Spring had past and hydrangea season was in full effect, an odd time of transition. This short period is one of the few calendar segments in Japan when it is difficult to tell what season it is. Not spring, but not quite summer. The heat had ramped up but it wasn't yet unpleasant. Though not swarming, the mosquitos were creeping out but the cicadas weren't yet screaming through the forests and leaving their exoskeletons on the trees. To add to the seasonal confusion, everyone in Japan was then, as we are now, dealing with the unknowns of COVID-19.
Understandably, personal branding and/or portrait session bookings in Tokyo had slowed due to the range of pandemic concerns. However, once clients knew that I was willing to travel to them, adhere to social distancing etiquette, and diligently wear a mask throughout any shoot, they were keen to book.
During this time, I heard from Sandie Herron, a budding author awaiting the publication of her first book. Sandie wrote:
Hi, Andy! I am currently based in Tokyo and will be publishing my first book soon. I am working with a publisher in Jamaica and am set to publish in a few weeks. The Title of the book is 'Journey into the Unknown." The book essentially captures my journey moving from Jamaica to live in a foreign country.
I would like create a series of fun, professional photos in anticipation of the book launch and would love to work with you to capture imagery for social media (primarily be used on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). I also hope that the images can be used on promotional materials as well as for the book itself.
Regarding the images, I would like to capture multiple looks. Some of the ideas I have to showcase my personal brand are:
I was happy to hear from Sandie and to be chosen as her portrait photographer in Japan. After reading her ideas, I was more than willing to do what I could to help Sandie reach her goals as an author and to provide her with a custom set of portraits. We immediately began a conversation relating to the professional goals she had outlined and started planning Sandie's personal branding session.
On our shoot day, I traveled north to Sandie's home in Saitama so that she wouldn't have to worry about traversing Tokyo or deal with any of the stress caused by pandemic commuting. There, in the northern suburbs of Tokyo, Sandie and I spent a couple of hours making the images that are now being used to promote her as a budding author and speaker here in Japan and beyond.
Are you searching for a photographer in Japan to help you cultivate your own personal brand? If so, reach out today to begin a conversation about your portrait, personal branding, or headshot session in Tokyo or beyond.
Troy knew that to sustain himself during his first years of life as an expat he would need to keep his mind open to a variety of personal and professional possibilities. Like Troy, many who come to Japan pursue a variety of endeavors to support a lifestyle that has more in it than convenience store ramen and a barren flat on the outskirts of Tokyo. Simply put, young expats like Troy have to hustle to prosper.
One avenue of possible employment and/or revenue is modeling. Luckily, there is relatively broad market in Japan for foreign models as a range of modeling opportunities in the fashion, lifestyle, and commercial branding sectors are available. For many, modeling is a great way to earn some extra cash while building a life in one of world's most expensive countries.
There are several caveats to consider before making a leap into the modeling industry in Japan. One crucial piece of the puzzle is how to align with an agency, the industry's gatekeepers. Most modeling agencies in Japan want to have a collection of images (or a z-card) on hand so that they can promote any new addition to their model roster. Yet, most agencies place the responsibility on their fresh intake to independently have these portraits produced.
Troy was forward thinking and realized how the system works. Without any professional images of himself, Troy knew that he needed to book a portfolio building session so that he could put his best foot forward when meeting with agencies. Moreover, Troy knew that having a portfolio skeleton would expedite his ability to land modeling jobs.
Troy is a fan of fashion photography and likes grainy, muted imagery. By the end of our pre-shoot consultation, Troy and I decided to rent a studio space to correlate with his goals and visual aesthetic. While I don't considered myself a fashion photographer, I do know the types of images that model agencies need to have to move forward with a new model. Agencies and casting directors want to see a clean headshot, a variety of looks, and a handful of photographs that reveal a bit about the model's personality. Considering this, Our goal for Troy's portrait session was to nail these "must-have" images so that Troy would be ready to approach agencies as soon as possible.
I had a blast during working with Troy during our two-hour portrait session and know that Troy has great things ahead of him in the modeling world.
Are you interested in starting a modeling career in Tokyo or elsewhere in Asia? If so, give me a shout to start a conversation about how I can help you reach your goals with a headshot, personal branding, or fashion inspired portrait session.
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By mid-May, Cassidy had already been in Tokyo for two months. Throughout that time, she had seen the inside and exterior of her parents house in nearby Chofu, a grocery store, and a convenience store or two. Basically, Cassidy's time in Tokyo has been nothing the rising university senior thought it would be.
When the University of California stopped offering classes on campus due to COVID-19 concerns, Cassidy decided to leave Berkeley and head to Japan to quarantine and socially isolate with her parents. Here in Tokyo she could finish up her remaining course work online, spend time with her loved ones, and have a change of scenery. But even though Cassidy had made it to the Japanese capital, she wasn't able to explore Tokyo in the ways she had hoped.
During the last days of Cassidy's visit, the Tokyo government lifted the state of emergency. With her canceled-now-rescheduled flight to California a few days away, Cassidy decided to wanted to see something in Tokyo before heading out and decided that she wanted to book a portrait session to document the outing.
I met Cassidy at our chosen location right on time and, before getting started with our session, we took the time to debrief our experience with lockdown. For more than two months, neither Cassidy or I had been around anyone other than our own families (as most in Japan have done all that they can to keep themselves and others healthy) and were both a bit weary to be back in "civilization." We discussed how surreal it felt to be in the city where, it seemed, life was starting to move forward with the "new normal."
For ninety minutes, I took Cassidy on an abbreviated tour of Kichijoji, one of Tokyo's most vibrant neighborhoods. The area is full of cafes, boutique stores, artist enclaves, and Inokashira Park (one of the most beautiful green spaces in Tokyo). Close to her accommodation, Kichijoji was a great location for us to meet by bicycle and would serve as the perfect alternative to other Tokyo locations that would require train rides and other unnecessary worries associated with traveling during the pandemic.
Throughout our session, Cassidy and I were successful by keeping six feet of distance from each other and the crowds that, here in the world's most populated city, are hard to avoid. We only took our masks off when we felt safely distanced. Basically, we eased our way back into some sense of normalcy.
I was grateful to Cassidy for making our outing so enjoyable; full of laughs and great conversation. Working with Cassidy was the first times in months I felt like myself. While we were careful to observe recommended protocols, there were times during our session that I forgot about COVID-19 and the collective trauma we have all experienced. In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better afternoon as a photographer in Japan and was elated to be back behind the camera after an extended break.
Are you searching for a portrait photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to begin planning your individual, couples, or family photography session.
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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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