So while I was visiting Tokyo, my goal was of course to have a few photoshoots. I had some ideas, I knew I wanted to do cinematic portraits at night playing with the environment. Which is a massive step out of my comfort zone because I kinda love my studio! So here are a few tips from my experience there that I can share with you
Tokyo is a HUGE HUUUUGE city, and it’s hard to start so I decided to talk about its more famous locations :
– Shinjuku is THE place if you have in mind when you think about Tokyo : lights and signs and people everywhere!
Fun fact : The station sees 2 millions of people EVERY DAY, so get ready, you will get lost there!
– Shibuya is also great for the same reason, it’s probably the most famous place there, the buildings are not as big and as in Shinjuku, but that’s still a beautiful vibrant spot.
Though I love to wander here, I have a few problem here concerning photography :
– It’s constantly crowded : we went there at any time of the night, at 3 am on a monday night, and even then PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. Tokyo never sleeps, it’s up to you if it bothers you or not when you shoot.
– Too much light!! My style is more dark and moody, and I quickly realized these streets are way too bright and colorful for my dark heart 😀 So I went and looked for tiny dark alley alley with a Japanese / asian feel to them, so most of what I shot was there.
Places that I wish I tried :
-Temples and shrines : most stay open at night, and you can get fantastic shots. (you will probably need to bring a few artificial lights though) Of course, be respectful of the place!
-Rooftops : Rooftoping is big in Tokyo, and if you meet creative people/ photographers, you will certainly get caught in a conversation with them talking about their last adventures. I don’t perosnnaly recommend it, as it’s illegal and dangerous (especially if you have to climb), but it’s up to you to make the wise decision about trying or not! Be ready to face the consequences!
Contact someone there : find someone you love on instagram, an expat, a local, and they will take you to the best spots
Ask them some advices, and you never know, they can show you in person, it can end up into a great night and you win a new friend!
Gear / lighting
It depends on what looks you want to achieve and what type of photographer you are : I prefer to have my concept before, so it is more preparation, so I brought artificial lighting. My friend benjamin went travelling to tokyo at the same time as me with the idea of doing street photography, so he brought his 85 lens and that was it.
That’s up to you! Keep your goal in mind when you pack 🙂 (I will write an article dedicated to travelling an packing as a photographer, very soon!)
Whatever you decide on, don’t forget your tripod for night shots!
In term of lighting, I personally brought my Yongnuo speed lights, a small Aputure led panel, and some gels to match the colors with the ambiant (or go crazy).
If you want to shoot street photography, you will find your models on the spot. But if you want to plan for the shoots, here are some options :
-There are plenty of group on Facebook where you can just leave a message if you are looking for anyone,
– Model mayhem is a great resource anywhere in the world to find models : they are a lot of different profiles, from paid professional to paid for prints only
Stay safe, be respectful
tokyo is probably the safest place in the world, but use your common sense. We went shooting in a tiny alley and a Yakuza came and talked to us, OF COURSE i didn’t even tried to negotiate, just LEAVE
You are the foreigner here, respect the usages and everything will be fine
Stay polite, we ve been kicked out the alley, I tried to insist with please and a smile, but they were obviously pissed off we were there. stay polite, it’s their place, even if it’s frustrating for us
I would love to se your Tokyo photographs, and don’t hesitate to add any more advices or locations you loved there!