eric kim london street photography black and white

In photography and life, when in doubt, GET CLOSER.

Why get closer?

London, 2015 #trix1600

For example, if you want to make better photos,

Get closer.

Get closer, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Amsterdam, 2015 #cindyproject

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

Group selfie: NYC Conquer Your Fear of Shooting Street Photography Workshop 2016

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.

Paris, 2015 #ricohgr

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.

NYC, 2016 #ricohgr

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.

NYC, 2016

I alternate between landscape, people, and shooting flowers.

Berkeley, 2015 #trix1600

I just try to do this in my photography:

Avoid boredom.

If you’re bored in your photography, it means you’re not growing.

NYC, 2016

And if your don’t growing, you’re creatively dying.

Integrate yourself into your photos.

NYC, 2016 #ricohgr

In street photography, get closer.

Put yourself in the action. Shoot in big crowds. Try to go to parades, or shoot in downtown areas.

NYC, 2016 #ricohgr

Swim with the fish. Integrate yourself with the crowd.

Use a wide angle lens (28-35mm) or your iPhone

NYC, 2016 #ricohgr

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.

NYC, 2016

I genuinely think that almost all photos can be improved if you just got physically closer to your subjects, without resorting to zooming.

Why?

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.

In-and-out, 2015. Shot on an LG G4, in zoom mode.

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.

Emotional closeness.

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.

NYC, 2016

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.

NYC, 2016 #cindyproject

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.

NYC, 2016

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.

Melbourne, 2013 #portra400

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.

LA, 2012 #portra400

As street photographers we are sociologists in the field– we are visual ethnographers.

Berkeley, 2016 #cindyproject

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.

Conclusion

To sum up, ask yourself:

Do I see myself in my own photos?

If yes, you’re on the right path.

BE STRONG,
ERIC


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