Taking photos that reach the heart

Tips for capturing nostalgia from photographer Hideaki Hamada.

The best photos, the ones that truly appeal to hearts and minds, have one very subtle (but difficult to master) quality – they seem so natural that there’s no hint there’s even a photographer behind the lens. Photographer Hideaki Hamada has this down to a fine art.

The allure of his photos of people and the expressions they wear lies in the feeling of nostalgia he envelops every frame with. To get an insight into his unique shooting and editing techniques, we spent a day out photographing with the man himself.

I think using fantasy-like tones in photos instead of realistic colours leaves room for the feelings of the viewer.

– Hideaki Hamada

“Even if you’ve never experienced what you see in my photos, you must have similar experiences and memories. That’s why people get a sense of nostalgia when looking at my photos.”

“I consider how I can express common memories in a picture,” Mr Hamada says. And when a scene in a photo overlaps with the emotions and memories buried deep in a person’s mind, that’s when it really connects with someone on a personal level.

“A sense of distance between me and the subject is important. Like this morning, I spent the first half of the day’s shoot talking with the model. I believe that taking pictures should be the result and not the goal.”

As we take photos using the Halide Camera app, which allows for manual shooting, Mr Hamada explains that the “colours” in his photos are themselves very emotive.

“I think that having slightly faded tones like you would in a fantasy scene, rather than more realistic colours, makes it easier for viewers to sympathise emotionally with a photo.”

“I’ve been using the VSCO app since it was released because it’s great at giving photos a film-like quality. Because I mainly shoot in RAW with both my iPhone and digital cameras, I often edit the resulting images using VSCO.”

So, what kind of editing does Mr Hamada do with VSCO?

VSCO enriches photos with a film-like quality.

“First, I start by reducing the highlights, bringing up the shadows or dialling in the exposure. Then I adjust the colour temperature; if it’s a little cold, I’ll add some warmth. Next, I choose a filter based on my mood at that moment.” He often uses filters like FP8, A6 and A8.

“I desaturate it a little or move the colour balance a bit closer to green. I sometimes use Fade. This can really give it a film-like quality.”

If it was possible, Mr Hamada would shoot everything on film. But the reality is that shooting with film has limitations in terms of the number of shots that can be taken and the ability to shoot in the dark. That’s why VSCO is his go-to editing app when it comes to creating the look he wants.

“Today, I used Halide Camera to take pictures. The iPhone is compact and mobile, so I can shoot from angles that I can’t with an SLR camera. If you press the shutter without determining the composition or timing, you sometimes have happy accidents. This is a characteristic of shooting with an iPhone.”

Mr Hamada hadn’t intended to be a professional photographer, but after getting lots of positive feedback on photos he posted online, he decided to make the leap. And what’s his tip for all budding photographers?

“I've been talking about colour expression and editing, but really, each person has their own preferences. You should find the colours that you like. If you enjoy doing something, even if it’s not your profession, keep doing it and listen to positive feedback. As a result, you may find a new you that you didn’t know existed.”

Apps used to take and edit the photos in this story:

    Halide Camera

    Premium RAW & Manual


    VSCO: Photo & Video Editor

    Where expression matters most


Interview story with Hideaki Hamada