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 imagery 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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I first met my wife Laura at work. We were both first grade teachers at a public school in North Carolina, forced to spend time together in the name of collegiality and collaboration. After a year flirting, we hopped into a relation and the rest is history.
From 2007 until 2018, my wife and I spent nearly every minute of every day in close proximity to one another. We worked together, slept together, ate together, and played together.
Sure, we found time to do our own thing. We had lives without each other. But, if I looked at a graph, I would be willing to wager that more than 75% of the past decade was been spent within shouting distance of each other.
I enjoyed being close to my wife. It was a comfort knowing that she, more often than not, was either by my side or just around the corner. Now, as a professional photographer in Japan taking on a range of assignments, I am often on the road, far from my wife (and son), too far for me to be comfortable about the distance. This is one of the toughest parts of the job. But, at the end of a week-long project or commission, I get to return home to family and pick right back up where we left off.
Similar to the first phases of my relationship, some couples spend nearly every waking hour together. Other couples are forced to make long-distance work, connected only by Facetime, text messages, and their love for one another.
Every relationship is different and as a couples portrait photographer in Tokyo, I am always interested to hear my client's story. I recently heard from Mary who, like so many others, is currently away from the one she loves. While the decision to be afar is what is best for the couple's future, the fact remains that the distance is not an easy burden to bear. Mary wrote:
Hey Andy! I will be in Tokyo for work from August through October. Thankfully, my fiancé will be visiting me during the first two weeks of September. I want to get engagement photos taken in Tokyo while we are both there, something special to commemorate our time together (as we will celebrate our 4 year anniversary this coming November).
This will be my second time in Japan, but John's first so we really need to default to your experience and expertise in regard to location. Neither of us are huge fans of the heat, and I am usually anti-sun. A late afternoon or evening shoot may be the better option, but I will leave that up to you as far as your availability and what is best for light.
I was, of course, pleased to hear from Mary and wanted to create a session that not only showcased the couple's love, but that would also be a bit of a souvenir from Tokyo.
After chatting back and forth with Mary and John, we decided that my two-hour couples offering would compliment their vision of an ideal portrait experience. Two hours would give us enough time to relax and not run through our location choices. It would also provide us the opportunity to create some stunning imagery that the couple could use for a variety of purposes.
I presented two route options to Mary and John. After a bit of deliberation, the couple opted for a long loop around Shinjuku station, the world's most used transportation hub. We would spend an afternoon together shooting in the various locations found around Tokyo's well-known neighborhood.
Our plan was to hit some iconic spots like Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai. But I also wanted to take the couple of a few locations less traveled by the throngs of tourists smashed tightly in places like Shinjuku or Shibuya.
In the end, I had a blast with Mary and John. They were both so calm, flexible, and easy to work with (my ideal clients). I was thrilled to present them with a collection of images that will hopefully remind them of their special time together in Tokyo and that can add a bit of happiness while the couple is oceans apart.
Are you interested in scheduling a pre-wedding, honeymoon, or vacation photography session? If so, take a look at my couples photography services and then contact me today to begin planning your custom session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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As a portrait photographer in Tokyo, I am used to hearing from clients who have never been to Japan. Many of these clients want to book my services for family sessions or pre-wedding photography. But I am also frequently contacted by those who want to capture their proposal in Japan. Earlier this year, I received the following message from Fernando:
Hi Andy! I am planning to propose to my partner on our trip to Tokyo this coming March. This is our first time in Japan. Honestly, I need a lot of help setting the proposal up. Can you please help me? What is the process? Thank you in advance.
I loved the fact that Fernando was blunt about needing my help. I was ready and willing to help him plan a beautiful proposal. After learning a bit more about Fernando and his soon to be fiancé Andrea, I suggested an outline for Fernando's proposal. Fernando trusted me and, with a plan in place, we were ready for a magical evening in one of Tokyo's most romantic locations.
I met Fernando and Andrea right on time outside of Daiba Station, far from the city center. For the next while, we had a wonderful time laughing and making some casual couples portraits. Then, when Fernando was ready, the couples session guise turned into an engagement photography session.
Everything went to plan and yes, Andrea said, "Yes!"
Are you searching for a photographer to help capture your proposal in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan? If so, I would be happy to help. Reach out today to begin planning your surprise proposal in Japan or beyond.
