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Photo Series-Ninjas

Updated on August 2, 2014
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

"A ninja or shinobi was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan who specialized in unorthodox warfare. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and assassination, and open combat in certain situations. Their covert methods of waging war contrasted the ninja with the samurai, who observed strict rules about honor and combat. The shinobi proper, a specially trained group of spies and mercenaries, appeared in the Sengoku or "warring states" period, in the 15th century, but antecedents may have existed in the 14th century, and possibly even in the 12th century (Heian or early Kamakura era)."Wikipedia.

OK, now you officially know what a ninja is or at least supposed to be. Ninjas have been a popular costume tradition not only for Halloween for probably for many other times when a costume was warranted.

There is something about their mysterious nature and all of the drama surrounding this Japanese mystic figure that it's no wonder many photographer have done a photographic shoot around them and they have been figured in many commercial applications.

If you think about it all that you really need so far as models is a male figure and a ninja costume and a Japanese samurai blade or better known in the ninja's circles as a Ninjato.

However, you should add some dramatic effects when you do the project. A photograph of a man in a ninja costume is good but by itself it leaves much to be desired. Try posing your model against a dark backdrop and only Illuminate the subject unless there are some interesting elements within the scene.

You can also pose your subject in dark alleys, in gardens and even on a roof top, always during the night time hours, remember that ninjas are stealthy and move as if they were invisible plus they seldom performed any function in the daytime. Keep in mind that the ninjas are originally from Japan, so if any architecture is to be present it helps if it resembles that which is found typically on a Japanese city or town.

A good source for architectural pieces would be most Japanese gardens but you will probably need especial permission to do the shoot at night.

This is probably better served by adding a digital background featuring some Japanese scenery and it should always be done during the night as this is what ninjas typically are thought to do.


Try to take individual shots, pairs and add some females ninjas as well, not traditional but accepted. The best method is to do the shoot in a studio because you are better able to control the lighting.

Here you can add some smoke effects which always seem to add an air of suspense and mystery. If using smoke set it up behind the model and use a snoot to illuminate it. You may even use a colored gel on the light source to give the smoke some color.

If using props, and this is not crucial but will help quite a bit, then try to get props that appear as real as possible. There are many prop stores that will rent you real looking swords and other props at modest prices. Do not limit yourself to only using a ninja costume and a sword.

Head gear, gloves, boots and ribbons are always useful things to have. Try taking the photographs with and without them to judge where you get the better effects.

There are other creative items which you can add to give the set up some "hump" but do not over do it. Look at some comic books and video games as they can be a good source of inspiration and ideas. Keep it simple and add props only to the point where they complement the set-up not to the point that they become a distraction to it.

Some very useful props are flags or banners made from cloth that feature Japanese writing on them. If you get to use some remember not to be lazy about it and get some that feature appropriate wording.

It can be embarrassing even insulting to use a flag or banner with writing that makes no sense or in any way has anything to do with Japan, especially if your images are seen by anyone who happens to read Japanese.

Be creative but keep things in perspective. In other words maintain the elements that are typically associated with the ninja lifestyle; simple, stealthy and mysterious.

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez


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