Shoji Ueda was born in 1913, in Sakai-machi, Saihaku-gun (now Sakaiminato) in Tottori Prefecture.
In 1925, he entered the Yonago prefectural junior high school, where, during his third year, he immersed himself in photography. After graduating in 1931, he joined the Yonago Photography Circle. In 1932, he moved to Tokyo to attend the Oriental School of Photography. After graduating at the age of 19, he returned to his hometown and opened his own photo studio. In the same year he joined the Japan Photography Association (Nihon Kouga Kyoukai). Since around this time, he began to establish reputation as his photographs were repeatedly selected for publication in photography magazines and displayed in exhibitions. In 1937, he became one of the founders of the Chugoku Photographers Group (Chugoku Shashinka Shuudan) and frequently presented his work in the group's exhibitions in Tokyo. His works such as "Four Girls Poses," which featured group of posing people, drew wide attention.
In 1947, Ueda became a member of Ginryusha, a group of professional and amateur photographers established in postwar Tokyo. In 1949, Series My Family appeared in the magazine, the first of widely acclaimed works featuring Tottori's beaches and sand dunes. In 1954, he won the Nika Prize, and in 1958 his works were selected by Edward Steichen for exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 1971 saw the publication of Children the Year Around, and in 1974, Series A piece of life began to appear regularly in "Camera Mainichi" magazine, which after all continued for 12-years. In 1978 and 1987, Ueda was invited to participate in the Arles Photo Festival in France. 1980 saw the opening of his My View exhibition in Tokyo, and in 1982 his work was selected for display at Germany's Photokina Exhibition. From 1975 to 1994, Ueda taught at Kyushu Industrial University. 1993 saw a major solo exhibition in Tokyo and other exhibitions both inside and outside Japan.
In 1995, Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography was founded in Kishimoto-cho (now Houki-cho). In 1996, he was awarded a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the goverment of France. In 1998, he received the first Tottori Prefecture Prefectural Citizen Achievement Award.
Shoji Ueda died on July 4, 2000.