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Natalie contacted me more than a year in advance to ensure that she would be able to have the pre-wedding portrait session of her dreams. With plenty of lead time, Natalie hoped to have her engagement session at some of her favorite spots in Tokyo during the annual sakura season. She wrote:
"Hi Andy! Natalie and Eugene here. We're not Tokyo locals but we met as exchange students in Japan. The locations we have in mind carry some significance to us: Toyama Park (near Waseda University) and Senzokuike Park. If there are any places you suggest we're open to those as well! Ideally we'd like a more casual vibe (so no wedding dress). Hopefully we can catch some of the sakura while we're there."
I was impressed that Natalie and Eugene were keen enough to reach out with such advance notice. I also adored the idea that Natalie and Eugene had met and fell in love in Tokyo. I jumped at the chance to work with the couple in their old stomping grounds and planned an afternoon engagement session that could serve as a reminder of their time in Japan together.
Are you searching for a creative portrait photographer to help share your story? If so, I would be honored to be your photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond. Reach out today to begin discussing your pre-wedding, honeymoon, or vacation portrait package.
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A few weeks ago I heard from Eia and Tanner, a recently engaged couple from Utah. The pair were about to get on a plane to come to Japan for the first time. Eia's inquiry said:
Hi, Andy! My fiancé and I are traveling to Japan in a few days and would love to get some engagement photos done while we are there to use in our “save the date” invites. I know it’s super late notice but do you have any availability?
This will be our first time visiting Japan. We definitely want a session in an urban setting rather than a natural environment. We haven’t really thought about locations. What are your suggestions? We are hoping you have some recommendations. We'd prefer some locations that showcase the culture of Japan. Looking forward to hearing from you!
I was happy that Eia had reached out when she did. Luckily I did have a single date during the couple's vacation to Tokyo and hoped that the couple would take the slot. After some chatting, Eia and Tanner decided to book a two-hour casual couples portrait session.
Did I have any recommendations for locations? You bet I did. Knowing that Eia and Tanner wanted an urban environment, I thought it might be best to take them to the "belly of the beast." I suggested that we spend our session time taking a loop around Shinjuku Station, the world's busiest commuter hub. Eia and Tanner loved the idea.
A few days later, E&T braved the late afternoon jet lag and met me outside of Shinjuku station. For the next two hours, we had a great time making portraits around the station, in the famous Omoide Yokocho, through the seedy streets of Kabukicho, in the thick of Tokyo's iconic crosswalks, and in the cramped spaces of Golden Gai. I couldn't have asked for more relaxed clients or a better evening creating pre-wedding portraits in Tokyo.
Are you searching for a couples portrait photographer in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to learn how I can help craft the couples session you have always dreamed of.
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I heard from Jonathan in late 2018. His inquiry said:
Andy - I hope this message finds you well! I have a younger brother who is currently living in Tokyo. He recently got engaged to his long-time boyfriend. To celebrate such a wonderful and momentous occasion, I wanted to book a couples photo session for him and his fiancée. In searching for a photographer based in Tokyo, I came across your webpage and I am very impressed with your credentials and quality of your photographs! To that end, could you please provide me with a quote for a couples session? Looking forward to hearing back from you!
I was grateful that Jonathan gave me a bit of backstory in his initial correspondence. I also loved how thoughtful Jonathan was to think of his brother. Jonathan realized that gifting a photography session is one of the kindest, most generous gifts you can give and, after receiving a couple's photography session quote, he decided to book a two-hour portrait session for his brother.
By the time I met Jonathan's brother Michael and his partner Leo, they were no longer engaged. The couple had been married a few days prior to our session and judging by their smiles, they were still reeling from the excitement of their ceremony.
We met right on time outside of Zozoji Temple, a beautiful Buddhist complex in downtown Tokyo, Japan. There, chatting in front of the temple, I learned more about the couple and found out that the pair lived nearby. Michael and Leo wanted to capture a few shots on themselves in areas that would, someday, remind them of their home here in the Japanese capital. Michael and Leo's only request was that we snag an image that somehow incorporated the Tokyo Tower. If that was the expectation, I knew that my time with this Micheal and Leo would be relaxed and fun.
In the end, I was right. Michael and Leo were as easy going as clients come. For our two-hour-session we strolled along, making photos in some of downtown Tokyo's nicest portrait locations.
Congrats Michael and Leo! May you have a wonderful life together.
