How to Become a Fearless Photographer

Dear friend,

I want to share with you why I am a fearless photographer, and perhaps give you some tips, insights, and advice on how to become more fearless yourself.

So first of all, here are some tips:

1. Don’t hesitate

The biggest problem we have in photography: we hesitate before making a photo. We hesitate because we are afraid, because we take too much time compose, or we fear what others will think of us.

My suggestion:

Shoot before thinking.

The more you think before you shoot, the more you will fall victim to “paralysis by analysis”– thinking too much before shooting.

Sydney, 2016 #suits

I’ll tell you what I do. I use a Ricoh GR II digital camera, set it in P (program) mode, auto high ISO, center point autofocus. When I see something that interests me, I just “point and shoot”.

To me, point and shoot cameras or iPhones or smartphones with cameras in general are the best cameras.

What I think prevents us from being better photographers: we get too caught up with superfluous details, or technical settings that distract us.

For me, I write a lot. I like using minimalist writing apps like IA Writer or Ulysses. Less distractions on formatting, more focus on writing.

Same goes for photography. Fewer options, less concern with technical settings means more shooting. And the only way to make better photos: shoot more.

Assignment: “Set it and forget it!”

I still remember the great American rotisserie chicken maker commercial. You just took a whole chicken, stuck it in the machine and pushed a single button. You just set it and…


Do the same with your camera. Just use the default camera app on your phone, or set your digital camera to P mode, auto high ISO, center point autofocus, and just shoot. Shoot jpeg+ RAW, and focus more on capturing personally meaningful decisive moments, rather than distracting yourself with what aperture, or shutter speed to use.

Let the camera think for your technical settings. You think about composition, framing, and shooting with your soul.

2. Smile

I shoot street photography close, with a 28mm. I have no more fear. I don’t hesitate, I just shoot.

A thing I like to to: when I shoot (without permission), I smile, and make eye contact, and often laugh. I also show my subjects the photos I shot of them on my LCD screen. I don’t shoot like a creep, using a long telephoto or zoom lens from behind some bushes, like some DSLR users with long lenses. Remember the saying:

Creepiness is proportional to focal length.

Meaning, the longer your lens, the creepier you’re gonna look.

Assignment: ditch the zoom

Lansing, 2013

Shoot only with a wide lens with no zoom (prime) lens. I recommend a 28mm or 35mm lens. 28mm if you use a phone or a point and shoot compact camera with an LCD screen. 35mm if you use a viewfinder.

Stick with “one camera, one lens” for a year. And when in doubt, get closer to your subjects by using “foot zoom”.

3. Ask for permission

eric kim street photography downtown la
Photo by Rinzi Ruiz

If you’re scared to photograph someone, just ask for permission. It is better to ask for permission and get rejected than to not even ask at all.

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

If I see someone with a face tattoo or someone who scares me, I will generally ask for permission. I will ask them:

Excuse me sir, you look badass. Do you mind if I made a few portraits of you?

Most people say yes.

Assignment: Only photograph people who scare you.

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

A good assignment from STREET NOTES: only photograph “scary” looking people for a week. You’re only allowed to shoot people you’re afraid of. This will put some steel in your huevos.

eric kim street photography - color - chroma-3
Shot on film Leica MP / 35mm f/2 lens / flash / Kodak Portra 400

If you like asking for permission, shoot more STREET PORTRAITS.



eric kim street photography - Only in America-14 - san diego
San Diego, 2013

To gain more confidence, attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP, or read STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 101.

Above all, have confidence in yourself. You got this.



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Tokyo, 2012

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Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos
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