At the close of the year, the portrait season has wrapped up. I typically experience a long break between the autumn rush (when families, couples, and individuals want to capture the Japanese fall in all of its red-orange-yellow glory) and the spring madness (when clients keep their fingers crossed that photographers still have a plum or cherry blossom date left in their schedule). After the beginning of December, it is rare that I receive an inquiry for portraits in January or February. But, to my surprise, I heard from Akane right before I left Tokyo for Christmas holidays. She wrote:
Some of our friends just had a family photography session with you and we loved their results. I'm Japanese but my husband Nathan is from the UK. We have been living here in Tokyo for two years. We will probably go back to London in the future and would like a momento from Japan with our daughter who is now 6 months old.
I'm a journalist and would love some relaxed shots. I would like to give the session to my husband as a Christmas gift and am wondering what session slots you have available. I look forward to hearing from you.
I like receiving referral inquiries. If I have worked with someone's friends in the past, it is highly likely that I will enjoy working with the referred client (as people tend to befriend those that are similar to themselves).
Within a couple of days, Akane and I had worked out all of the details and I delivered a e-gift certificate that she could offer Nathan for his Christmas present. Shortly after the holidays, Akane let me know that Nathan was grateful for the gift and looked forward to our upcoming session. She also let me know that they would be bringing the the family dog along for the ride.
On the day of our mid-January appointment the air was crisp and the wind was whipping. Still, the sky was stunning (partly cloudy) and I knew that the winter light would be perfect for the session as long as the little one was in good spirits and could handle the cold.
I liked Nathan straight away. He was witty and was wearing an outfit that I would have chosen for myself. Akane was sweet and her temperament was immediately endearing. Last but not least, A (now 7 months) was precious and barely made a peep throughout the session. She was as cute as they come.
In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better time with the Beckwiths. Being around the family made me remember what is was like when my own son was just a little bundle in a coat. Throughout our portrait session, I felt nostalgic and tender (not a word that would readily be used to describe me). The session also reminded me why I love family portraiture so much and of the great privilege it is to serve clients in the early stages of their family's journey.
Are you considering a family portrait session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, I would be delighted to serve you. Contact me today to learn more about my family session offerings or to directly book your appointment.
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Last year I heard from Gullivers Sports Travel, the UK’s leading (and longest established) sports tourism operator. For those unfamiliar with Gullivers, the company has mastered the art of running supporters trips to major sporting events worldwide. Over the years Gullivers has built a solid reputation, upheld by their personal service and full understanding of the needs of those who travel across the globe to watch sports live. Considering this, Gullivers wasn't going to miss the opportunity to host a tour to Tokyo, Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC).
Sadly, I wasn't on hand to photograph any of the RWC tests. I was, however, delighted to be commissioned by Gullivers shoot event photography for their Tokyo-based RWC forums. The RWC forums were a chance for guests to meet and hear insights from some of the Rugby world's most recognizable names. Referee Wayne Barnes was on hand to give his overarching insight into the tournament. Moreover, there was a panel discussion with Mike Tindall, former rugby beast and current member of the British Royal Family.
I was honored to shoot the events and to hear some insight into the world of sport. I was also happy to collaborate with the kind folks from Gullivers and the loyal rugby supporters who came from Europe to take part in the fandom surrounding the 2019 Rugby World Cup here in Japan.
Are you searching for a photographer in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan to help tell the story of your event? If so, contact me today to learn more about my event photography services.
More Tokyo Event Photography
At the close of each year, I take some time to reflect on my rotation around the sun and this year is no different. As 2019 comes to a close, I am looking back over the past year in order to take stock before moving into 2020, a new decade and an opportunity for a fresh start.
Part of me feels like a bit of a plonker publicly writing about my year. I ask myself if I would do the same if I was an accountant, barista, or sanitation worker. I think I would. The written reflection itself is a way of taking stock and helps me get my head on straight.
2019 was an amazing year as a photographer in Japan, a year loaded with commercial, travel, editorial, and portrait assignments. For sure, 2019 was my busiest yet. There were many professional highs and, honestly, some pretty low lows.
As the year progressed, I learned a several things about myself as a person and now, reviewing the images I made in 2019, I am learning a thing or two about myself as a photographer.
