Photo by Cindy

How to take better selfies:

I feel the best photo you can shoot is a selfie. Why? Because, you can do it whenever, you don’t have to depend on anyone else, and it is a chance for you to explore your inner soul.

1. Why shoot a selfie?

In Vietnamese, to take a selfie means to masturbate.

Most people who are shooting selfies are masturbating.

Selfies are about making yourself feel good. For being in Mexico with a Corona on the beach, sipping a glass of wine in Paris, or enjoying a falafel in Istanbul.

Many of us shoot selfies to show off. We want to build our status image of ourselves. We want others to show that we are living an amazing life, because deep inside, we feel empty and lost in life.

Real rich people don’t wear Louis Vuitton or branded goods. Real rich people wear brandless clothes. A real rich person would wear a $500 Hermes (non branded) sweater. A real rich person don’t feel the need to show off their wealth. They actually prefer privacy.

A really good photographer doesn’t need to show off their camera. A real photographer will not buy a digital Leica. Real Magnum photographers shoot with Canon 5D cameras, or Olympus OM-D cameras. Steve McCurry shoots with a standard zoom lens on the Nikon. Josef Koudelka shot his Gypsies project on a cheap film SLR camera, and a generic 25mm lens.

I frankly think all photographers would benefit if they just shot with their smartphones, or with a Ricoh GR digital camera.

2. Shoot a topless selfie

Many of us are uncomfortable being photographed, beaches we hate the way we look. We are insecure about our bodies. We are insecure that we have a double chin, we have extra fat on our stomach, or the fact that our face is not symmetrical.

To make a more artistic selfie, revel in your imperfections. Shoot a selfie of yourself in the bathroom mirror without your shirt on. Don’t share the photo with anyone.

Look at that photo of yourself topless. How does it make you feel? If you hate the way you look topless, ask yourself,

“Why do I hate the way I look topless, as a selfie, if nobody else will see this photo?”

3. Don’t use the front facing camera

If you want to make more creative selfies, don’t use the front facing camera.

Rather, shoot with the forward facing camera.

Shoot selfies of yourself in the mirror, of yourself in a puddle, your shadow, or just your shoes.

You can make a selfie by photographing your wrist, and your watch. Think of the famous Josef Koudelka photograph of the empty streets of Prague during the invasion.

4. Shoot a selfie on film

Use a film camera, any film camera, a film SLR, a disposable camera, or whatever film camera you have available. Photograph yourself as a selfie, by putting your camera on a tripod, or photograph yourself in a reflection.

The reason why you want to shoot a selfie with film is that it costs you something. You have “skin in the game” as Nassim Taleb says. That means, you won’t take a dumb selfie of yourself in the toilet– because the selfie costs money.

To learn more about shooting film, pick up a copy of FILM NOTES.

5. Imagine photographing your own funeral

Me and my mom

I photographed the funeral of my grandfather. It made me realize how fleeting life is.

I photograph myself like I’m dead. Cindy photographed me in the bathtub, with my eyes closed, like I were in a casket. To me, I look at that photo of myself, and remember to myself:

Memento Mori. Eric you will die. You must die. Never waste a single hour of your life. Focus on empowering others.

I photographed my mom sleeping in bed, and I know one day I will photograph the same image of her in her casket.

So friend, shoot selfies like today were your last day on earth. How would you photograph that selfie, and how would you not photograph that selfie?

Conclusion

eric kim portrait by cindy

Make artistic selfies, by making it personal. Make your selfies as a chance for examining yourself. Examining your conception of your body image, of your mortality and life, and whether you respect yourself.

Top photo: My mom at the plot of land of her old childhood home in Busan (no longer exists). Below photo, revisited a few years later with Cindy.

The ancient Greeks said that wisdom was:

Know thyself.

I say,

Honor thy-selfie.

Be strong,
Eric