I heard from Jonathan in late 2018. His inquiry said:
Andy - I hope this message finds you well! I have a younger brother who is currently living in Tokyo. He recently got engaged to his long-time boyfriend. To celebrate such a wonderful and momentous occasion, I wanted to book a couples photo session for him and his fiancée. In searching for a photographer based in Tokyo, I came across your webpage and I am very impressed with your credentials and quality of your photographs! To that end, could you please provide me with a quote for a couples session? Looking forward to hearing back from you!
I was grateful that Jonathan gave me a bit of backstory in his initial correspondence. I also loved how thoughtful Jonathan was to think of his brother. Jonathan realized that gifting a photography session is one of the kindest, most generous gifts you can give and, after receiving a couple's photography session quote, he decided to book a two-hour portrait session for his brother.
By the time I met Jonathan's brother Michael and his partner Leo, they were no longer engaged. The couple had been married a few days prior to our session and judging by their smiles, they were still reeling from the excitement of their ceremony.
We met right on time outside of Zozoji Temple, a beautiful Buddhist complex in downtown Tokyo, Japan. There, chatting in front of the temple, I learned more about the couple and found out that the pair lived nearby. Michael and Leo wanted to capture a few shots on themselves in areas that would, someday, remind them of their home here in the Japanese capital. Michael and Leo's only request was that we snag an image that somehow incorporated the Tokyo Tower. If that was the expectation, I knew that my time with this Micheal and Leo would be relaxed and fun.
In the end, I was right. Michael and Leo were as easy going as clients come. For our two-hour-session we strolled along, making photos in some of downtown Tokyo's nicest portrait locations.
Congrats Michael and Leo! May you have a wonderful life together.
Are you searching for a photographer to capture your pre-wedding, engagement, or casual couples session? If so, I would be delighted to help. Reach out today to learn more about my portrait session offerings or to book your portrait photography session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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I love May. The beautiful azaleas bloom and the smell of jasmine is in the air. The crisp mornings no longer bite and "sweater weather" is long gone. In May, the spring portrait rush begins to slow down and I get to breathe a bit knowing that the slower months are right around the corner. But, just because the sakura portrait season is over doesn't mean that I put my camera on the shelf and start cleaning my gear. May is still an amazing time for portrait sessions in Tokyo.
I heard from Ysa and Julien just as May began. The couple were already in Japan and decided that it was their chance to have their first professional couples shoot. Ysa and Julien took the time to let me know about their specific vision for their vacation photography session. Ysa wrote:
My name is Ysa and my fiance Julien and I are currently visiting Tokyo from Montreal. We just had the idea to do an engagement photoshoot as we both love Tokyo so much. I was wondering if you have any availabilities in early May. We want to be able to capture two sides of Tokyo: the more traditional side and the modern one. We would also want to showcase the grandeur of the city in some of the shots. Our favorite time for pictures is during the golden hours. We know it is very last minute but we still have hope to be able to have a memorable photoshoot! Can you help?
As with all my clients, I wanted to know more about Ysa and Julien before our portrait session began. With some backstory, I would have some insight into their relationship and preferences. I learned that Ysa has Chinese and Cambodian ancestory but was born in France. Julien was also born in France but, like Ysa, moved to Canada at a young age. In Montreal, the couple met salsa dancing. They both are foodies and seemingly live to travel (as I discovered by flipping through the droves of fantastic imagery of the couple's adventures on Julien's website). I also learned that Julien, like me, had a bit of an inner nerd and loves gaming and anime.
After learning a bit more about the couple, I suggested a shoot route that I have been dying to take with just the perfect couple. We would start at Yushima Cathedral, a very picturesque temple dedicated to Confucious that is rarely visited by tourists. From there, we would move to Kanda Shrine, a shinto monument located a few minutes walk from Ochanimizu station. Our afternoon would end at Akihabara Electric Town (a place Julien would sure to love) as the neon lights begin to come on. I knew that this route would allow for unique set of engagement photos that most Tokyo visitors wouldn't have. The route also fit the description that Ysa has espoused in her original email.
Julien and Ysa met me right on time outside JR Ochanimizu Station. After some high fives and handshakes, we got to work. For the next two hours, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with the couple laughing, chatting, and stopping here and there to make some portraits. In the end, the session proved to be one of my favorite couples photography sessions of the season.
Are you searching for a photographer in Japan to create a unique set of images from your trip to Tokyo? If so, I would be honored to be your photographer. Contact me today to begin discussing your custom pre-wedding, honeymoon, or vacation portrait session.