2019 Year In Review
I said hello to 2019 in Koh Samui, Thailand. While on vacation with my family, I got the chance to make a frame or two without any associated pressure. As in years past, starting the new year off with little stress was a good way to set the tempo for the year (though, the next twelve months didn't turn out as carefree as I had hoped).
Making images without any attached deadline or specific angle always reminds me of why I picked up a camera in the first place. I love making photos and, stripped for all constraints, I was grateful to shoot some photos just for the hell of it.
Returning to Japan, I got straight to work. My first editorial photography assignment of the year came as soon as I returned to Tokyo. Mabuhay Magazine, sent me over to Tsurutokame, an amazing sushi restaurant operated by an all female staff, to make some portraits of the chefs, management, and exquisite sushi on offer.
Up next was a multi-day event for ShipChain, a logistics platform utilizing blockchain to provide increased visibility, traceability, and efficiency. The January conference gave both investors and employees a glimpse at what was in store for the company in 2019 and beyond. In addition to shooting the event, I was also commissioned to photograph a full run of corporate headshots. ShipChain wanted an editorial feel to the imagery and I was happy to oblige.
Another editorial assignment rolled in from SkyLife, Turkish Airlines' publication crafted for first-class passengers. I was tasked to shoot a group of spectacular chefs and the Japanese cuisine they are known for. From piping hot sukiyaki to Michelin Star winning tempura, I was happy to photograph the chefs, the dishes, and to sample some of the finest cuisine in the Japanese capital.
Next was a chilly portrait shoot with Kyoko Matsushita, CEO of Essence’s Asia-Pacific region for Adweek followed immediately by a personal branding session with Melissa, an Australian television presenter making waves here in Tokyo.
Unlike years past, January and February were busy. As the snow fell in February, I hit the road to document some of the tours offered by TripAdvisor Experiences. From the sumo stables of Tokyo to the iconic slopes of Mount Fuji, the commercial project kept me busy for a few weeks and was a great way to close out the shortest month of the year.
March finally came but spring was still a way off. Temperatures remained chilly and luckily my next commissions were indoors. In March I switched to event photography mode and worked with the both the Government of South Australia and the organizers of the Tokyo Marathon.
With the pair of events completed, I packed my bags, hopped on the Shinkansen, and headed south for a commercial photography assignment. In Kyoto, I worked with EPH, a brand new boutique hotel. I collaborated with EPH's management to create a visual identity for the brand that would set a precedent for their future projects that are expected to open in other locations throughout Japan.
My time in Kyoto wasn't just limited to the interiors and exteriors of EPH. To help expose their hotel guests to Kyoto's rich cultural heritage, EPH also commission me to produce an image library for their social media channels. For a few days, I hit some of my favorite spots in Kyoto, Japan's cultural center.
As soon as the Kyoto-based project was completed, I boarded a Seoul-bound flight. It was awesome to be able to return to Seoul, the Korean megalopolis where I once lived for six years.
For this two-week trip I was happy to be shooting again for the fine folks at TripAdvisor Experiences. It was odd being back in Korea as a travel photographer. But, I enjoyed seeing many of the tourist-trail-sights with fresh eyes and with a specific task in mind.
Back in Tokyo, the spring came in with a roar. My first big project of the season was a week-long stint with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The assignment was to capture the ins and outs of MIT's Technology and Innovation Bootcamp where participants from all over the world met to discuss a range of topics. From healthcare innovation to artificial intelligence, participants were offered a series of lectures and were formed into groups to ideate solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems.
With a bit of a break before the inevitable portrait season rush, I had the chance to sit down with Japan Station, a podcast produced by Japankyo to talk about how I ended up working as a photographer in Japan. If you want to hear some extended thought pauses and me say "um" way too many times, you can listen to the episode on itunes here.
The weather began to warm and portrait photography requests began rolling in. For a few weeks, I spent most of my time shooting family portraits, personal branding sessions, pre-wedding portraiture, and proposals in and around Tokyo.
At the end of the spring portrait rush, I popped down to Kobe, Japan for the New York Times. I was tasked with an assignment for the NYT travel section shooting 36 Hours in Kobe, Japan. I have always liked the port city and was happy to spend a couple of days exploring Kobe for one of my favorite publications.
Back in Tokyo I was given the green light from my friends at TripAdvisor Experiences to photography "my Tokyo." It is always a privilege to be given free rein by a client to shoot a subject in my own style. Needless to say, I was thrilled to head out to photograph my adopted home in the way that I see it.
