Behind the picture

How to create and multiply weird creepy hands

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Sometimes, when you want a picture, you need to get your hands dirty. And I mean, for real! 

This picture has a really basic setup (that I use all the time with my self-portraits) 
-One diffused light
-A white wall that I used as a background
-A tripod, (but you could use anything, like a stool, so the camera does not move)
-A remote to trigger the camera
 
-A very patient model (crucial point)
 
So there is NOTHING fancy in here, I like the clean and simple look that gives plenty of space to get creative! 

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For the black hands : 

I had this idea in my mind for a while, and I thought of many different ways to create a mixture that could be used on the skin, without being « too messy ». For example, China ink is A VERY BAD IDEA, unless you want to have black stains on your skin for ten days (trust me on this one, I went to art school  ). Acrylic paint is not really good for the skin and dries very fast so I can’t have this « vinyl » look I’m looking for. I know there are many options in the professional make-up industry, but I want to keep it cheap (and free is even better!). So I used charcoal, which is actually pretty good for the skin, it absorbs all the toxins and I do use it myself as a purifying mask on my face once in a while YES (free beauty tips, you’re welcome), and I mixed it with oil! Like basic oil that I had in my kitchen for cooking! 
 
The mixture was pretty good, not perfect, but I liked the oily look better than water, it’s not as liquid and doesn’t dry at all. It doesn’t stain the skin, and is not toxic for the model, so this was perfect! 
Careful though, IT DOES STAIN EVERYTHING ELSE : we protected the floor, our clothes, but the rags we used after to get rid of the mess are now black forever!
 
(and if by chance, you have a better idea/recipe for that black oil idea, I would love to hear it!)

Once the setting is ready the shooting is EASY :  

We first checked the lighting and the posing, to find something that I loved. Once we were happy, Camille dropped her hand into the black mixture : the hand in front of her is her own! 
Then, I dropped my hand into the mixture as well (and in just a minute, Camille was oiling my entire forearm, we had just unlocked a whole new world in our relationship! OUHW YEAH) 
 
I went behind her and I triggered the camera with my remote (with my not-too-dirty hand), just like any other self-portrait.

Creativity in action !

Creativity in action !

When it was over, I just had to stitch all the photos together into one, in Photoshop, aaaand that’s it ! 
 
Here is a video of the Photoshop process. Real time I would say around 3 hours, skin took half of this and I took a while deciding which element to include or not. I’ll probably do a post (or more!) very soon about retouching, as it is such an important part of the process! 

I hope you enjoyed it, and don’t hesitate to leave me any comment or ask any questions! See you very soon for more experimental/oily/weird projects! 

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A creative photoshoot through the eye of my model

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This full story was written by Benoit, the model for this picture.  I think it would be interesting for you to have another point of view on my work, and I hope you enjoy this story!

With Pauline and her camera, you’ll always end-up naked somewhere. In an attic, in a flower tray or somewhere else.


This time, it’s during a walk in the middle of the forest, that we came across something that led us to a new creative project. A lost pond, a few ducks and grandmas feeding them with bread. That’s all Miss Big Nostrils needed to picture me in the middle of it. The idea was simple. Trudging in the pond, naked (again) in front of her camera’s watchful eye. Fate led us to this watering place in autumn, and after thinking about it and taking the time to go for it, it was already December, « Yay, Hello freezing temperatures! ». Dawn’s light and morning fog should bring more inspiration to the atmosphere. So let’s set the alarm clock at 5am, though it’s seems unbearable for the unemployed person that I am. So as we noticed when we arrived, the mist on the lake in the morning, is a big joke!


A lively red car, a flapping wing mirror and old duct tape holding it, that’s her good old Ford Ka. After a kiss on the cheek and a hot coffee, here we are, parked on the D284 road, in the middle of St-Germain en Laye’s forest, small city of the Yvelines département, 30 min away from the Capital. It now seems obvious, that in a few minutes, I’ll be freezing my ass off in an 8°C water. The sun is far from rising and we’re walking in pitch black quietly, as two (almost) normal employees would do. When we get to the pond, we need about 10 seconds to understand that we got here way too early. Though it’s very very dark, the place is really quiet, and we can only hear the distant humming of the road.

