A few months ago I heard from Judy and her daughter Mia. The pair were planning their first trip to Japan and wanted to take the opportunity to commission a portrait session for Mia. Judy wrote:
Hi Andy! I am currently planning a trip to Tokyo for this upcoming August. My teenage daughter Mia is interested in having a portrait photo shoot with you. We’ve reviewed your online portfolio and love your photography!
My daughter wants to know more about your "individual portrait session." She wants an urban vibe while wearing a flowing dress. We are totally open to your input and suggestions. You know best how to get great photos!
After speaking with Mia and Judy a bit more about their hopes for Mia's photography session, I surmised that Mia basically wanted some awesome senior portraits, photographs that would showcase her love for travel, her interest in artistic photography, and her willingness to try new things.
I proposed a shoot schedule that would give Mia and I the chance to really make some stellar images. We decided on a two hour session and would utilize the backstreets of Harajuku to incorporate the urban vibe that Mia's was after. The locations I selected would also give us some space from the hordes of tourists in nearby Shinjuku or Shibuya and we would stay far away from Takeshita street (the tourist-trap-lane that made Harajuku famous in the early nineties) so that Mia would feel a bit more comfortable throughout our session.
Mia and Judy loved the plan and we moved forward without a hitch. In the end, I was thrilled with what Mia and I created and I hope that the images will serve as a reminder of her first time in Japan and of this special time in her life.
Are you searching for a portrait photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, I would be honored to hear from you. Contact me today to learn more about my portrait session packages or to go ahead and reserve your session date.
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A couple of months ago, I heard from Aya, a freelance 3D designer based in Tokyo. Aya needed help with personal branding. Specifically, Aya needed imagery to use on her website and marketing materials.
Aya mostly works on fashion related projects (including pattern-making, garments creation, and 3D rendering. As a designer, Aya loves her work. She wanted to have a the kind of session that reflected her relationship with design.
Those 2008-white-background-LinkedIn profile photos weren't gonna cut it. Aya needed a collection of images that was a delicate blend of fashion and professionalism.
I wanted to learn more about the young creative and her vision for her individual portrait session. We decided to have a pre-shoot consultation so that we were on the same page.
For thirty or forty minutes Aya and I talked about our upcoming session and generated some ideas. We chatted about location options that would be suitable for our shoot, her professional goals, and even discussed our common love for Wes Anderson films. Aya even came prepared to our virtual meeting with a mood board of images she liked, which was tremendously helpful (as a visual learner, actually seeing Aya's photographic inspiration helped me plan a custom branding portrait session).
We decided to shoot in the late afternoon on a beautifully crisp November day. The location we finally selected was perfect and both Aya and I were in wonderful moods. For the next couple of hours, we popped around and made as many images as we possibly could before the sun went down.
In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better day as a portrait photographer in Japan.
Are you searching for a photographer in Japan to help with your personal branding needs? If so, reach out today to see how I use my camera to help you achieve your professional goals.
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One of the things I love most about being a professional photographer is the unknown. I never know what is around the corner, what kind of assignment I will get the opportunity to shoot, or who I will receive an email from. For some photographers, the unknowns are disorienting. For me, the unknown is exciting and is one of the reasons why I chose the profession.
I am eager to open my inbox each day to see if I have received any inquiries. Many days, my inbox is empty. But sometimes I am lucky and wake up to a handful of commercial, editorial, or event photography requests. Since my primary love is portrait photography, I am thrilled when one of those emails is from an individual who wants (or needs) images of themselves.
A recent request came from Beth. She wrote:
Hey, Andy! I am a 19 year old currently living in Tokyo. A few weeks ago I joined a modeling agency here in Japan. I’m getting some opportunities from the agency. But I don’t have a proper portfolio and, without one, it’s been difficult to actually get hired for the jobs. I really like modeling and want to explore it more. I want to build experience and would like to schedule a portfolio building session with you.
