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Portrait Of A Geisha

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Portrait of a Geisha shot in Kyoto, Japan

Portrait of a Geisha shot in Kyoto, Japan
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Behind The Lens


I took this photo in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is famous for its Geishas. Geishas are women trained to perform traditional Japanse arts such as singing and dancing for there customer. They are famous for their gorgeous makeup and kimonos.


It was around noon. Usually not the best time for a portrait session but Geishas are hard to spot so I had to make the best out of the situation!


I had to work with harsh noon sunlight. I just made sure the Geisha's face was evenly lit.


It was shot with a Canon 5D MII and a Zeiss APO Sonnar 135mm; No other equipment used.


I have been wandering around Kyoto for several hours to spot a Geisha. I had seen two Geishas the night before but was to slow to take any good pictures of them. I was lucky enough to get another chance the day after. Two geishas were hanging out in a parc. There were already a bunch of photographers around them. I simply asked them if I could take a picture, hit the shutter button a couple of time and that was it!


The Geisha's makeup was already almost perfect so I did not have to do a lot of advanced retouching. The zeiss 135mm is so sharp that it already highlights the details so no sharpening needed as well. I mainly darkened the background cropped the picture to put the focus on her face.

In my camera bag

I usually take my Canon 5DmII with along with 3 prime lens. One telephoto, one standard lens and a wide angle. I really like the Zeiss classic range. Espacially the 28mm, 50mm and 135mm. With these I can shoot pretty much anything. I also take with me a bunch of filter from Breakthrough filters. A polarizing filter and the 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters . These are great for landscape photography.


I had this portrait in mind before flying over to Japan. I had learned some Japanese so that I could talk with locals and ask them if I could take pictures of them. I had also read a few articles about geishas in Kyoto, where they usually hang out, how to approach them and whether it was ok or not to take pictures of them. So even if the encounter was brief, I was prepared to take this picture. Preparation is key, especially when going to a country like Japan. There are so many photography opportunities in such a country. You really have to know what you're looking for and how to shoot it in advance. Otherwise you'll miss the best shots.

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