Shooting the Scramble

By David
Posted: Updated:

This article has been previously published on

Memorial to a loyal dog and a beloved setting for any film shot in Tokyo. You may know it as Shibuya Crossing but the locals call it ザ・スクランブル The Scramble.

Finding yourself here for the first time can evoke a few emotions, and whether you are in awe or in meh, you probably want to get a photo. You might even want to do a handstand. However you go about it, I have just a few tips and pointers that might help you to get an Instagram-worthy photo.

First of all, you may not know what to expect, so give yourself some time to get your bearings and check out the crossing from various view points. If you researched ahead of time and have an image of what you want to capture then you’re ahead of the curve.


Near Shibuya Station is where most people get their first glimpse of The Scramble.

Do you want to get a night shot or a day shot? I arrived at 5:30 pm in order to get some golden lighting and planned to stay for a few hours to get night shots as well. The lighting can cause some challenges because the buildings create a lot of shadows. If you want to avoid this, then go once the sun has begun to set, early in the morning or on an overcast day. Personally, I liked the contrasts and effects the lighting provided.

Of course you have to experience The Scramble for yourself. There is enough time to get a shot or two in the crossing but just pay attention to the crossing signals and remember there are a lot of people just trying to go about their normal business.

Most people are just going about their normal business.

Most people are just going about their normal business.

Next, I headed over to a spot I have used before located on the second and third floors of the walk-way connecting Shibuya Station to Shibuya Mark City. This can provide an interesting vantage point of the crossing.

If you want to get the “classic” shot, then head over to Starbucks and grab yourself something to drink or eat. Be prepared to wait—a lot of folks are thinking the same thing. Although I like the vantage point to take in all the activity and people-watch, it is not the ideal place to take photos, especially at night. You are fighting both the tinted windows and the reflections from the inside lighting.

I was able to use the table to prop up my camera and get some long exposures. I normally wouldn’t recommend long exposures of people but it can work if you have some people that are stationary creating an interesting contrast

Using long exposure to catch the traffic going through the crossing was a bit hit or miss since the tint on the windows interfered a bit. I did catch a large mobile billboard passing through.

After spending my time enjoying a Strawberry Frap it was time to head home. This is also a good time to get some last minute shots as the city transforms into a glowing metropolis. There was a time when you could get a view from the 25th floor of Excel Hotel Tokyu (Shibuya Marc City), but that has become a guest-only option. When shooting indoors, try using a polarizing filter if you have one. I didn’t and you can see the reflections from the inside lighting.

The timeless taxi design.

The timeless taxi design.

In summary, if you are using a digital camera then don’t worry and take a lot of photos and keep your eyes open for interesting things (cars, people, buildings). Also, there are a lot of interesting areas in Shibuya if you are willing to do a bit of exploring. If you want to see the crossing at it’s craziest, I recommend visiting during the unsanctioned Halloween party.

I used a Canon 6D with a Canon 24-70 f2.8 II processed in Lightroom. If you have some photos you want to share, just tag them with #nihonjam or @nihonjam.

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