Tokyo High School Photography Workshop

Tokyo is hurtling into the future at a rapid pace. This is a city where the cutting edge is boldly displayed in eccentric fashion, pop- culture icons, and avant-garde architecture. Learn how to capture the city’s creativity— and the enduring symbols of centuries-old Japanese culture—during hands-on classes led by our photo instructors and a National Geographic photographer. Then hit the streets to photograph the color and motion on camera in Tokyo and in the traditional city of Kyoto.

July 20 – July 31, 2019
Airfaire is not included. We have arranged a round- trip group flight between Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Trip Highlights

  • Use your camera to capture the essence of Tokyo, where remnants of traditional Japan fuse with futuristic influences.
  • Hone your photography skills and develop artistic vision with help from a National Geographic photographer.
  • Journey by train to the gorgeous city of Kyoto to capture a very different side of Japan.
  • Display your top images at a pop-up gallery opening in downtown Tokyo.


Delve into the art and technique of photography, working in small groups with our photo instructors and a National Geographic photographer. Spend time in our classroom, then try out your skills in Tokyo's unique neighborhoods—from the bustling Ginza district to the funky fashion mecca of Harajuku.

Document the action at the Toyosu fish market, photographing colorful food stalls. Zoom in on flower blooms and teahouses in the serene Shinjuku Gyoen garden.Then try your hand at taiko drumming, and learn how to capture the nonstop motion of a professional taiko troupe. On day trips outside the city, practice landscape photography in the stunning Japanese countryside and soak in a traditional onsen, or hot spring.

Take a three-day excursion to Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. With its many Buddhist temples and shrines, pristine gardens, and traditional wooden houses, Kyoto offers a stark contrast to the ultra- modern energy of Tokyo. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony, learn about geisha culture in the Gion district, and hike along bamboo- shaded paths.

In the evenings, review the day's images, work on editing your photos for the final gallery show, and attend talks led by our National Geographic photographer. Then head out to photograph Tokyo at night. Try out slow shutter speeds on the crowds passing under the futuristic neon lights at Shibuya crossing, and seek out signs of anime and manga adorning the surrounding buildings.

Throughout the workshop, organize and curate an exhibition of large-format prints of the group's best work. During the pop-up gallery opening, celebrate the work you’ve accomplished during your time in Japan.

Our photo workshops are for students in grades 9-12. Students learn important photography lessons in the classroom and apply them in some of the world’s most photogenic places. Then, together with their fellow travelers, they work to organize, curate, and install a pop-up gallery show featuring each student’s original images. Students shoot alongside a team of highly-qualified photography instructors—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic photographer also joins the entire program, inspiring students with their work, and helping students build their own skills. Photo Workshops generally have 25-30 participants, and the student-to-photo-instructor ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
We stay in a centrally located, small hotels. Classrooms are equipped with digital projectors so we can share and critique our work.

James Whitlow Delano, Photographer

Meet Our Expert

Documentary storyteller, James Whitlow Delano has made Tokyo his home for over two decades while pursuing his passion for the environment, human rights and indigenous cultures. Since 2011, he has documented the aftermath of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, resulting in his fourth book, “Black Tsunami: Japan 2011.” His photography series documenting the 1.5 million sacks of radioactive soil in Fukushima Prefecture on the fifth anniversary of the disaster, was featured by National Geographic. Recently, his work for National Geographic has shifted to the US/Mexico border where he has been documenting the border wall and fence in panoramas, as well as families whose houses rest up against the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2015, James founded the @EverydayClimateChange Instagram feed, where photographers document global climate change on all seven continents. The project has been exhibited around the world. James is a grantee at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, and his award-winning work has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Time, The New Yorker, and Foreign Policy. James will join for the entire workshop.

Sample Daily Schedule

This sample daily schedule will give you a sense of a typical day on our Photography Workshop. Our schedule will also remain flexible throughout the program so that we can take advantage of photographic opportunities as they arise.

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM — Breakfast: Eat breakfast together with your group at our accommodations.

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM — Photo Review and Selection: Trip Leaders and the National Geographic photographer work with each student to select the best photos from the previous day’s shoot.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM — Group Critique: Trip Leaders and the National Geographic photographer lead a group critique and discussion of each student’s top images.

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM — Lunch and Free Time: Eat lunch together as a group and then take some time to relax before heading out on your afternoon assignments.

2:00 PM – 6:00 PM — Assignment Work in the Field: Break into smaller teams shooting in and around Tokyo. Head up Tokyo Skytree for a spectacular skyline view, visit one of Tokyo’s many museums, and practice motion photography at a taiko drum lesson.

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM — Dinner and Evening Meeting: Eat dinner together as a group and gather for a group meeting to discuss the day’s highs and lows and learn about the next day’s activities.

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM — Evening Activity: Head out on the town together for an evening show or attend a talk by your National Geographic photographer.