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I am always excited to hear from pre-wedding clients who will be coming to Japan. This past Valentine's Day, I woke up to an inquiry from Amber. She wrote:
My fiancé Justin and I will be in Tokyo in early April for a wedding getaway and honeymoon. My dream is to have beautiful pictures taken with cherry blossoms in the background of some of the shots and want to wear my wedding gown. I am looking for the perfect portrait photographer and am hoping you can help us with this. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Amber's email wasn't unusual. In fact, I receive similar messages throughout the year inquiring about springtime sakura sessions. I totally understand the fascination with Japan's sakura and do by best to accommodate as many requests for that special time of year. By February, I am usually fully booked for the upcoming sakura season, the two or three-week period bookending the full bloom forecast.
Still, requests for family, individual, and pre-wedding portraits keep pouring in through February and March. Luckily, I still had two portrait slots available in my calendar during Amber and Justin's honeymoon in Tokyo.
I warned Amber, just like I warn all my sakura clients, that booking at date in early April doesn't mean that the cherry blossoms will be out. Some clients reserve slots too early in the season, some too late. As long as Amber and Justin knew that I couldn't play God, I would be willing to plan an amazing afternoon of portraits for the honeymooners that would yield an amazing set of portraits with, or without, cherry blossoms.
With their date reserved, Amber and Justin took me up on my offer to have a pre-shoot consultation. A few days after Amber and Justin's original inquiry, we video-chatted about their hopes and session goals. I also asked a few personal questions. I also suggested adding more locations so that our session didn't solely focus on the fickle cherry blossoms. With a better understanding of who Justin and Amber were as a couple, I was able to begin planning a custom portrait session.
Amber and Justin decided to trust my judgement and let me sort out a route that corresponded to their dispositions. I planed an afternoon in some of Tokyo's less frequented destinations, a route that would yield sakura imagery (if the little flowers were in bloom) and that would allow Amber and Justin to see a bit a Tokyo that most visitors never see. My plan for the newly wed couple included ancient temples, suburban neighborhoods, and a vast public park that few locals (and even fewer tourists) ever visit.
In the end, I had an amazing afternoon of portraits with Justin and Amber. The weather was perfect and, luckily, the sakura were still on the trees. The couple were as easy going and relaxed as they seemed in our pre-shoot meeting and I felt honored to be selected as their honeymoon photographer.
Are you searching for a photographer to capture your honeymoon here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or abroad? If so, contact me today to begin planning your casual or formal portrait session.
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According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), nearly 2.5 million visitors came to the Land of the Rising Sun last November. 2.5 million... the best November on record for Japanese tourism. This number of visitors is hard to imagine. Though, I am not surprised in the slightest by the staggering count.
Japan is experiencing a historic tourism boom. Years ago, the JNTO began a drive that would bring 20 million leisure visitors annually by the 2020. In the past years, the folks at the tourism board have done a better job than expected. Last year Japan welcomed nearly 29 million tourists, smashing the goals set by the tourism board.
The numbers are impressive and, by walking around Tokyo on a beautiful day, I can actually see the influx. Tour buses are parked at monuments, exclusive districts like Ginza are buzzing with foreign shoppers, and restaurants are constantly filled with foodies.
Many would frown at a massive wave of tourism like this. But the perks, in this case, perhaps outweigh the cons. The economic benefits of tourism are boosting the ailing Japanese economy. I am glad that so many people want to see Japan, one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world. I am also grateful that many of these visitors need a portrait photographer in Japan to capture some of their time here in the capital.
A few weeks ago, I heard from Noel and Mel, a couple from Singapore who were searching for a Tokyo-based portrait photographer to document a sliver of their winter holiday. Their initial correspondence read:
Hello, Andrew! We are from Singapore and are planning our 3rd trip to Japan (2nd trip this year). We love the sights and sounds of Tokyo. On every corner you find something different, something you don't expect. The city has the new-meets-old vibe and, of course, the people... We are not the posing kind and are hoping for a casual portrait photo session. Can you help?
I could, in fact, help Melanie and Noel. Every couple I work with is different. Some pairs choose to get dressed to the hilt and spend much of their session posing. Other couples just want a leisurely date, void of elaborate posing and artificial lighting. I was delighted to craft a session for Noel and Mel that that would yield some great images and that would feel relaxed and super casual.
We decided to meet outside of Sensoji Temple, one of the most crowded tourist destinations in Tokyo. Asakusa's Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and is, on any given day, packed with tourists from all over the world.
