Photo: Daniel Yeoh
Bring your bridal wardrobe
Brides should bring their wedding dress over as they will look better in pictures dressed in gowns that fit well. Japanese wedding dresses are usually catered to Japanese ladies and the fitting may or may not fit non-Japanese. Ditto for the groom as most Japanese suits are usually a little short on the sleeves.
Standby warm clothing
If you’re planning a photo shoot in the mountainous regions during Spring, Autumn or Winter, warm clothing is a must for before, after, and in-between photo taking.
Photo: Daniel Yeoh
For the full Japanese experience, I’d suggest renting a kimono. Kimonos can also accommodate different sizes. Prices range approximately from $250 to $3,000 and above for an authentic wedding kimono. You will need a kimono dresser to dress you up proper and they will usually cost somewhere between $200 and above.
Beware the weather
There is no way to have an accurate weather forecast – conditions may change at the last minute. It’s best to highly keep track of the weather reports for the photo location as the dates draw nearer. On certain occasions, I will try to secure an indoor location in case of bad weather.
You should find a photographer who knows and has worked with other reliable vendors such as kimono rentals, make up artists and hair stylists, accommodation, and so on. While I don’t provide all-in-one packages, I do have reliable contacts. I am also a translator and go-between due to the language barriers between the vendors and my couples. Couples are also free to approach any other vendor who they may feel comfortable with.
I’d recommend couples secure the services they require (such as costume rentals, makeup and hair) at least two months in advance. These vendors will usually require payment in Japanese yen on the day of the shoot.
A lot of planning is required for pre-wedding photo shoots, and it’ll be necessary to have at least two months of preparation time to secure the necessary permits, research, logistics, accommodation and so on.
Couples can consider business hotels which are located around most major train stations, ortraditional Japanese ryokans and inns, or pensions that are cosier (it’s like someone’s house, but it’s not). It depends on your budget: Hotels are moderately priced and have all the necessary facilities; ryokans provide a very special Japanese experience and really good food but the rooms come without toilets or baths. Pensions are usually found in resort towns and they provide a more personal touch to the entire experience of staying here in Japan.
Photo: Daniel Yeoh
Best time to go
To me, there is no one “popular” season. Each season has its own merits. There’s the sakura season in spring (the beginning of March to early or late April or even early May), the lush greenery and flower fields in summer (August is best, but July is great for the lavender fields in Hokkaido), the wonderful hues of autumn (late September to early November), and the cold but pristine and beautiful wintery landscapes of regions near the sea and cities like Kyoto (December to early March).
See also: 6 places to visit in Spring for beautiful portraits, as well as 7 places to head to in Autumn.
I’d recommend you opt for off-peak seasons that don’t clash with the Japanese public holidays. It’ll be harder to secure decent accommodation and prices will generally be higher than usual, and it’ll be very crowded.
Scenic places to go
Every one of the 47 prefectures here in Japan will offer something very unique and picture worthy for every season.
Popular locations include Kyoto (for the old shrines, temples and sakuras), Tokyo (for its iconic landmarks like the Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Shibuya, Harajuku and Asakusa), Osaka (castles), Hokkaido (snow and picturesque landscapes), and Okinawa (beautiful beaches). I prefer in lesser-known locations that are more exotic.
Some of the places I’ve shot at may look just like a scene out of Miyazaki Hayao’s animation but they are usually located in rural and remote places. I will usually do some research on prefectures that I have not been to and offer a few locations to my clients for consideration. This way, each photoshoot will be exclusive and unique for both my clients and myself.
A typical 6 hour photoshoot in Japan cost about $1,800 for just the photography with the digital data (this is without taxes, optional albums, and other items). Make up artists will usually start around $450 and above and rental of costumes will range from $350 and above. With a budget of about $3,000, it is definitely possible to have a photoshoot done here in Japan.
Of course actual transportation and accommodation can only be calculated when the location of the photoshoot is confirmed.
I’d definitely recommend brides to wear the kimono at least once because it’s about the only time you get to feel like a Japanese bride! I also like to incorporate some old street scenes and centuries old Japanese architectures like shrines or temples into the pictures for a unique Japanese look and feel.
Of course I would like my clients to try the food and snacks that are only available in Japan, visit onsens, try snowboarding, and others. because photography is only a small aspect of their entire experience here in Japan. I usually try to look for local make up artists in the respective locations for the photo shoot to minimize the transportation cost of bringing around a specific make up artist.
Make up artists in Japan really vary in the pricing but what you pay is usually what you get and I will recommend them to my clients according to their specific budget and preferences.
Daniel Yeoh is a Singaporean-born, Japan-based wedding photographer who does portraits and actual-day celebrations. He prefers to “document the chemistry of the couple”, as is. He shoots with different mediums – film and digital, as well as provides black and white, as well as colour photos. Check out more of Daniel’s photos and portfolio at http://theroyalworkshopjp.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information and enquiries.