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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I was immediately impressed with Patrick. In his introductory inquiry, Patrick articulated his vision for an environmental portrait session. But more, Patrick gave me some background about who he is and why he was the ready for professional portraits here in Tokyo.
Patrick was quite candid with me in his correspondence. Growing up in Texas, Patrick was an Asian-American with "not-so-rugged features." For the longest time, Patrick tried his best to conform to the standards of masculinity around him but always felt like he fell short.
At 26, Patrick moved to Tokyo. Here, after two months of experiencing the Japanese standard of beauty and masculinity, he felt more confident and accepting of his physical self. Patrick realized that he has entered his prime and wanted to capture his newfound sense of confidence.
Patrick is the kind of client I love to work with. Not only did he articulate his wants and needs for his photographic product , he also articulated his vulnerabilities. Honestly, I love working with those who have found a new sense of self and making portraits for clients during a transitional time in their life is an incredible honor.
After hearing Patrick's story and learning as much as I could about him, I crafted an environmental portrait session that would highlight his new found sense of confidence. I wanted to ensure that our session would produce a variety of images for Patrick so that he could use the images for a number of purposes.
In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better portrait session or for a better client. We managed to shoot a strong collection of looks. But more, my time with Patrick reminded me of what portrait photography is all about. Portrait photography is about connecting with your client, making great images, and having a good time.
Does Patrick's story resonate with you? Are you entering a new phase of confidence in your life? If so, contact me today so that we can begin discussing your headshot or environmental portrait session.
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