Anthony Wood | Tokyo Headshot and Portrait Photographer

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Thoughts, experiences, and photos of life and work in Japan by Anthony Wood | American Headshot and Portrait Photographer based in Tokyo, Japan

Shichi-Go-San in Sosa

I was out with a couple and their two children the other day taking shots for a traditional Japanese rite of passage called Shichi-Go-San (七五三), or literally “Seven-Five-Three.” It is an annual event held around mid-November for boys who are three and five years of age and for girls who are three and seven. It is a long-held tradition where children get dressed up in colorful kimonos and travel to a shrine to pray for a long and healthy life.

As with all shoots that I do, I want to be well-prepared before taking the first shot. So, I always make sure to study up. In this case, I took the time to look more into Shichi-Go-San and made certain that I knew all I needed to know about the tradition. I visited the shrine where the family planned to go on two separate occasions.  I looked around, considered all the angles, located numerous potential backgrounds, and decided which lens would be best for each. I took multiple test shots and contemplated which light and light modifier would be most suited. I even got my wife to act as a stand-in to practice a number of lighting techniques.

I was prepared for the shoot. Oh, was I prepared. I had my plans, all of my grandiose plans of all the shots I was going to artfully create. It was going to be good, with a capital ‘G’ mind you. And then came the kids. Now, they weren't bad kids. No, not in the least. They however were just kids, as in, they don’t care about you, or your fancy camera, or the wonderful photos you painstaking planned to masterfully craft for them and their descendants to cherish for all eternity. They didn't care at all.  The little philistines…

It is to be expected though that when working with children that a fair amount of time will be spent on entertaining them and trying to gain their cooperation and/or attention. This is exactly where most of the time allotted for this shoot was spent. There was enough time to get the necessary shots of the family and the kids, and unfortunately very few of the other shots I had planned. This is just how it goes.

In the end though, I wouldn't consider all of the planning and preparations I went through as wasted. I view it as time spent honing my craft and learning new methods. It is something that will help me to better approach future shoots, especially when those shoots involve young children. Besides, it would be difficult to argue that it is better to be under-prepared than over-prepared. 

Below are some photos from the shoot, including a few taken as the kids were prepared prior to their visit to the shrine.

 七五三  ||  Anthony Wood ©2012
 七五三  ||  Anthony Wood ©2012
 七五三  ||  Anthony Wood ©2012
 七五三  ||  Anthony Wood ©2012
 七五三  ||  Anthony Wood ©2012