Why would we select Sensoji as our location for a casual, relaxed portrait session? At Sensoji, tourists tend to move in a predictable route. Visitors typically walk down Nakamise Street, snap photos at the five-story pagoda, meander into the main hall of the shrine, and then head back out of the complex. This route is always clogged and endlessly frustrating. But I knew that we would be able to capture some great images in one of Tokyo's most iconic locations without having to brave the massive crowd.
Most visitors don't realize that the blocks on either side of the main temple complex are a maze of beautifully calm side-streets with views of the Sky Tree. Moreover, the northern end of Sensoji, accessed by an alternate entrance, is usually empty and offers a glimpse of the temple's façade without a wall of bodies.
Thankfully, our plan went off without a hitch. For an hour or so, I took Noel and Mel through Sensoji's "secret" spots, creating the casual portrait shoot the couple was after. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mel and Noel, two of the nicest visitors Tokyo will welcome this year.
Are you planning a trip to Japan? If so, why not document some of your time here in by booking a portrait session here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? Contact me today to start planning your custom portrait session.
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With the fall portrait season coming to a close, I am glad to finally have the chance to sit down, complete some editing, and share some images from one of my first couples sessions this autumn. While the leaves had not yet changed in Tokyo (the colors begin to pop in mid-November), clients who booked in October were still in for a treat as the weather in Tokyo had significantly cooled down from one of the hottest summers in history.
One of my first couples sessions this fall was with Sami and her husband Arttu. I originally heard from Sami a few months ago. She wrote:
Hi Andy! I'm reaching out to inquire about an "engagement style" shoot while my husband and I are in Tokyo this October. We met there (and used to live in Japan for a couple years) before we moved to California and got married. My husband and I haven't been back to Japan since we moved four years ago and would love to take photos around where we met. We lived in Aoyama area and would like to shoot around Shibuya or Omotesando (but are open to anywhere you recommend)."
Of course I was interested in shooting with Sami and Arttu. I loved their story and how they wanted to return to the places where they fell in love. When I responded to Sami, I asked her a bit more about their time in Japan and what she envisioned for their session. We spoke about several possible locations and the types of elements the couple wanted to incorporate in their photos.
Sami and Arttu decided that we should have an extended shoot together. I love when couples decide to have longer portrait sessions With an extended amount of time, we can cover a lot more ground, make images in a number of locations and have the luxury of time to experiment with different kinds of images. During a two-hour session, we could incorporate both traditional aspects of Japan and some of Sami and Arttu's "old haunts," the areas that the couple frequented when they lived in Tokyo.
I was excited to finally meet Sami and Arttu outside of Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo's most iconic locations. Sami and Arttu were both stylishly dressed in flat black. Sami, looked beautiful in her dress and Arttu wasn't so hard on the eyes either. After having a bit of a chat, we entered the Meiji complex and got to work shooting along the tree-lined promenade, near the giant tori gates, and inside the shrine complex.
From Meiji we meandered to the spots Sami and Arttu hold dear, the places where they fell in love. Where are those shots? Well, those images are just for Sami and Arttu. I couldn't have asked for better clients or a better afternoon out with a couple.
Are you a couple searching for a vacation portrait photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to learn how I can help craft the couples session you envision.
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Most of my portrait clients come from abroad. Because of the time differences, I usually receive photos session inquires when I am asleep. I am always excited to wake up, pour a cup of coffee, open my email, and to see the engagement, pre-wedding, and elopement session requests that have come in overnight.
A couple months ago, I received the following message from Krista:
"My fiancé and I will be traveling to Tokyo to be married. We are planning on having a very intimate ceremony for just the two of us, an officiant, and a photographer. Our ideal photography package would include:
-Images of preparation, the rings and getting prepared for the ceremony
-Images of the ceremony
-Images around Tokyo following the ceremony (3 or more locations)
We are mostly looking to go on an adventure and to have a great and memorable day. I also must admit that I would like to show off my dress as we will not have the traditional wedding. We would like a great photographic story of our trip that we can share with family and friends at home.
We do need to do a bit more research regarding locations but we are interested in an urban location (with all those wonderful neon lights) and a more traditional location like a temple or garden. We would like to visit several more spots and are also very open to suggestions. Additionally we do not have a location in mind for the actual "wedding" so suggestions on that would be welcome as well."
