on together. 

Were there any rules or guidelines how you should shoot it? Did the brand have specific direction?

There were no parameters set by Offhours other than to use the Homecoats in game however I saw fit.

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, your avatar has a phone with a built-in camera that lets you zoom, set filters, and adjust color and density.
In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, your avatar has a phone with a built-in camera that lets you zoom, set filters, and adjust color and density. 

We keep using the word “shoot,” even though it’s a video game. Can you explain how the camera works in game?

In the game, your avatar has a phone with a built-in camera that allows you to not only set up the shot by positioning yourself and using zoom, but you can also select different filters for color and density. 

Alana used some of pieces she's collected in game to create her sets, including a miniature Tower of Pisa.
Celii used some of pieces she's collected in game to create her sets, including a miniature Tower of Pisa.

On top of outfits, you can also customize furniture and landscape. With all the different options available, how did you set up your shots?

I've been collecting some fun pieces in game—I have a shell bed and a giant, rotating moon, the tower of Pisa, and a pyramid—so I already knew I wanted to use some of these objects within the frame. The game includes a museum with an aquarium, and that made for a nice backdrop as well. 

Alana's avatar dashing through the halls of the aquarium.
Celii's avatar dashing through the halls of the aquarium

You also got some really good action shots and poses. How did you do that?

Some of the shots, to get more action, I would have my character run through the frame, and shoot. Others, I used the Reaction feature to give my character more of a candid look.

Alana used the in-game Reaction feature to give her character more of a candid look.
Celii used the in-game Reaction feature to give her character more of a candid look.

Were there any techniques that you use in the real world that didn’t translate very well to the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons? 

I think composition was one element that was more difficult in game than it would have been in real life. There are a finite number of views and perspectives you can work within. In addition, I felt a little limited to how my character acted and looked while shooting, but tried my best with the aforementioned techniques. 

Visit Alana's website to see more of her work. For customized ACNH outfits, including digital recreations from clothing lines like Offhours, be sure to visit the Nook Street Market.
Visit Celii’s website to see more of her work. For customized ACNH outfits, including digital recreations from clothing lines like Offhours, be sure to visit the Nook Street Market.

Along those same lines, was there anything you gleaned from Animal Crossing: New Horizons that might impact your other work?

I've been working on a new project during the quarantine and using Google Maps to research and “shoot.” I think the constraints in Animal Crossing showed me a different approach to research that translates very well to my new project.

To see more of Alana Celii’s work, you can visit her website or Instagram account. Also, be sure to check out the Nook Street Market for customized ACNH outfits, including digital recreations from real-world clothing lines like Offhours

1 Comments

okay, that's pretty sick. just started playing animal crossing and haven't tried the camera out yet but i definietly am going to start soon as i get more outfits and things. also i want that pyramid and definitely the tower of pisa. how do i get those?

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