I was excited to hear from Beth and was proud of her for pursuing her passions (I support anyone following their dreams). I immediately wrote back with some questions about Beth's ambitions and what she wanted to achieve with modeling. Her answers would provide a framework for our shoot and would help me create a portrait experience tailored specifically for Beth's vision.
After learning a bit more about Beth and how I could best serve her, we moved forward and scheduled a two-hour portfolio building session. With a couple of hours to work with, Beth and I created a skeleton portfolio that she (and her agency) could use to land the aspiring model auditions and, therefore jobs.
I couldn't have asked for a more easy-going or willing client. With little experience modeling, I was surprised how was quickly and fluidly Beth could strike a pose. Beth is a natural and I have no doubt that she will do great things here in Tokyo. I am eager to see her modeling career develop and to flip through the tear sheets she will, undoubtedly, soon have.
Are you searching for a portrait photographer in Japan to help you build the base of a modeling portfolio? If so, I would be delighted to hear from you. Reach out today to learn more about my portrait services or to book a session in Tokyo or beyond.
As a portrait photographer in Tokyo, I receive requests from all sorts of folks wanting to capture their best self. Some clients book me to establish modeling portfolios. Other requests come from CEOs who need a new corporate headshot. And some, like Sam, hire me to document a specific part of their lives.
When she isn't studying, Sam lives and breathes Kyōgen. The traditional Japanese stage art has been a major part of Sam's high school experience. As a senior, Sam realized it was the perfect time to capture her love of Kyōgen. Instead of a typical portrait session, Sam wanted me to produce images that, years from now, will serve as a reminder of her extra curricular life.
I admit that my experience with theatre isn't extensive. Sure, I have seen a Broadway play or two. But at the time of Sam's request, I was completely unfamiliar with Kyōgen. Originally, I expected to capture Sam in some rendition of Cats or even an elevated version of Suessical the Musical. I was curious about Kyōgen and wanted to know more.
After accepting the portrait commission I turned to Google to research different forms of Japanese theater. Kyōgen, meaning "wild speech," is often associated with the more solemn Japanese Nō. Yet, Kyōgen's primary goal is to make an audience chuckle with deadpan, humor.
On our shoot day, I arrived at the theatre armed with my camera and a new, rudimentary knowledge of Kyōgen. I was ready to see Sam in action and looked forward to experiencing Kyōgen live.
For a couple of hours I shadowed Sam, documenting her final performance from both sides of the curtain. It was a pleasure having a glimpse into the world of Kyōgen and to produce some images that will hopefully remind Sam of her formative years in Tokyo, Japan.
Do you have a special, upcoming event in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to begin discussing how I can best help you capture the documentary coverage you need.
A few months ago, I heard from Melissa, a 26 year old Australian who has called Japan home for a couple of years now. Melissa was searching for a Tokyo-based photographer who could produce a variety of shots to help her start a modeling portfolio. Melissa's inquiry read:
I'm just getting started with some model/acting work in Tokyo, and need to start building a portfolio. I don't have prior modeling experience, so I'm a bit nervous about it!
In terms of my interest in modeling, I'm really hoping to be able to work my way up to being a presenter/interviewer/commentator on pop culture in mainstream media (especially introducing Japanese pop culture, like takarazuka, to foreign audiences).
Given that I am just starting to build my portfolio, I'd like some "versatile" photos, if possible. Something a bit glamorous and curious, but also accessible and friendly-looking for a general Japanese audience. It would be great if the photos could give a feeling of positive energy and excitement.
I assured Melissa that she need not worry about her lack of modeling experience. My job as a portrait photographer is to ensure that clients feel comfortable in front of the camera and to pose subjects in ways that are flattering. I also reminded Melissa that most of the subjects in my portrait portfolio were like her, everyday folks with various aspirations, not professional models.