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90 minutes fly away, just the time to catch sight of a bold jogger, equipped with a headlamp (I’ll tell you there are weird people) and to notice that the ducks are asleep in the trees and not on the pond. The day begins and the mallards land on the pond, one by one, on a slightly unclear water. Time’s up! We’re about to start the shooting session. We need to hurry-up since the particular dawn light does not last for long. After running 3 times all around the pond and a few push-ups as a warm-up later, it’s time to go into the water. What the hell am I doing here? It’s easier to get in than I thought. I’m moving carefully in the pond. It’s not that deep. The water is a bit oily and stinks of gasoline, but lucky me! I get to keep my pants on this time.


The first pictures are essential to « get  » the moment and to adjust the light, set the right angle, and it’s only after deciding to dive into the water that it becomes interesting. I’m all wet now. There’s always this idea of a non-idea. What can I do? How should I act? What is she waiting from me? What’s coming out of these? I’m following her advice with caution. The walkers are a simple curiosity when the cold starts to pierce my body. There’s nothing I can find in this pool. Yet I try to find something. I’m searching. I’m observing. The ducks look more comfortable than me. They even act like gentlemen and do not look at me. After all, it’s everyone’s pool. I look at Pauline. I look up. I look down. I look at my hands. I look at me. I’m shaking. Fuck it’s cold. Very cold. It’s been 30 min in the water, and 10 min freezing my ass off, while I keep delaying the time to go out of the water. We never know, maybe the next picture will be the right one. 400 clicks later, it’s time to go out. I’m confident. I intimately know that Pauline will get the image she wants. And it doesn’t matter if that’s not the case. Because I’m here for this talented and enthusiastic blondie. Her projects are stories. So that’s a pleasure to dive into this pond, in the middle of the forest, at 8am, during winter.

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With Pauline and her camera, you’ll always end-up naked somewhere. In an attic, in a flower tray or somewhere else. 

How to transform your model into creepy monsters for 10 euros

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One day I decided to buy 5 kilos of modeling clay (it’s super cheap in any arts and crafts store) I felt inspired by the raw material and though that would be cool for pictures. But a few weeks passed by and I couldn’t find anything. Until I spent an afternoon with my friend Camille from Délicate Distorsion, she saw the clay waiting patiently in my studio and asked what my project was. I told her I wanted to do something photography related but was kinda stuck. She told me about this french artist doing weird happenings and events where he just covers himself in clay and it BLEW MY MIND. 

You can have a look at his work, his name is Olivier de Sagazan, he has plenty of youtube videos. I found them haunting, and highly inspiring. I love how he becomes the creator and the art piece at the same time, covering himself in clay. 

Clay is fascinating because this is the most simple basic boring component when it is raw. But it can give you so much freedom to create whatever you want. 

So i contacted my friend Kevin to do a photoshoot : he is a dancer and a wonderful human being. We have a strong artistic connection and he trusts my vision. 

When he arrives at my place, I am telling him right away « I might have a weird idea, are you up to it? »  I am not giving him any more informations, just that I have clay, and I would like him to cover himself with it. Right away he says « this inspires me so much! ». I am letting him bring his own vision into the creative process. He trusts me to bring strange concepts on the table, and I trust him to bring them to life through his body. He has incredible skills as a dancer, and he uses his body to express his art. The first time I photographed him, he danced in my studio and I was literally crying behind my camera because this was such a damn beautiful moment!!! (I know I am such a wuss) 

So I get the setup ready, really simple, one black background, one light, my favorite! It is also a setup that I know will allow him to move freely, I just put a piece of gaffer tape on the floor to give him an indication of where he should stand, and we are good! I also put music to set the mood. For dark moody photoshoots I love Nine Inch nails (some weird dark electronics instrumental) this music resonates a lot with my soul and inspires me to create . 

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This awkward moment you have an almost naked guy cutting clay in your living room

I waited a few weeks before starting the editing process, and then finally came up with the ideas you are seing. I used only the brush in Photoshop and literally painted everything on the picture. The stars/particles are a handmade brush I am using all the time. And then a bit of color correction on Alienskin and we are all done! 

 
 
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I hope you enjoyed seing the process of creating these pictures, and that it inspires you to do something (weird) as well! What is the craziest weirdest photoshoot or ideas you ever had? 

