Downtown LA, 2011 / Photo by Rinzi Ruiz
Downtown LA, 2011 / Photo by Rinzi Ruiz

The braver you are, the better photographer you will be.

In street photography, the most difficult thing is to overcome your fears of photographing strangers. There is nothing more anxiety-ridden than photographing a stranger without their permission, and taking the risk of having them become angry at you.

At the same time, the more risks you take in street photography — the more likely you are to make a great photograph. And the more risky and difficult photos you take, the more likely you are to get a unique, powerful, and compelling image.

Follow your fears

Downtown LA, 2011 by eric kim street photography
Downtown LA, 2011

For me, I have a personal rule: if I see something that scares me, I need to photograph it.

Why? Because if I see something that scares me — it is my brain telling me, “Eric, you know you really want to take a photograph of that person or scene. But the only reason you feel fear is because you’re unsure how that person will react.”

And the truth is often the scariest people are often the friendliest people. We just make the wrong judgement on others; and think because they “look” scary — that they are actually scary. I have friends who are covered in tattoos and piercings who look “scary” (by contemporary standards), yet are the sweetest people.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

So for me, one of the biggest benefits of street photography is learning how to unjudge people, and to unlearn stereotyping people.

Assume everyone is your friend. Then your body language will be more friendly. And people will trust you more, and feel less awkward around you.

Learn to love risk

Take risks. If you see a scene that scares you, take a risk and photograph it. Because the more risks you take in your photography and life, the more likely you are to achieve great things.

Photography favors the brave. The braver we are in photography, the more likely we are to make a great photograph. And the braver we are in photography, the less regrets we will have. And the less regrets we have in life, the more potential we will achieve in our lives.

To wrap up, photograph what scares you. Build your personal confidence, and don’t be afraid of rejection or pissing people off. Continue to work on growing a thicker skin, and you will become indestructible on the streets.

Be strong,
Eric

Learn more: Conquer Your Fears >