Melissa and I chatted a bit more in depth about her goals and how I could best support her with my photography services. Soon enough we had a plan and a date reserved for her personal branding session in Shimokitazawa, one of Tokyo's trendy neighborhoods.
By the end of our 90-minute session, Melissa and I created a wealth of images for her to use as she works her way up the ladder. Have a look at some of my favorite images from our session below.
Are you searching for a portrait photographer to help you establish your personal brand? If so, I would be delighted to help you capture your best self. Get in touch today for an accurate quote or to schedule your environmental portrait or headshot session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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Matravius met me right on time. The first thing I noticed about him was his warm, charaistmatic smile. The weather was clean and crisp (as it usually is in Japan during the fall) and the warm colors of afternoon light were all that a photographer could hope for. I knew that 0ur time together would be relaxed and casual, my ideal portrait session.
As we meandered along the backstreets of Tokyo, I got to know Matravius. He is a performer, actor, and singer currently working in a musical ensemble for Disney. The 35 year old would be turning 36 the next week. Since Matravius would only been in Japan for a few more weeks, it seemed like the perfect time for him to have a professional portrait session to serve as a souvenir of his time in Japan.
As we strolled, chatted, and made some portraits, more of Matravius' personality came out. Even though he is a performer, I could tell that he was a bit hesitant to work on the busy streets of Tokyo. Sensing this, I pulled Matravius away from the crowded lanes and into some side alleys. Immediately, I could tell that Matravius was more relaxed and that we would have a better opportunity to get some great images if we kept away from onlookers.
In the end, I was very happy with the images I created with Matravius. Not only did we walk away from our time together with a load of great images, I feel like I got to spend some time with one of the kindest, gentlest souls I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
Are you looking for a portrait photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, I would be delighted to work with you to create your custom portrait experience. Get in touch today to begin planning your session.
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A few weeks ago I received a message from April.
Your photography is beautiful and your website looks great. I am actually looking for someone to do family photos but you may not be focusing on that currently. I thought I would reach out to let you know that you have a little typo on your website and, since it is so professionally done, you might want to know. See below:
Under the "What do I shoot?" section you have written, "Whatever your project it." The word it should read is.
Good luck with your wonderful work.
I was thrilled, of course, to hear from a potential client. But, I was just as excited to see that someone actually read the content on my website. I was grateful that April's keen eye had spotted a mistake that I have, no doubt, overlooked a hundred times. For April to reach out to let me know about that tiny, missed key-stroke meant a lot to me.
I immediately responded to April and thanked her for the message and for her editor's eye. I also let her know that I still accept a limited number of family clients between editorial assignments. We struck up a conversation and I found out that April and I had a lot in common. I also got to know a bit more about the Cook family's photography needs.
After a bit of back-and-forth, we decided to move forward with a modern, senior portrait session for Mauri, a seventeen-year-old who is just as much at home in Japan as she is America. After thinking on it for a while, I decided that Shimokitazawa would be the perfect location for Mauri's portrait session. Shimokitazawa would offer plenty of facades to work with. More, the hipster enclave has a balance of elements that would add a sense of place, which would later remind Mauri in of her time in Japan.
On our portrait session date, I met April and her amazing kids in the thick of Shimokita. April was smiley and just as gregarious in person as she was in email. Mauri was in a good mood and siblings Asher and Hollis were as genki as they come.
Our focus of the day was naturally on Mauri. But with Hollis and Asher along for the ride, I knew that we would have enough time to make some great portraits of all of the Cook kids. After some high fives and jokes, we headed into the neighborhood and got to work.
In the end, I delivered a massive collection of portraits to the Cook family. There were heaps of great images from our set and I was really grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such a positive and energetic crew. With such a photogenic bunch, I am now looking forward to a proper family session with the Cook family here in Tokyo.
Are you searching for a photographer in Japan who can produce some not-so-Pinterest portraits of you or a family member? If so, I would be honored to serve you. Learn more about my portrait services and then reach out to book a session.