10 before & afters in Photoshop

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Here are 10 examples of before and afters in Adobe Photoshop! Curated for you, with love! (alright I actually did after / before, just let me do whatever I want :D ) 

When people see me editing pictures (when I am in a coworking space for example) they always want to see the before and afters! I think this is an entertaining part of my job, and I always love to share it! I believe there is a lot of mystery around creation sometimes, and we all loves to see the behind the scenes of our favorite movies! Photoshop has definitely his own magic, especially for fine art photographers, and I am glad if I can help you understand more the process that goes behind creating theses pictures so you can get inspired by it! 

I think it is very easy to achieve really cool results simply if your ideas are good, so here all my secrets! 

Take your innocent niece, have a friend with a creepy hand, a black brush to have Camille’s arm disappear, some color correction and we’re done here!

Take your innocent niece, have a friend with a creepy hand, a black brush to have Camille’s arm disappear, some color correction and we’re done here!

An upside down picture, add darkness, add stars, boom done! (the light was shot on camera, it is a speed light reflecting on the surface of the water)

An upside down picture, add darkness, add stars, boom done! (the light was shot on camera, it is a speed light reflecting on the surface of the water)

Made myself look fitter (express gym session!) changed the hand, added darkness (I do love the darkness!) add stars again, BOOM done!

Made myself look fitter (express gym session!) changed the hand, added darkness (I do love the darkness!) add stars again, BOOM done!

Put a friend in a kid inflatable pool, clean and extend the background, color correction, BOOM DONE!

Put a friend in a kid inflatable pool, clean and extend the background, color correction, BOOM DONE!

Wear this dress you love but never go outside with, extend the background, make it red, HOP!

Wear this dress you love but never go outside with, extend the background, make it red, HOP!

Photograph a friend, do weird stuff on his face, have him be grateful for it : perfect creation!

Photograph a friend, do weird stuff on his face, have him be grateful for it : perfect creation!

Steal a flower in your neighbor garden, stuck it on your face, add hair, extend the background, EASY!

Steal a flower in your neighbor garden, stuck it on your face, add hair, extend the background, EASY!

Go in the middle of a meadow, ignore the cows judging you, clean the background, add birds, color correction, and you’re done!

Go in the middle of a meadow, ignore the cows judging you, clean the background, add birds, color correction, and you’re done!

Tape yourself some flowers around your body, look sad, add more flowers, color corrections and THAT’S IT!

Tape yourself some flowers around your body, look sad, add more flowers, color corrections and THAT’S IT!

Stuck your face in Christmas LED lights, look very proud about it, erase the wires, add geometric stuff, BOOM!

Stuck your face in Christmas LED lights, look very proud about it, erase the wires, add geometric stuff, BOOM!

I have a very few rules in Photoshop, I would say my big one is that I HATE TO CUT OUT, so I always find a way not to do it. For example if my final result is in a black background, I will shoot on a black background, simple, and I am saving myself A LOT of time! 

Also, I think I am spending half of my editing time extending the background to make my picture bigger. EACH DAMN TIME! I think It’s because I always crop it in a weird way. Why not shooting from a bigger distance : firstly I can’t MOST OF THE TIME because I am photographing in a small space, and secondly I don’t want to crop the original photograph because I don’t want to loose quality. While I am extending it, I am making the file bigger, which is nice to have big prints. 

What do you think? Did you imagine it was the work that went into some of these? Do you struggle to achieve your vision in Photoshop? 

These are older pictures, but if you love this type of article, don’t hesitate to let my know in the comments,I will do more of them! 

Does it make sense to create more art?

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A few months ago I went through an existential creator crisis (just like every others couple of months to be honest ;D ) : it didn’t make any sense any more to create pictures. 


You know, there are already so many of them everywhere! Let’s face it, we are flooded with images and other stuff : more pictures are uploaded every day on instagram than ever before, at a point we almost start to regret the age of the scarcity of film photography. Why would I spend 12 hours to create something with my heart and soul for it to disappear almost instantly, lost into this sad ocean of selfies. And if you start comparing yourself and your work with others photographers, it’s over : so many of them already doing such beautiful pictures, it does not make any sense to do some more! It will never be as beautiful, and even if it’s not that bad, it will never set itself apart from the crowd. That’s it, we are doomed to stay in this magma, lost in the middle of millions other people. I should have listen to my parents/husband/sister/friend and get a real job!

I knew it, I will never be Beyoncé, we are all gonna die, the planet is fucked and the pandas are still not having sex DAMNIT!

