Are you looking for Osaka street photography? Here's more than 30 images for inspiration along with a guide to shooting in this wonderful city.
Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to go to Japan. Blame it on anime or video games, that country has always been a sort of Mecca for me. I even wanted to marry a Japanese wife! One day, while I was living in Korea (I have a nomadic lifestyle with my Haitian wife and 2 kids) I needed to do a visa run.
I booked a flight and ended up in Izumisano, an Osaka suburb. I was on cloud 9, eating sushi and working the streets hard. I would come back a few times and every time I would discover something new about the city. If you want to shoot in Osaka, make sure to read Japan street photography first, because most of the general tips there apply in Osaka.
Osaka Street Photography
Most of the images in this article have been shot with my trusty Ricoh GRD IV (my favorite street photography camera) and the Panasonic LX100. I wish I had my Olympus PEN F back then because the LX100 was struggling for the shots at night.
What makes Osaka great for street photography?
I've mainly shot two locations in Japan: Osaka and Fukuoka. In this street photography course I shot 4 hours in Fukuoka. But Osaka takes the crown in my opinion. It's much more touristic, so lots of opportunities for images, there's the store signs that are reminiscent of Hong Kong, and the fact that you can get radically different shots by just leaving the city for a few minutes. Kyoto is also a few hours away by train so it makes it a great choice to shoot there and have access to other places.
Where to shoot street photography in Osaka?
One of the best places to shoot in Osaka is in Dotonbori. It is highly touristic so there's lots of people making for lot of photo opportunities. It's famous for it's light up panels, especially the running man. There's a visual chaos attached to it that makes it perfect for street photographers.
About half of all of the images in this article were made there.
The other recommended street photography location is shinsekai. It's also pretty iconic with the tower in the background. What makes this a great place to shoot is the fact that there's a lot of little stalls and activity going on. This is perfect for shots of traditional Japanese chefs at work. There's a famous Shogi (Japanese board game) parlor in that area.
It's also a lot of fun to simply roam without any set place to go.
Another great are for images i Nipponbashi/Den Den town. But only when there is a festival going on. Every time I have been there, it's been deserted. But it comes alive when there's activity there.
Alternatively you can still go there for lots of juxtaposition shots because it's heavily decorated with anime. You can also find hopeful up and coming idols too. I made this portrait in Den Den town:
While Osaka castle lends itself more to travel photography, because there's lots of activity going on and the iconic castle can serve as a background, you can make some nice street photography there.
The city is pretty modern but if you want a taste of the older japan with those beautiful houses, head to the suburbs and you will find no buildings but houses filled with grace. There's not a lot of people so the best shots there will be urban landscapes.
Osaka street photography tips
Go to Shinsekai during the day
Unlike Dotonbori, Shinsekai is ok pretty much throughout the day. If you are planning your trip, plan to go there during the day time because there's a lot to shoot there even when it's not night. Of course when the night falls it comes alive but the day time shooting is still interesting.
Visit Dotonbori at night
Dotobori isn't that great during the day, so plan to go there during then night. You can read this article about night street photography, but let me warn you, you better have some good gear for this. Because while it's heavily illuminated, there's just some shots that my LX100 just couldn't handle because there wasn't a lot of light.
There's only the main areas in Dotonbori that are illuminated, if you look in the back, the light just isn't that great. I shot heavely at ISO 3200 and the results weren't that great. So bring in large sensor cameras and fast lenses for these.
Shoot RAW and embrace the colors
Certain colors come to mind when it comes to locations: I associate Hanoi for example with the color yellow. When it comes to Osaka, I see yellow/red. Mainly because of the light color I get from Dotonbori. The store signs and all just give the images hots a certain color I find only there. So shoot raw so that you can play around with them afterwards.
If you go in one of those heavily trafficked spaces, it's a great time to layer your images and have a dynamic photograph with foreground, midground and background. With the anount of people in certain places it's actually hard NOT to have your images layered, that's how many there are!
Japanese spend a lot of their lives in trains. Be very respectful and careful and you can make some pretty great images while going to an fro your destination.
There's also ways to incorporate the reflections:
Or you can shoot the trains from outside too:
If you go out of the city proper and head to the suburbs, you can find some pretty interesting images there too. There won't be any humans but the landscapes you can make there make up for it. Here are a few shots
There's great urban landscape images to be made during the day too:
There you have it. Hopefully these photographs will inspire you to create your own. My first time in Japan, I simply enjoyed it as-is, but the other times I went, I shot a video course, if you are interested in street photography, check it out.