In photography and life, when in doubt, GET CLOSER.
Why get closer?
For example, if you want to make better photos,
Get closer, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Don’t use a zoom lens, and shoot from far away. Rather, use your “foot zoom” to get physically closer to your subjects. Get close enough that you can see the color of their eyes. Get close enough that you feel slightly uncomfortable.
Discomfort is often the best growth opportunities.
How to push yourself out of your comfort zone
As humans, we love the status quo. We love what is comfortable.
Humans have evolved to be lazy. We don’t like to expend energy. That is why if we were left to our own devices, we would just use Facebook, Netflix, smoke weed, and play video games all day.
But if you want to become a better, stronger, and more confident Photographer– you must push yourself.
For example, I am a big fan of deadlifts. To keep things fun and interesting, I try to add 2.5-5 pounds every week. Sometimes I increase my “one rep max”– sometimes I fail. But it is the challenge which drives me forward.
In photography, I don’t like to be bored. Whenever I feel like I’m becoming complacent with my photography, I try to experiment– and do different things.
I alternate between color and black and white. Between film and digital. Between portraits and candid photos. Between medium format and 35mm. Between phone photography and shooting on a larger sensor.
I alternate between landscape, people, and shooting flowers.
I just try to do this in my photography:
If you’re bored in your photography, it means you’re not growing.
And if your don’t growing, you’re creatively dying.
Integrate yourself into your photos.
In street photography, get closer.
Put yourself in the action. Shoot in big crowds. Try to go to parades, or shoot in downtown areas.
Swim with the fish. Integrate yourself with the crowd.
Use a wide angle lens (28-35mm) or your iPhone
I generally recommend mar photographers to shoot with a 35mm “full frame” equivalent lens. Or a 28mm lens– the default on an iPhone.
Why wide? It forces you to get physically close to your subjects.
I genuinely think that almost all photos can be improved if you just got physically closer to your subjects, without resorting to zooming.
If you get physically closer to your subjects with a wide angle lens, your photos feel more intimate. Your viewer feels like they’re with you– right next to you, physically, emotionally, and visually.
Generally, photos shot on a wide angle lens look more visually interesting than photos shot on a zoom or telephoto lens. Why? It has to do with perspective– getting physically close with a wide angle lens sucks the viewer into the image.
Of course, you can make good zoom or telephoto photos. But you want the effect to be dramatic– and you want to generally shoot from a very high perspective, looking down. I think Rene Burris famous rooftop photo in Brazil is the best example of making good photos with a zoom lens. Or compressing the scene intentionally, like Saul Leiter.
Most importantly, you want to get emotionally close with whatever you photograph.
You want to care what you photograph. You need to photograph what you feel emotional about.
For example my friend Xyza Cruz Bacani photographs people she feels an emotional connection with. She photographs as a tool of empathy and compassion. She shares her life with those she photographs, and also makes herself naked in front of them — emotionally.
It takes two to dance.
The reason why I generally like to interact with my subjects is that it give some a chance to exchange a dialogue with them.
I get to hear their life story. And they get to hear mine.
Also, I like to think of a portrait-making session as one of exchange. They play off my energy and vibes. I inject my soul into this photographic dance. Even when I see the final result in the photos, I can see the soul of ERIC KIM in the photos– I can see his friendliness, happiness, and smiles.
This ain’t a visual safari
The problem is that we still see photography like a hunter vs animal analogy.
We are the guys in the white clothes, sitting in a Jeep, sniping our animals with our cameras. It is very colonial.
Instead, we need to be active participants in what we photograph. We need to take more risk in our photography, by not treating our subjects as some weird exotic things.
As street photographers we are sociologists in the field– we are visual ethnographers.
It is impossible to make an “unbiased” or “objective” photo. Our images will always have traces of our souls in them– and that’s what makes our photos great.
To sum up, ask yourself:
Do I see myself in my own photos?
If yes, you’re on the right path.
If you’re new to photography, start here:
- Free Photography Bootcamp
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Photography
- 100 Photography Tips for Beginners
- A-Z: PHOTOGRAPHY DICTIONARY by ERIC KIM
- Why I Want to Be a Photography Newbie Forever
- PHOTOGRAPHY FLUX.
- 10 Creative Photography Assignments to Re-Inspire You
- 50 Photography Tips by ERIC KIM
The Fundamentals of Photography
- Keep or Ditch?
- What Makes a Good Photo?
- Why Photography?
- Everyone is a Photographer
- How to take better pictures
- How to take better selfies
- How to Paint With Light
- Why Bokeh is Overrated
Technical Photography Settings
Street Photography 101 »
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Street Photography
- 70 Street Photography Tips
- 15 Street Photography Techniques
Personal Photography »
Photography Entrepreneurship »
- How to Do What You Love for a Living
- Should I Follow My Passion For a Living?
- How to Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
Photography Equipment »
- What is the Perfect Camera For You?
- What to Consider When Buying a Camera
- More Megapixels, More Problems
How to Take Better Photos »
- How to Take Better Photos
- How to Capture Emotion in Your Photos
- How to Create a “Curiosity Gap” in Your Photos
Composition Lessons »
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
Photography Assignments »
- 40 Practical Photography Assignments
- 15 Street Photography Assignments
- 25 Photography New Year’s Resolutions
Contact Sheets »
- Street Photography Contact Sheets
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume II
- Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”
Editing (Image Selection) »
- Each Photo You Take is an “Attempt”
- How to Overcome Photographer’s Block
- Why Do You Need “Inspiration” to Shoot?
- Grain is Beautiful
- Are Filters “Cheating” in Photography?
- Video: Introduction to Editing, Processing, and Workflow in Lightroom