Ok, it’s time for a bit of mindfulness, let’s get back on track before we get lost into dark sad parts our mind labyrinth

I want to give you my own most powerful reasons to keep going. This is personal, mostly from conversation with good friends, and this pieces of philosophy help me on a daily basis to keep the spark going!

The world desperately needs the dreamers 

I got this one from my beautiful dancer friend human Kevin : He thinks our mission is indeed vital to the society : We are the one able to see and share beauty, we have the power to move people, to make them feel, this is what’s matters the most. As long as we have the artists, the world will not give up. Don’t let anyone treat you inferior because you are just another creator who wants to live his dream. Everyone loves to go to movies, to watch TV shows, to listen to music : this industries are MASSIVE, they hire thousands of people, and they influence people’s life, who can gather around something great and positive. That’s why every dictature have an absolute control over art and creation : they either use it to promote their own values, or censor the creations that does not fit their views. They understand very well that it can influence people’s point of view. Even in our societies, we need the dreamers to give us hope in a world flooded by bad news ans sensationalism. Especially when medias are playing with our fears on a daily basis. 

The mission of the artist

The artist is a messenger : they are a voice of the society we live in. You might want it or not, but you are a part of this world. So even if you don’t consider yourself as a non-political person, you are still a product of the society you are living in. The creator can use his skills to share messages from people that does not have the voice or the power to do so. When I was still a student in graphic design school, a friend of mine was older and he was already a recognized art director in Paris. He mentored me for a bit and I remember a great lesson he taught me : He said to me « as a designer, you have a power to help others : for example, a charity that helps women victim of domestic violence wants to promote the work they are doing. If they do a poster themselves, and put them it the wall in the street, probably no one will read it. But if you create a great poster for them, with a strong message and an impactful visual, some people will see it and be interested in what they have to say. As a designer, you will have to decide what you want for this world, you can use your power to influence people to buy more useless craps, or you can help give a voice to some people who can’t speak ». I realized this day that if I had a power and a responsability that was beyond me and beyond creating just beautiful visuals. 

The creators are the voice of their time

I will go even farther and say that most of what we admire from the past are from creators : the artists have the power to transcend reality but also time. If a prehistoric guy, thousands of years ago asked himself too many questions about why he was doing this weird paintings on the cave wall and watched netflix instead (wait what?) we would not be able to admire them. And even more important, to understand a tiny bit more about the way they were living. Most of the things we value from our past is Art, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture : these creations reflect the beauty of a past time. We won’t remember the accountant, the banker nor the nurse. These jobs are vital to a society for sure, and sometimes, the artist even help them to be remembered in their own way : I love how Verweer saw beauty and poetry in the life of the domestics working in house : we have to remember it was a time when only rich people got to have their portraits painted. He gives us an insight into the 17th century daily life of workers, and showed us the beauty of it. There are as many different ways to see the world as people on this planet, and I think this is incredible to have access to a piece the mind of other artist, living in other societies, and different times than us. It’s like opening a window to a different world that does not exist anymore. 

Vermeer, milkmaid, around 1658-1661

Vermeer, milkmaid, around 1658-1661


Conclusion

I could give you 1000 reasons why creation will always be a part of my life, this is a highly complicated, deep subject and I have so many more ideas on it (for a change!!). But I love these ones because they are beyond my own personal struggles. They help me see a bigger picture, and as someone who get trapped into my mind labyrinth a lot, it really helps me take the necessary distance to understand that my work is indeed valuable in some way. 

And also, what a waste of a life not to walk your own path :) 
I KNOW IT’S NOT THAT EASY
well it’s another story!

Des bisous!

Clara and the magic of LED lights

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For this shooting, all you need is:

A crack squad :

  • A beautiful Clara who is ok to be naked <3

  • A Camille (Délicate Distorsion), who is really useful to choose the right ferns AND to bring the Kinders AND to create awesome drawings on the pictures (of course :p)

The most expensive props in the world :

  • Ferns  (collected in the closest forest)

Gear :

  • A garland of multicolor LEDs:  you can find them everywhere, I put an Amazon link (20 euros for 5 meters and that’s exactly what we used)

  • A piece a cardboard

  • Scotch Tape

  • A reflector (or a piece of polystyrene board/cardboard/ANYTHING white)