I again made the switch from travel to commercial photographer (though the lines between the two genres are at time blurry) and spent several days with the New Sanno Hotel to help them revamp their food and beverage program imagery. The hotel, run by the US Naval Joint Services, has six brands. It was challenging to develop an imagery plan that would stretch across each of the hotel's restaurants. But I was up for the challenge and was pleased with the content created for the New Sanno.
Next up was another commercial hotel photography project. After a successful first round with the EPH brand, I was commissioned to photograph EPH in Takayama, Japan. EPH Takayama is as amazing as the Kyoto location. More, EPH Takayama is a refreshing alternative for travelers who like new, boutique accommodation.
EPH Takayama is designed to reflect the natural environment found in Gifu Prefecture. Instead of the deep reds used to highlight EPH Kyoto, EPH Takayama uses greens and blues to calm guests. For a week, I worked with management to create advertising imagery that will help propel the hotel's business in Takayama.
After wrapping up my work in Gifu, I returned to Tokyo to tackle back-to-back editorial assignments. My first project was to photograph the reemergence of Japan's kissaten cafes for +852 Magazine and then to capture a slice of the Tokyo bar scene for Conde Nast Traveler.
Then, before the end of May, I had a short string of couples portrait shoots. I had a blast working with pairs from France, America, and Taiwan in some of my favorite locations in Tokyo.
My last project of the spring took me Bangkok, Thailand for TripAdvisor Experiences. I was given a lot of flexibility to shoot the city in any way I saw fit. From Bangkok's street food (which the metropolitan government is attempting to get rid off) to magnificent examples of Thai architecture, I had a blast on the assignment and couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up the first half of the year.
At the beginning of June, my family and I headed to North America for a much needed break. For two months, we spent lazy days in Asheville, Chicago, and Toronto. But, just as in years past, I had the chance to get the camera out to photograph the people who mean the most to me.
Worked picked up as soon as we landed back in Tokyo in early August. First up was a week-long editorial photography assignment for CAA Magazine. The project had me out in 105 degree heat, inside Michelin Star restaurants, and sipping cocktails in one of Asia's 50 best bars. I was happy to see the issue eventually come to print (Winter 2019) and to have landed the cover/s.
Soon enough, the heat broke and another string of portrait sessions came. I crammed in several family, personal branding, and couples photography sessions and was grateful to have worked with such amazing clients.
After the portrait string, it was time to pop back to Kyoto to photograph the details of the stunning Machiya Shinsen-en. This new property is a machiya-style residence blended with a modern boutique hotel. The two sections of the property are both exquisite and are on the top of my list for chic, affordable accommodation in Kyoto.
From Kyoto, I headed back to Takayama, Japan to shoot the food and beverage program for Hids' Cafe, the restaurant adjacent to EPH Takayama (a property I photographed earlier in the year). Hids' menu is one of the finest in the sleepy town. I was delighted to help the cafe with their commercial food photography and to support the Hids' as they enter the Takayama market.
My last editorial portrait commission of the summer came from GEO Saison Magazine. I was tasked to photograph the world-famous gastronomer Charles Schumann in one of Tokyo's most iconic watering holes.
I met Charles on the 52 floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo at the New York Bar (You'll recall the space from the film Lost In Translation). While Charles and I didn't take the time to mention the film (though I did lounge in THE Bill Murray seat), we did manage to relax a bit, enjoy the views of Tokyo, and make a portrait or two.
Autumn arrived and I was glad to be rid of the heat and humidity that make summer in Tokyo less than desirable. I was ready for my favorite season and eager to be in the final stretch of the year.
My first autumn highlight was photographing Shinji Hattori, CEO of Grand Seiko (GS). Working with the Financial Times and GS, I worked quickly with Hattori-san and was happy to have the chance to drop off my grandfather's old Seiko watch for repair.
Another highlight from autumn was again for The New York Times. I headed out to cover 36 Hours in Yokohama, a piece highlighting Japan's second largest city. While Yokohama doesn't get as much attention as the nearby capital, it is stocked full of amazing experiences. Hopefully the 36 Hours piece will shed some light on the city by the bay.