Are you searching for a photographer to capture your pre-wedding, engagement, or casual couples session? If so, I would be delighted to help. Reach out today to learn more about my portrait session offerings or to book your portrait photography session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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I love May. The beautiful azaleas bloom and the smell of jasmine is in the air. The crisp mornings no longer bite and "sweater weather" is long gone. In May, the spring portrait rush begins to slow down and I get to breathe a bit knowing that the slower months are right around the corner. But, just because the sakura portrait season is over doesn't mean that I put my camera on the shelf and start cleaning my gear. May is still an amazing time for portrait sessions in Tokyo.
I heard from Ysa and Julien just as May began. The couple were already in Japan and decided that it was their chance to have their first professional couples shoot. Ysa and Julien took the time to let me know about their specific vision for their vacation photography session. Ysa wrote:
My name is Ysa and my fiance Julien and I are currently visiting Tokyo from Montreal. We just had the idea to do an engagement photoshoot as we both love Tokyo so much. I was wondering if you have any availabilities in early May. We want to be able to capture two sides of Tokyo: the more traditional side and the modern one. We would also want to showcase the grandeur of the city in some of the shots. Our favorite time for pictures is during the golden hours. We know it is very last minute but we still have hope to be able to have a memorable photoshoot! Can you help?
As with all my clients, I wanted to know more about Ysa and Julien before our portrait session began. With some backstory, I would have some insight into their relationship and preferences. I learned that Ysa has Chinese and Cambodian ancestory but was born in France. Julien was also born in France but, like Ysa, moved to Canada at a young age. In Montreal, the couple met salsa dancing. They both are foodies and seemingly live to travel (as I discovered by flipping through the droves of fantastic imagery of the couple's adventures on Julien's website). I also learned that Julien, like me, had a bit of an inner nerd and loves gaming and anime.
After learning a bit more about the couple, I suggested a shoot route that I have been dying to take with just the perfect couple. We would start at Yushima Cathedral, a very picturesque temple dedicated to Confucious that is rarely visited by tourists. From there, we would move to Kanda Shrine, a shinto monument located a few minutes walk from Ochanimizu station. Our afternoon would end at Akihabara Electric Town (a place Julien would sure to love) as the neon lights begin to come on. I knew that this route would allow for unique set of engagement photos that most Tokyo visitors wouldn't have. The route also fit the description that Ysa has espoused in her original email.
Julien and Ysa met me right on time outside JR Ochanimizu Station. After some high fives and handshakes, we got to work. For the next two hours, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with the couple laughing, chatting, and stopping here and there to make some portraits. In the end, the session proved to be one of my favorite couples photography sessions of the season.
Are you searching for a photographer in Japan to create a unique set of images from your trip to Tokyo? If so, I would be honored to be your photographer. Contact me today to begin discussing your custom pre-wedding, honeymoon, or vacation portrait session.
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I am always excited to hear from pre-wedding clients who will be coming to Japan. This past Valentine's Day, I woke up to an inquiry from Amber. She wrote:
My fiancé Justin and I will be in Tokyo in early April for a wedding getaway and honeymoon. My dream is to have beautiful pictures taken with cherry blossoms in the background of some of the shots and want to wear my wedding gown. I am looking for the perfect portrait photographer and am hoping you can help us with this. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Amber's email wasn't unusual. In fact, I receive similar messages throughout the year inquiring about springtime sakura sessions. I totally understand the fascination with Japan's sakura and do by best to accommodate as many requests for that special time of year. By February, I am usually fully booked for the upcoming sakura season, the two or three-week period bookending the full bloom forecast.
Still, requests for family, individual, and pre-wedding portraits keep pouring in through February and March. Luckily, I still had two portrait slots available in my calendar during Amber and Justin's honeymoon in Tokyo.
I warned Amber, just like I warn all my sakura clients, that booking at date in early April doesn't mean that the cherry blossoms will be out. Some clients reserve slots too early in the season, some too late. As long as Amber and Justin knew that I couldn't play God, I would be willing to plan an amazing afternoon of portraits for the honeymooners that would yield an amazing set of portraits with, or without, cherry blossoms.
With their date reserved, Amber and Justin took me up on my offer to have a pre-shoot consultation. A few days after Amber and Justin's original inquiry, we video-chatted about their hopes and session goals. I also asked a few personal questions. I also suggested adding more locations so that our session didn't solely focus on the fickle cherry blossoms. With a better understanding of who Justin and Amber were as a couple, I was able to begin planning a custom portrait session.