  • A black sheet

  • A canvas sheet (to put under the black sheet in order to protect the floor, we’re not savages!) I had kept the plastic packing from my mattress (I don’t know why, I kinda like it) in case I hadn’t kept it I would have used trash bags

  • A camera of course, a Canon 7D + Sigma 18-35 1,8 mm in that case

For this shooting session, we went for a walk in the forest of Saint Germain en Laye on the previous day, near my home studio (sounds better :D) in order to collect some ferns: we picked up entire plastic bags filled with things we found pretty (waaaah did you see the color?! waaah), while enjoying the last moments of summer to grab some wild flowers. I think we did not see anyone when we got out of a sinuous path with 3 huge trash bags that we stuffed in the car. We got back home and put everything in water to keep it fresh for the shooting the next day.

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On the next day, Clara and Camille join me at home MY STUDIO (damn it!). The first idea was to take nude pictures in the middle of branches, so Camille could draw things afterwards upon them, in order to mix our two artistic worlds. The organic side of the leaves would remind the delicate universe of Delicate Distorsion, that is inspired by nature.
  
We already made a shooting with Clara on the previous year (a crazy story, with underwater picture and an inflatable swimming pool for kids, in the yard of my former house-share, that didn’t even have water mains inlet ANYWAY that’s another story that deserves an article on its own)
 
 
So naturally, we wanted to work again, the three of us, on something creative and experimental, during a girly afternoon in a good atmosphere, without any pressure, theoretically.

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That was before the radio I used to trigger my Flash decided to stop working, just when everything else was ready ARGHH! I think I didn’t even say anything to the girls and that my mind worked at 300 miles to find a solution: I pulled out a garland of LEDs, I had used during the month, a piece of cardboard from a suitcase, I taped 2 pieces of A3 cardboards together, LED lights on the cardboards and we played with that all afternoon! I even taped a ruler on the back of the cardboard so Camille would have a handle to position the lights really close to Clara and more easily while I was taking pictures.

The beast.

The beast.

And, by accident, we have an amazing result! We realize we can play with the colors (which was not planned at all!) and we can create images that are still among my favorites more than a year after! I think I would even thank my CACTUS (which is the thing that was supposed to trigger my Flash Light) because it forced me to overcome the difficulties and to look for creativity, and eventually to experiment something really new.

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I took care of the retouching part in the week (to be honest I didn’t have much to do on these pictures). I sent the files to Camille, she printed them out and then drew on some Rhodoïd paper (the transparent plastic paper we used to put in overhead projectors back in the days, when we were young) with the pictures beneath it. She then scanned the Rhodoïd and put back the drawing on the pictures with Photoshop. And that’s how you have this result!

The images as I gave them to Camille so she could draw on top of them

The images as I gave them to Camille so she could draw on top of them

To conclude, I would say that I loved this shooting, that I love working with Clara <3 she’s an amazing model and for me her personality is really part of the pictures. With Camille, we have compatible artistic worlds and a brainstorming/hot chocolate afternoon with her really gives a spark to my creativity. A year after, by working again on the pictures, I retouched the images with respect to Camille’s drawings. I was really attracted to the colors last year, but to my surprise, I found out that some images were also really interesting in Black and White: it’s more like me, and I think it’s also more like Camille.
  
However, I think that the Rhodoïd step reduce the quality of her drawings, and it doesn’t highlight the meticulousness of her work, and that’s a pity!
So we thought it would be a good warm up, and another shooting is planned, and THIS time we’ll print them on HUGE papers and she’ll draw directly on the pictures! (and they will be original Artworks, which is pretty classy!) I can’t wait to see the result (yes I know, we did not even start :p) So stay tuned if you’re willing to know more about this upcoming project (SPOILER ALERT: there will be a naked Clara :D)
 
Have you already been in a difficult situation with a client? With some gear that doesn’t work? (I cannot be the only one) And more importantly, did you find a solution? It could be interesting to write an article with all the problems encountered by everyone with matching solutions in case of emergency!
 
I hope you liked this article, do not hesitate to let me know what you think about it! 
You can follow this page and share it if you like 
 
See you soon
Bisous

A quick guide to Tokyo night photography

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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 


Locations
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. 

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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). 

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Models
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

30 seconds to shoot in this alley as we got kicked out immediately arg!

30 seconds to shoot in this alley as we got kicked out immediately arg!

I would love to se your Tokyo photographs, and don’t hesitate to add any more advices or locations you loved there!