Next up was a round of corporate portraiture for McKinsey and Company, a worldwide management consulting firm. My subject for the day was Tiffany Kwok, an Expert Associate Partner at the firm.
Still in portrait photography mode, I worked with David Ramis Åhfeldt, a guitar player in The Ocean (which happens to be one of my favorite bands). David needed some content to showcase his guitar, a custom-made axe crafted by Mozer Guitars. It was great to spend some time with David, help him showcase Mozer's impressive work, and chat about the state of heavy metal.
Soon enough the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicked off. While I didn't attend any of the games (I am just not a sports fan), I was invited to photograph a handful of events related to the international sporting event. I worked with Gullivers Sports Travel to capture their RWC Forum events and spent some time with Carters (a New Zealand based tool manufacturer) photographing their All Blacks (New Zealand's national team) event.
In late October I sat down with Megapolis Magazine for an interview about travel photography. I was honored to share some thoughts and images with the Ukrainian based magazine and was, admittedly, shocked to find out that the interview ended up running in six different print magazines on shelves throughout the Ukraine. If you have the interest, you can find the english language version here.
Before October's end I knocked out a quick assignment focused on Shinjuku for American Way, American Airlines' inflight magazine. The small piece highlighted five great spots in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's most well-known neighborhoods, where one can stuff their face and/or wet their whistle.
At the beginning of November, I made my way back to the Kansai region to highlight a collaboration between tech giant Lenovo and Japanese industrial manufacturer Yanmar. The assignment was one of my favorite in 2019. It was amazing to see the scale of Yanmar's corporate and manufacturing hubs and to make some images of the folks who actually produce the company's equipment.
After returning to Tokyo, I spent five days with a wonderful group of doctors from Takeda. I was commissioned to document the pharma company's President's Club incentive tour to Japan. From Gala dinners to a behind-the-scenes look at Team Lab's (now) famous digital art exhibition, tea ceremonies in Kamakura to tours of Takeda's facilities, the assignment was filled with a variety of photography tasks.
The weather finally turned and it was again sweater weather. The end of the year was coming but I wasn't quite yet finished.
In the beginning of December I accepted one final commercial photography commission from MindValley Productions, an e-learning community based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was tasked to photograph Ken Honda, the bestselling author of Happy Money (and all around nice guy) for a finance course that will soon go live on MindValley.
To end the year, I was honored to see some of my work land on the cover of GEO Special Magazine. The issue, dedicated completely to Japan, was GEO Special's rebranding issue and I couldn't have asked for a better way to close 2019.
Without a doubt, it has been a hell of a year. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to do what I love to do here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, and beyond. But more, I am blessed to have a loving support system. I would like to publicly thank my beautiful wife Laura who has gifted me with her patience and support.
I can't wait to see what 2020 has in store. I am just as eager to share the work created in 2019 that, as of now, I am obliged to keep under wraps. Thanks so taking the time to have a look at my 2019 Year In Review.
I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a joyous transition into 2020.
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It is always nice to hear from couples coming to Tokyo to elope. I can't think of a better place to run off to in order to get hitched. I recently heard from a Melony and Chris, a couple planning a last-minute elopement in the Japanese capital. Melony wrote:
We are eloping in Tokyo and are hoping to schedule a photo session so that we have some beautiful memories of the occasion. Our vision for our couples portrait session is to create some relaxed yet romantic pictures that we can use for wedding announcements. We are also hoping to make a black and white image that we can blow up and frame so that we can remember our fun time during the session.
In terms of setting, we realize gardens and temples are representative of Japan. However, those kind of places are not really "us." We would adore pictures of us at night in a place like Akihabara or Shinjuku with the neon signs lit up but worry that those locations are too crowded. Do you have any location suggestions for a fun and relaxed session (We are really easy going people)? Is this something you are able to accommodate?
As soon as I read Melony's email, I immediately recognized the kind of session she had in mind. Like many other couples, individuals, and families who contact me, Melony and Chris loved the idea of iconic Tokyo but were hesitant to commit to a photo session in an area overrun with tourists and the madness that is generally associated with Tokyo. Luckily, those characteristically cliché locations are few and far between.
As a photographer who lives and works in Tokyo, I am glad to be able to suggest locations that will resonate with what clients envision for their session. This kind of local knowledge is necessary in order to craft custom portrait experiences for different types of clients.