Amber and Justin decided to trust my judgement and let me sort out a route that corresponded to their dispositions. I planed an afternoon in some of Tokyo's less frequented destinations, a route that would yield sakura imagery (if the little flowers were in bloom) and that would allow Amber and Justin to see a bit a Tokyo that most visitors never see. My plan for the newly wed couple included ancient temples, suburban neighborhoods, and a vast public park that few locals (and even fewer tourists) ever visit.
In the end, I had an amazing afternoon of portraits with Justin and Amber. The weather was perfect and, luckily, the sakura were still on the trees. The couple were as easy going and relaxed as they seemed in our pre-shoot meeting and I felt honored to be selected as their honeymoon photographer.
Are you searching for a photographer to capture your honeymoon here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or abroad? If so, contact me today to begin planning your casual or formal portrait session.
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According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), nearly 2.5 million visitors came to the Land of the Rising Sun last November. 2.5 million... the best November on record for Japanese tourism. This number of visitors is hard to imagine. Though, I am not surprised in the slightest by the staggering count.
Japan is experiencing a historic tourism boom. Years ago, the JNTO began a drive that would bring 20 million leisure visitors annually by the 2020. In the past years, the folks at the tourism board have done a better job than expected. Last year Japan welcomed nearly 29 million tourists, smashing the goals set by the tourism board.
The numbers are impressive and, by walking around Tokyo on a beautiful day, I can actually see the influx. Tour buses are parked at monuments, exclusive districts like Ginza are buzzing with foreign shoppers, and restaurants are constantly filled with foodies.
Many would frown at a massive wave of tourism like this. But the perks, in this case, perhaps outweigh the cons. The economic benefits of tourism are boosting the ailing Japanese economy. I am glad that so many people want to see Japan, one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world. I am also grateful that many of these visitors need a portrait photographer in Japan to capture some of their time here in the capital.
A few weeks ago, I heard from Noel and Mel, a couple from Singapore who were searching for a Tokyo-based portrait photographer to document a sliver of their winter holiday. Their initial correspondence read:
Hello, Andrew! We are from Singapore and are planning our 3rd trip to Japan (2nd trip this year). We love the sights and sounds of Tokyo. On every corner you find something different, something you don't expect. The city has the new-meets-old vibe and, of course, the people... We are not the posing kind and are hoping for a casual portrait photo session. Can you help?
I could, in fact, help Melanie and Noel. Every couple I work with is different. Some pairs choose to get dressed to the hilt and spend much of their session posing. Other couples just want a leisurely date, void of elaborate posing and artificial lighting. I was delighted to craft a session for Noel and Mel that that would yield some great images and that would feel relaxed and super casual.
We decided to meet outside of Sensoji Temple, one of the most crowded tourist destinations in Tokyo. Asakusa's Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and is, on any given day, packed with tourists from all over the world.
Why would we select Sensoji as our location for a casual, relaxed portrait session? At Sensoji, tourists tend to move in a predictable route. Visitors typically walk down Nakamise Street, snap photos at the five-story pagoda, meander into the main hall of the shrine, and then head back out of the complex. This route is always clogged and endlessly frustrating. But I knew that we would be able to capture some great images in one of Tokyo's most iconic locations without having to brave the massive crowd.
Most visitors don't realize that the blocks on either side of the main temple complex are a maze of beautifully calm side-streets with views of the Sky Tree. Moreover, the northern end of Sensoji, accessed by an alternate entrance, is usually empty and offers a glimpse of the temple's façade without a wall of bodies.
Thankfully, our plan went off without a hitch. For an hour or so, I took Noel and Mel through Sensoji's "secret" spots, creating the casual portrait shoot the couple was after. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mel and Noel, two of the nicest visitors Tokyo will welcome this year.
Are you planning a trip to Japan? If so, why not document some of your time here in by booking a portrait session here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? Contact me today to start planning your custom portrait session.
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Who Is Andrew Faulk?
Tokyo photographer Andrew Faulk specializes in commercial, editorial, event, and portrait photography assignments. With over a decade of experience living and working in Asia, he collaborates with individuals, families, publications, and corporations to create timeless images under any deadline. Andrew's work is frequently featured in a variety of international travel and lifestyle publications. He is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.