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Though he was born in Japan and spent his formative years in America, Aki's Australian accent comes through. But Aki, like anyone else, can't be defined by where he was born or the accent of his voice. Instead, I like to think of Aki as a charismatic entrepreneur making a name for himself in Tokyo's dog-eat-dog business world.
Aki is at the point in his life where he is really starting to get his ducks in a row and has laid the foundation for a new business. Here in Japan, just getting the groundwork of a business endeavor in place is a feat in itself. If you have ever done business in the Land of the Rising Sun, you will likely understand the multitude of tasks and boxes to be checked. While Aki had completed most of the important steps, he realized that there was a critical task he had yet to complete. Aki needed to have a professional portrait shoot.
Here in Japan, corporate portraits are taken for a variety of reasons. Frequently a portrait is added to the ever-important business card and now, more than ever, professionals are using portraiture on websites to enhance personal brands. Regardless of how the portrait is used, most professionals do decide to move forward with a headshot or personal branding photography session.
For the Japanese market, corporate portraits tend to be relatively standard. You know the shot, a professional against a monochrome backdrop paired with the "you can trust me" expression. Of course I was going to get that shot for Aki. But, I also knew that I would be able to produce a variety of images for the soon-to-be titan of industry (some traditional headshots as well as some more artistic images leaning towards the environmental portrait end of the spectrum). My goal was to produce a collection that Aki could use in both personal and professional realms.
Aki and I planned a shoot that would suit his needs. We decided that Zojo-ji Temple in downtown Tokyo would be the ideal location for our session because of its traditional architecture and its Edo period history. Not only does Zozo-ji have beautiful facades, it is also a symbol of Japanese advancement.
In the end, I was thrilled to deliver a varied set of images to Aki and was honored to take part in his entrepreneurial efforts.
I would be happy to work with you to create a set of images for your professional needs. If you are searching for a Japan-based photographer for corporate headshots or to enhance your personal brand, get in touch today to begin planning your portrait session.
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I have always loved meeting people, even if it is just a brief or chance encounter. One of the things that I miss most about living in an English speaking country is conversation with strangers. Even as a kid I would "foam at the mouth" and chat with bus drivers, sales clerks, kids on the curb, anyone really. Those small, tiny moments of conversation and connection (even if they are brief) are some of my favorite things in life.
Meeting new people used to come naturally. Now meeting people and establishing a connection isn't easy for me. For the past fifteen years, I have had an ever increasing amount of anxiety.
Back in my twenties, I thought that the anxiety was limited to travel. But the older I get, the more I realize the far reaches of my general anxiety disorder (GAD). To be clear, my disorder is common. I am not alone. Millions of people suffer from anxiety and the crippling power of panic. But knowing that I am not alone does little curb anxiety attacks when they come.
What am I anxious about? Well, many things. I am an overly anxious driver. I am get sweaty in crowded places. I get nervous for seemingly no reason at all. The list goes on and on. But, those fears and stress inducing times are just the disorder. The anxiety isn't me.
As a portrait photographer, having GAD makes my job more difficult. But, it doesn't make it impossible. A portrait photographer's primary job is meet a subject, establish rapport, and make stunning images (often in a short amount of time). This can be tricky, especially if the photographer has anxiety around meeting strangers.
More often than not, folks contact me and inquire about my portrait photography services. They want or need to be photographed. Being approached is, by far, much more comfortable than approaching others.
My portrait clients aren't the only subjects I want to photograph. Every day I see people who would make for wonderful portrait subjects. Most of the time, I take a quick mental photograph of the person and go on my way.
I rarely approach others, introduce myself, and ask the person to pose for me. I don't want to offend anyone with my solicitation. So, I hesitate and let moments (and images) pass me by. My twenty-year-old self wouldn't like this. So I do what I can to stand up to the negative self talk and social phobias, refusing to allow the anxiety to get the best of me.