I knew the perfect location for Melony and Chris. The neighborhood I had in mind would provide a relaxed atmosphere and some of the neon that Mel and Chris had in mind. I also knew that the location wouldn't be smashed wall-to-wall with either tourists or locals.
I ran my plan by Melony and Chris and they loved my location suggestion. We decided on a quick, one hour couples portrait session. An hour would be just enough time to snag what they wanted but wouldn't take up too much of their night (as they wanted to explore the city as much as possible).
Our session went off without a hitch. Melony and Chris were just as they said they would be in their first correspondence. The newlywed couple was relaxed, funny, and very easy to work with (my ideal type of client). In the end, I couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable evening as a couples photographer in Japan.
Are you thinking about a couples, engagement, or elopement photography session in Japan? If so, contact me today to begin discussing your session here in Tokyo, or beyond.
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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.
More Individual Portrait Sessions
I met Carrie and Steve years ago when I was working at an international school in Japan. The Bennetts are a joy to be around. They have a great sense of humor and always seem to be in a good mood. The Bennett kids are spunky and full of life. They are those kinda people that you meet and immediately get along with.
This past spring Carrie reached out to see if the Bennetts could have a last minute family portrait session around Tama, a suburb in western Tokyo. Living in Tama is a good thing. The Bennetts are close enough to get to the city but still are far enough away from the neon glare for it to feel like they don't live in one of the world's largest cities. The Tama suburbs are where the megalopolis stops and Japan really begins. I love shooting in this area as the wabi-sabi nature of Japan comes through and the spaces aren't clogged with people and skyscrapers.
For a couple of hours, the Bennetts and I wandered the streets of Tama and even crossed into Chofu, a nearby ward of Tokyo. Since the Bennetts will soon be leaving Tokyo for other adventures, they wanted to make sure that their session focused on their neighborhood and the spots that they have frequented during their tenure in the Japanese capital.
We spent some time shooting in and around Tama station (where we were given a handslap for parking our bikes outside a local convenience store for too long) and atop the hills overlooking the Chofu airport.
To wrap up our session, we headed to Nogawa park where Tristan and Olivia had spent countless hours on the playground, riding bikes, and skipping across the lawns together as kids. Luckily, one of the Bennett's favorite sakura trees was still in bloom and we managed to capture one last family portrait of the Bennetts in Tokyo together.
I was happy to work with the Bennetts and was grateful to get the chance to photograph them before they leave Japan. In the end, I had a wonderful time with the Bennett family and couldn't have asked for a better day as a Tokyo-based family photographer.
Are you searching for a photographer to capture your family's experience here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to find out more about my portrait session offerings or to directly book your family portrait session.
More Family Photography Sessions
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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There are as many types of event photography as there are kinds of events. But If I had to name my favorite type of event to photograph, it would quickly say incentive tour photography.
Incentive tours are intensive and often stretch across several days, Basically, these tours are the marathon of the event photography world. Incentive tours are multi-faceted and require much more than an on-camera flash and a high ISO. I don't just arrive and snap photos of a CEO giving a speech or attendees partying the night away at a gala event. There is much more substance and much, much more to capture.
Throughout an incentive tour, I am allowed to photograph guests in an array of situations and utilize a variety of photography techniques. I also love that incentive tours give me the opportunity to engage with participants and feel included in the event (instead of standing dressed in black, off to the side).
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company during their President's Club Tokyo visit. For four days, I was with the Takeda crew every step of the way. Of course we visited Takeda's Tokyo headquarters and the Shonan Health Innovation Park (iPark) in Yokohama. These locations allowed attendees (who came from all over the world) to see Takeda's operational hub.
But, like most incentive tours, the group didn't spend the majority of their time with professional development. Instead, the President's Club utilized most of their time exploring Japan's capital. From Team Lab's now famous Planets exhibition to the streets of Nihonbashi, tea ceremonies to the Giant Buddha of Kamakura, the group experienced a quick, but genuine taste of what Tokyo and its surroundings has to offer.
In the end, I was grateful to spend time with the group from Takeda and was honored to be their multi-day event photographer. Congratulations to all of those who were selected for the Tokyo President's Club tour!
Are you planning a multi-day event or incentive tour in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan? If so, I would be honored to chat with you about my event photography services. Contact me today to get the conversation rolling.
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