I loved seeing that Krista already had an idea of what she wanted (One of my five tips for an amazing pre-wedding or elopement session). I could also see that I had the chance to actually help Krista craft a wonderful wedding experience here in Japan. She needed a make-up artist, an officiant, and local knowledge of locations suitable for one of the most special days in her life. I was keen to lend a hand.
I contacted the bride-to-be back immediately. I was excited about the idea of spending a day out in Tokyo with a pair of lovebirds and was willing to accept the challenge of crafting a spectacular experience for Krista and her partner.
Within a day, Krista had responded back and told me a bit more about herself and her fiancé André. Krista and Andre had been together for a little over a year and couldn't wait to tie the knot. The couple was from Toronto and this trip was going to be their first time in Japan. I could sense by the way Krista was writing that the couple was crazy excited about the trip. I admit, I was also looking forward to showing the couple a few beautiful sites in the Japanese capital on their wedding day.
I wanted to know Krista and Andre as much as I could. So, we arranged a virtual meeting. During our hour-long conversation, we discussed what the couple envisioned for their perfect wedding day in Tokyo. I pried a bit deeper to see who the couple actually was. I wanted to know what made them tick. They started opening up, letting me know more than just their photo session wishes.
It was quickly apparent that I had a lot in common with K&A. André is a little bit of an anime/gamer nerd and I am a huge fan of video games. Krista is "an art kid" at heart who also dabbles in photography. I learned that they have a deep love of horribly unhealthy food including mountains of cake and McDonald's breakfast. During our meeting, I found that the couple has a wicked sense of humor and a unique vibe. Without a doubt, these two, this couple, was my ideal wedding client to spend a day in Tokyo with.
I immediately started planning for K&A. I scouted an intimate and unforgettable wedding location and prioritized a list of other locations for our day together. I put the couple in touch with a wedding officiant here in Tokyo and also sourced a make-up/hair artist to work with Krista on their special day.
Fast forward a couple of months...
It was finally Krista and André's wedding day. I arrived early at the hotel and made my way to our designated meeting spot.
Andre met me in the lobby. He admitted he was nervous. How could he not be? I assured him that everything was going to be great and that our day together was going to be the perfect day. My mission was to offer K&A the stress-free, fun-filled day that would serve as a springboard them into a beautiful life together.
Andre led me to their room where Krista was working with Anna, a wonderful Tokyo-based MUAH artist. Krista looked beautiful and I was so happy to finally meet her. After a hug, I got to work.
From the first press of my camera's shutter, I became relaxed and enjoyed the day-long ride with this stunning couple. From the "first-look" all the way through final kisses in Tokyo's iconic Shibuya crossing, I loved every second spent with Krista and André.
Congrats Lovebirds! Of all the photographers in Japan you could have selected to shoot your wedding day, I was so honored that you picked me.
Are you searching for a pre-wedding, wedding, or elopement photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, contact me today to find out how I can help.
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Pre-Wedding Portrait Time!
Congrats! You have decided to take the plunge. You and your partner have a bright future ahead of you. I am sure you have already started making plans for your big day. Everything is going according to plan and you are head-over-heels in love. But there is one more thing to add to your to-do-list that needs to happen well before your wedding day.
That's right. It's time to book a pre-wedding photo session. What better way to document this special time?
Sure, the idea of a photoshoot (on top of all the other wedding planning) can seem a tad bit daunting. But trust me, you won't regret the decision to have engagement photos made with a professional photographer. Still, some couples who book a pre-wedding session can experience some stress leading into their photo shoot. This needn't be the case.
A photoshoot with your partner is supposed to be a hot date, not a burden. With years of experience working with couples, I can offer five tips that will alleviate most of that unnecessary stress so that you can relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy your engagement photography session.
1) Know What You Want
Many couples who book a pre-wedding photo session don't really know how to express what they want. Remember, these are your engagement portraits and a professional photographer will want to create a product that you are going to love for years to come. It is very important that you identify what you want so that you can have the experience and product you have always dreamed of.
Sure, you want great images to share with friends and family. Sure, you want to be able to make an album with your engagement photos. These desires are understood. But what do you really want? What mood/s do you want to convey? How do you want to be seen? What kind of experience do you want to have during your shoot?
You and your partner should discuss what you truly want for both your portrait session experience and your final product. Once you have a clear vision, do you best to articulate those ideas to your chosen photographer. Better yet, create a visual mood board of images and share that mood board with your photographer so that they have a concrete idea of what your visual tastes are (pictures speak louder than words).
