leaf eric kim black and white hanoi

Dear friend,

I’m the first to admit that in the past, I gave far too many fudge ice cream cones what others thought of me, my photography, and my art.

1. Why do we care so much?

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First of all, why do we care so much of what others think of us?

As human beings, we all have a desire to be loved. To be appreciated.

In the past, if we were social outcasts, we could have been kicked out of the group. We could have starved to death, or got killed. Fortunately in today’s world, that isn’t the case.

Yet this unnatural fear of social ridicule, stigma, and disdain still makes us a slave. We are a slave to the opinions of others. We care more about what others think about us; rather than what we think about ourselves.

2. Why do we care about what others think about our photography?

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To continue, why do we care what others think of our photography?

Most of us make photos because it is our passion. Because we love it. The word ‘amateur’ means Latin for ‘amator’ (someone who does something for the love of it; or amor. To be an amateur just means you aren’t getting paid. It doesn’t mean you are bad at it.

I blame social media as making us more self-conscious about our photography. Whereas in the past photography used to be a vehicle for self-expression and art, now it is a spectator sport. It is all about getting those likes, more followers, and hashtagging the fudge out of your photos.

3. Why I make photos

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I personally started photography as a means of creative self-expression. I found photography easier than painting or drawing. I loved to create my own reality through my images. I had fun post-processing my photos into black and white, to make my photos feel more artistic— for myself.

In the early days when I started to make photos (2006) there really wasn’t ‘social media.’ Therefore, I only shared my photos with a few people online, or a few friends. Mostly, photography was self-pursuit. I strove to make better photos for myself. I tried to improve my composition with the rule of thirds, I tried to learn about lighting, and experimented with framing, using macro mode, and the flash.

But when social media started to develop in full bloom, it became a numbers game. I wanted more people to see my photos. Because of this self-absorbed ego — I thought that I had beautiful images, that ‘deserved’ to have a wider audience.

4. More followers, more problems

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Over the years, the more followers, the more ‘responsibility’ and the more pressure. You want to keep making better photos to please your followers. You need more likes. When is enough likes enough? Just like asking, ‘When is enough money enough?’ Never.

5. Ignorance is bliss

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I’ve been intentionally not checking my social media following numbers or likes. Why? Numbers stir me emotionally. If today I get fewer likes than I did yesterday, I feel disappointed. It is like checking your stocks everyday. The days your stocks go up, you feel elated. The days it goes down, you feel like shit.

So I still think it is a good idea to share your photos on social media, but just don’t check your numbers. You can do this many different ways. Upload your photos directly from Lightroom or some other third-party software, so you force yourself not to look at your follower count, or your like count.

6. Why do you make photos?

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Another thing to ask yourself:

Why do I make photos?

Emphasis on ‘why.’

Why do you make photos? Do you make photos to get more likes and followers? Or do you make photos to uplift your spirit and soul? To connect you closer with your fellow human beings? To find more beauty and appreciation in everyday life?

7. Take a break from social media

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If you were like me (addicted to the social media rat-race), take a break from social media. Stop uploading your photos for a day, a week, a month, or even a year. Don’t stop forever— just take a break. See if you can still be a happy photographer without constantly sharing your photos online.

Make photos that please yourself.

Still share your photos with others, but do it in-person. Or email them directly to your friends who you care about. Or share them with fellow photographers whose opinion matter to you. Instant-message your photos directly to those few individuals (3 photographers or less).

Ultimately, always ask yourself:

What do I think of my own photos?

8. Think of being a kid again

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When kids make photos, do they care about uploading it immediately to Instagram or Facebook to get a bunch of likes, or to see what others think of their photos? No. They smile, laugh, make photos, and move on.

They photograph like playing. They do it for the sake of it.

I feel we should do the same. Make photos for the sake of making photos. The ultimate aim of photography is to have the privilege to make photos, not to gain a lot of critical acclaim for our photos.

I believe as Picasso said— we are all born artists. Every child is an artist. The problem is— how do we stay artists as we grow older?

Be like Benjamin Button — age in reverse. The older you get, become more child-like. More pure. Fewer restraints. More creativity.

9. Tips to care less about what others think

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To sum up, here are 3 tips you can apply today:

  1. When you upload your photos, expect to get 0 likes or 0 new followers or 0 comments: This way, if you get no feedback you aren’t disappointed. If you get anything above 0, you feel good.
  2. Spend a week not uploading any photos to social media: Then you can start asking yourself, ‘Why do I make photos?’
  3. Think of yourself like a kid: How does a child photograph, and do they care about what others think of their art?

Unleash your inner-artist, and don’t give a flying fudge what others think of your photography, work, life, or art.

Always,
Eric


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