For the past few years, I have made a concerted effort to fight against my sweat inducing demons and have pressed myself to say hello strangers and to ask others if I can make their photo (as long as the encounter feels natural, casual, and respectful).
What does this have to do with Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, or the portraits of the beautiful woman featured in this post? I am getting to that...
Last summer I was sent to the American west on a travel photography assignment for Amtrak's The National magazine. I had never been to Lake Tahoe or the surrounding areas in Nevada and California and was honored to receive the assignment. I was excited to explore and photograph a new location. I was also anxious about the plane flights, car rentals, and general unknown.
As usual, the travel was relatively smooth and I arrived without issue in Reno, Nevada. My rental car was ready for me and everything went as planned. Before heading south through Carson City and then winding my way up and into the Tahoe Basin, I wanted to stop for some supplies. Right outside of the airport I found a shop that had everything I needed.
Entering the store, I was greeted by a smiling soul with a calm disposition. I immediately wanted to make her photo. But, as I usually do, I just made a mental polaroid and went about my business.
After putting my supplies in the trunk, I hopped in the rental car and started the engine. Before pulling out, I reflected on the everyday situation. I had missed the perfect opportunity to introduce myself and to ask if I can make someone's portrait. I realized that my social anxiety had robbed me of yet another chance to be the best photographer I can be. But photography (and selfishness) aside, I realized that I had missed another chance to engage with a stranger, to connect with a fellow human.
I killed the engine and marched back into the store. Again, I was meet with a warm welcome and friendly smile. The employee then kinda turned her head, giving me the, "Didn't you just come in here?" look.
I introduced myself and handed her my business card. She, in turn, offered her name and a handshake. I was mindful not to take too much of Kaitlin's time and simply told her that I wanted to make her photo. If she wanted that to happen, she should feel free to contact me. If not, she should feel free to recycle my business card. I left... again.
Back in the car, I was proud of myself for standing firm against my social anxiety. But, I was also a bit upset that I had solely focused on my own wants (making portraits). I wished that the brief encounter hadn't been so one-sided. Knowing that I was over analyzing the situation, I head to Lake Tahoe.
I didn't expect to hear back from Kaitlin. But, to my surprise, she connected me and was actually interested in a portrait session. She mentioned that she was trying to say "yes" to the things that came to her in life instead of pushing them away. I was glad that she contacted me and, luckily, had some free time the next evening.
We met at Sand Harbor, one of the most scenic spots in Tahoe (or anywhere in the world for that matter). For an hour or so, Kaitlin and I made some portraits. We got the chance to have the conversation that didn't happen when we originally met. We just had a good time.
In the end, I was thrilled to be able to make some images with Kaitlin. But more, I was happy to have made a human connection without feeling any anxiety at all. The whole situation was positive reinforcement, encouraging me to continue to fight against my anxieties. The encounter gave me a boost of confidence as I try to gain a bit of my younger self back. For that, I owe Kaitlin my thanks.
Are you searching for a portrait photographer? If so, reach out today to book your portrait photography session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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Alex's Portrait Session
I was recently contacted by Alex, a 26-year-old lad who had relocated to Tokyo. For those just arriving, finding work in the Japanese capital can be a daunting task (especially without a basic level of Japanese language). Until Alex upped his Japanese game, he knew he needed to explore multiple employment possibilities.
Alex soon realized that there are several opportunities for young creatives that don't require proficiency in Japanese. One of those opportunities is modeling. Alex was also smart to know that he, at least, needed a couple creative headshots and portraits to help get his foot in the door at a modeling or creative agency.
That's where I come in...
A couple of weeks after receiving Alex's initial email, I found myself in his flat setting up backdrops and light stands. For the next couple of hours we worked together to create a handful of images that Alex could use to shop himself to a range of potential employers.
I really enjoyed working with Alex and wish him the best of luck here in Tokyo!
Are you in need of a set of images that you can use for a variety of purposes? If so, contact me today to set up your own portrait session.
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