2) Chose a Portrait Location That Fits
Many couples think that a grandiose location will make for the best photographs. Sometimes "those" iconic locations do make for great images. But, more often than not, selecting famous and/or iconic locations for pre-wedding portraits isn't what it is cracked up to be.
On any given day, those "picture perfect" spots are usually filled with dozens of other couples who had the exact same idea. Trust me, the quickest way to ruin a pre-wedding photography session is to show up at a location crawling with hundreds (or thousands) of people.
Good locations don't have to be iconic. Good locations simply have to fit who you are as a couple. Do you like natural environments? Get out in the woods. Do you like gritty cities? Head into some alleyways.
Once you have decided on the type of location that suits you as a couple, communicate those thoughts to your photographer and ask for some location suggestions. Any professional photographer should be able to provide some location options that will both suit your tastes and make for some stunning images.
What if you have never heard of the places that your photographer suggests? Well, that could very well mean that your photographer has local knowledge. With luck, your photographer might be able to lead you to some under-the-radar spots that won't be clogged with countless couples all hoping to get the exact same engagement portrait.
3) Love the One You're With
Before I start shooting a pre-wedding session, I let my clients know exactly what makes a good image. A good image tells a story and conveys a feeling. It is up to you, the couple, to tell that story.
A pro photographer can take care of the lighting and the camera settings. They can help pose you in natural and comfortable ways. But, your photographer can't force you to show how much you love one another. It is up to you, the client, to interact with each other, to show each other in your short time together exactly how much you love each other.
Connection is key to good imagery. Whether is be a gaze, a giggle or a touch, your photos depend on you and the connection you have during your session. So, don't be bashful. Hold hands, embrace, steal a kiss here and there and leave the rest up to your photographer.
4) Pick the Right Attire
Every morning we make a decision about what to wear. Your pre-wedding portrait date is no different. It is understandable that you want to look amazing in your images. Yet, your attire is secondary to your connection with your partner (see Tip #3 above). With that being said, you can enhance your photos by selecting outfits that match your ideal product (see tip #1).
If you are a relaxed, casual couple, show that in your choice of attire. There is no rule that says your engagement photos have to be made in a tux and evening down. If you are shooting on the streets, men can get away with denim and a sports coat. Likewise, women can dress down as much as they want as well.
If you are a couple who is feeling a bit more sophisticated, go ahead and put on that suit and formal dress. Just make sure that the location you have selected doesn't stand in direct opposition to your chosen attire (unless that is the image you envision).
The key here is to make sure that you feel comfortable in your outfit choice and that the attire you wear really reflects who you are. The choice is yours. But, by all means, don't sweat the small stuff. Pick outfits that you are drawn to and just go with it!
5) Relax and Enjoy
I get it... Many couples get nervous in front of the camera. But again, a pre-wedding session is just a grand date (with a third wheel tagging along). Having your portrait made doesn't come easily to everyone.
Despite this, couples should realize that a portrait session isn't just about creating stunning images. Your engagement session, at the very least, is about creating another lasting memory together. Just like sky diving or taking a trip, having a pre-wedding photo session is just another way to add to your story as a couple. Relax. Have fun and leave the rest up to your professional photographer.
Are you searching for a pre-wedding photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to see how I can help. I am available world-wide for pre-wedding and engagement sessions and book up to a year in advance.
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Tung Wei and Priscilla are technically already married. But, despite their legal matrimony, the couple have yet to have their actual wedding. T&P decided to have their formal ceremony and reception in Kuala Lumpur, their Malaysian home, and wanted to have a slide show of photographs to accompany Tung Wei's proposal video.
With a trip to Tokyo on the horizon, it just seemed natural to book a photographer in Tokyo document a day in their life in Japan and to use those images for their wedding reception slide show.
I was honored to be selected as T&P's photographer and was excited that I was going to have the chance to shoot another Day In the Life session. Of all my couple's session offerings, I like the extended shoots the best. I love getting to know my clients and there is no better way to do so than to have a full-day, pre-wedding portrait session.
My day out with Tung and Priscilla was one of the easiest days behind the lens I have had in a while. Even though we were together for over nine hours, at no point was there a single shred of stress. Tung and Priscilla have such a relaxed and warm presence. More, they both have a wicked sense of humor. I could tell that these two lovebirds have a long and happy journey ahead of them.
Best of luck with the real wedding Tung Wei and Priscilla!
Are you a couple searching for a photographer to capture a day in your life? If so, I would be honored to be your photographer. Contact me today to start planning your own portrait experience in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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