Group shot with 60 people on Shibuya Crossing

Sh*t you do on Shibuya Crossing: the 60-person group shot for a global ad agency

I’ve done a few things on Shibuya’s fabled ‘Scramble-Cross’, including walk across it. Last February I was commissioned by ad agency Ogilvy & Mather to shoot a group photo of all 60 of their global art directors.

…in less than ten minutes.

At night.

So, no pressure then…..

One does not approach a shot like this without a bit of research. I’ve been to Shibuya Crossing before, of course, but despite all the pictures I have shot there [portraits, fashion, a lady jumping in the air in kimono, a 10-tonne truck to name a few], I had never stood there and imagined shooting a group portrait of 60 people.

So I went down there one night and did.

When I found out that the only time window for the shot was between 6pm and 7pm on a Friday night [probably the busiest time there is], I bought two cans of chu-hi [a refreshing Japanese alco-pop] and went back to the crossing again, stood, looked, imagined, drank and then imagined some more.

I had one meeting with Ogilvy & Mather at their offices in Ebisu. It’s a big and impressive office. I was slightly intimidated but you just gotta get on and own the room without coming across as an arrogant twat.

I’d been suggested to Ogilvy by a event-planning agency in Tokyo I’d worked for quite a few times before. They arranged the meeting with O&M’s Tokyo bureau. In that meeting was the Tokyo boss, his lead Art Director and one or two other big cheeses from the agency.

“Do you have a white-board? I need to draw something,” I said.

The boss pointed at the 15metre wall behind me: the whole thing was a white board.


“Let’s see if I can use it all,” I said.

I had a pretty good idea of where I was going to shoot the picture from. Camera position wasn’t really the point of my diagram. I wanted to help everyone understand the issues, the space, the flow of people, the location of various things like lamp-posts, traffic lights, the police.

We chatted, I discussed the approach for lighting and the camera I’d use. They said they wanted to print the shot very large or at least have the option to do so.

Next thing was a third recce with Derek Makishima, one of my fellow Hasselblad Ambassadors last year and who I’d have as my Second-in-Command on the night of the shoot.

After that, Derek and I found an empty space that was about as large as Shibuya Crossing [a huge area of tarmac in front of the old Olympic stadium in Harajuku] to run a lighting test with a couple of Profoto D1 lights plugged into battery packs. I wasn’t going to be able to get the cordless B1 lights for the shoot and the D1 are 1000W, which was what I needed for power.

We set out some bags and coats to mark off and simulate a crowd of people three or four deep and about 15 or 20 people across.

We shot with the 35mm lens on the Hasselblad H5D-50c and the H4D-40, just to test the CMOS and CCD chips side by side.

A week later was shoot-night.

In between we did a test shoot on the crossing, with some mates and a few folk from the agency. Ajab, the art director, and his boss signed off on the general plan and we were a ‘go’ for the real thing.

Three pals [Nephi, Ben and John] came to help on the night of the actual shoot, to hold lights: we had three Profoto D1 lights: two for the front of the crowd, one as backlight.

On the night everyone turned up about an hour after we arrived. I was freezing by that stage. But adrenaline has some wonderful properties… and I didn’t care about the cold. 

The biggest ‘blip’ in the plan was the one person who wasn’t part of my team; the lady who was bringing the ladder from their office. She got stuck in traffic and was 15mins late. That pushed my blood-pressure up to the max.

In the end we had three goes at the shot.

I needed to be as close to the road as possible which, stood on top of a 7ft ladder is kind of tough when you have a wall of a thousand people bearing down on you from behind to cross the road.

Putting the ladder against the post that holds the traffic-light was the obvious answer. People can’t walk through that.

We shot two angles.

Everyone really got into the spirit of it.

One light didn’t go off when it needed to.

We pretty much had the shot anyway.

You can’t keep 60 art directors waiting for long. [the whole thing had to take less than ten minutes, that was part of the original brief]

I checked the screen of the camera, zoomed-in to 100%, everything was sharp.

It was a wrap.

After the group shot, I stayed there for a few minutes to shoot a vertical panorama of the whole square.

The processing was fairly easy but it ended up being a very big file, so when that happens even simple processing takes a long time to render.

I provided the client with the group shot on its own and with the group shot worked into the panorama. There was no way the group was going to stitch seamlessly into the landscape so I got a little ‘arty’ with it.

What you see below are:

  • the finished panoramic version [click and you’ll get a 2000pixel wide version]. The final file was 30,000pixels across and a 3.06GB .PSB [Photoshop large format file].
  • a small section of the photo at 100% so you can see how sharp the faces were [which is of Ajab, the Art Director of the Tokyo office of O&M and a lovely guy]
  • I haven’t posted the individual section of group shot as you get the idea what that was like from the crop in the centre of the montage.




One hell of an experience.

A great team of people [Derek, Ben, Nephi, John, Ken]

A very happy customer.

One more odd picture request on Shibuya Crossing chalked-up.

Happy, happy.


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