In photography, I love to crush the blacks.

I. Don’t listen to Eric Kim

My friend Charlie Kirk hates crushing blacks (increasing the contrast and black slider in post processing, until there is no detail in the shadows). He says:

Don’t discriminate against the blacks!

For myself, I love crushing the blacks– maximum high-contrast black and white photographs.


II. 50 shades of black.

Aesthetically speaking, I love minimalism. Also, in life– I only see black and white. For me, I see no grey.

Philosophically, I see moral evil and moral good. I see reality like a dualist: right and wrong, good and bad, boring or entertaining.

That’s just me. Aesthetics is something personal.

For example, I always loved vanilla ice cream. I always hated chocolate ice cream.

So if I meet someone who likes chocolate ice cream, is that person an idiot? Of course not. Their taste is just different.

I personally hate HDR (high dynamic range) photographs. To me, aesthetically, it looks like clown vomit (as Kaiman Wong says). My mom also hates the look of HDR photos.

Tokyo, 2011

But, if someone likes to put sugar and cream in their coffee, I don’t mind. I prefer straight black, single origin espresso. But I’m not gonna be a coffee Nazi, and super-impose my coffee taste on others. Let everyone have coffee they want it.

III. Have it your way.

I am the Burger King of photography. I believe:

You can have it your way.

Post process your photos the way you like to spice your food. I prefer crushing my blacks, via my free Lightroom ERIC KIM presets. You might prefer a softer pastel aesthetic. Or you might like HDR. Just know what you like.

IV. Simplify.

Provincetown, 2015

I like to crush the blacks and add maximum high contrast black Nd white because it simplifies the photos.

When I shoot on the Ricoh GR, I keep the preview high contrast black and white. It helps me simplify reality.

Also, I think a good composition should be simple. The rule is:

Your photos should work as small thumbnails, to judge whether your compositions are simple and strong.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, as Leonardo da Vinci said. To make a simple photo is more difficult than making a complicated photo.

Amsterdam, 2015

For me, I try to subtract distractions from my photos. I generally start off by simplifying the background, by starting with a blank white or black wall (like Richard Avedon). Then I add my subject afterwards.

Tokyo, 2016

In street photography, making a simple street photo is very hard. Reality is messy, and distracting. What I’m trying to do in my photos is to distill reality. I’m trying to simplify reality.

My style is anti-Alex Webb, who tries to complexify reality. I’m more of a Josef Koudelka; seeking minimum distractions, but maximum emotions. Or like Henri Cartier-Bresson, simple forms and compositions. I also try to put soul and myself in my photos.

V. How to shoot black and white street photos.

Tokyo, 2016

If you want to make high contrast black and white street photos, I recommend shooting RAW + high contrast black and white JPEG. Often the JPEG images look good enough. Or just use the ERIC KIM MONOCHROME 1600 Lightroom preset on your RAW photo.

Or in post processing, drag the “contrast” and “black” slider to 100%.

Kyoto, 2016

Ultimately I see black and white photography like chess:

Easy to do, but takes a lifetime to master.

Be strong,

All black everything like the ERIC KIM STRAP.


Scroll to Top