How to Take More Risks in Your Photography

Dear friend,

A practical piece of advice I’ll give you in photography is this: don’t be too cautious:

1. More risks, more reward

Henri Cartier-Bresson Contact Sheet

If you are too cautious with your photography; you will never take any risk; and you will never take any great photos.

Each time you hit the shutter, you are taking a small risk.

robert frank elevator girl contact
Robert Frank Elevator Girl Contact Sheet

But there is no downside of taking a risk in photography. The only downside is that you make a boring photo.

But the more boring photos you shoot, the more likely you are to get a good one.

2. Shoot more shitty photos

Tokyo, 2017

Probably the best advice I got about photography was from Trent Parke: “Shoot a lot of shit, and you’re bound to get a few good ones.”

I don’t think Parke meant to literally only take shitty photos. Rather, his encouragement was this: don’t be afraid of taking what you perceive to be shitty photos. Rather, just shoot a lot of photos, and take a lot of risks, in order for you to take a few photos you’re happy with.

3. Your first million photos are your worst

Sydney, 2016 #suits
Sydney, 2016 #suits

In writing, one of the best motivators is to just write the ‘first shitty draft.’

For me, I never see any blog post as good. I just write as much as I can, to keep the ball rolling, and to keep the momentum going. Out of all the 2,000+ blog posts I’ve written, I probably only have 10 or so I really like. But I’m glad — if I didn’t write so much, I wouldn’t have even made those 10 good posts.

The same in photography; even Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” In today’s digital age, I think: “Your first million photos are your worst.”

4. Shoot from your gut

eric kim street photography

When I teach street photography workshops, one of the biggest mistakes I see street photographers make is this: they take too much time composing, framing, and getting ready to hit the shutter. This causes them to miss the ‘decisive moment.’

NYC eric kim street portrait

What I encourage is this: when you first see an interesting street scene, simply react, by taking a photo. Then learn how to ‘work the scene’ by shooting the photo from many different angles. Generally, it is good to take a few steps closer while you’re shooting. Because most of us in street photography tend to be too far away from our subject when we’re shooting.

Don’t have too much caution when shooting street photography. Only use caution when you’re sitting on your computer when you go home, when you’re looking through your photos, and choosing your best photo.

As Anders Petersen says, “Shoot with your gut, and edit with your brain.”

5. When in doubt, click

Tokyo, 2016

I think the sum of this advice can be this:

“When in doubt, click.”


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