How to Build Self-Confidence

Downtown LA, 2011

Dear friend,

I think street photography is 80% confidence, and 20% skills. Of course, confidence is also a skill– a skill you can build, develop, and mature.

I. Why be confident?

Okay, so the more I think about it…the more I am in the business of selling self-confidence. Self-empowerment.

To me, street photography is the best way to build self power, self esteem, and self confidence.

Downtown LA, 2016

First of all, why have self confidence? Many reasons:

  1. Confidence will give you the confidence to actually make a photo of something you want to, without hesitation or fear.
  2. Confidence will give you the strength and self-belief to actually share your work, and not fear judgement.
  3. Confidence will allow you to believe in yourself, and your uncompromising artistic vision.

Confidence is the blood of the artist. And yes, as a photographer you are an artist.

II. Confidence is a skill.

The reason why I teach workshops is because I want to teach this skill of confidence to others.

Downtown LA, 2016

I believe in a growth mentality, the idea that we can grow. My life philosophy:

There are no limits.

I want to conquer reality– conquer my own self-doubts, and even fight gravity. I want to become more powerful, to help more other people, and also for me to become a more fearless artist.

III. How to teach confidence

How do you teach confidence? Some ideas:

  1. “Exposure training therapy”: Have people actually do what they’re afraid of, and after they do it, they’re not that scared anymore. For example, giving a student the assignment to ask for permission to make a portrait of a stranger. Before doing it, the student is scared. After doing the assignment, the student is empowered and has less fear.
  2. Not fearing failure: Modern society has taught us to fear failure. I believe in the Silicon Valley mantra: “Fail forward.” That means, don’t fear failure. Rather, channel forward to drive yourself forward, to become stronger and more self-confident.
  3. Practice it everyday: If our muscles were no longer under the power of gravity, our bodies would wither and die. Astronauts in space lose a lot of strength and muscle mass. If we go a day without doing something that slightly scares us, we will lose our “mojo” or confidence. Confidence is a skill, like a muscle, which must be trained daily.

IV. How ERIC KIM practices daily confidence building.

So how does ERIC KIM do it? Some things I do in my daily routine:

  1. Say hello to everyone and ask them how they’re doing: I try to make as much small talk with everyone I meet. I ask them about their day, where they’re from, and their life dreams. This is why I like taking Uber and Taxis, I can make small talk with drivers. Often in a foreign language.
  2. I make photos of what scares me. If I see a stranger that scares me, I ask to make a portrait of them. It helps me build my confidence.
  3. Regret Minimization Framework: I don’t want to regret not making a photo. This can be called the “regret minimization framework” in photography: life a life without regrets. Live a life of a photographer without regrets. For example, if you were on your death bed at age 90– what would you regret not having done in life? You would probably regret not taking more risks– risks of travel, risks of job, risk of finding a life partner, or risk of publishing your controversial art, photos, or starting your own business.

V. Why street photography is the key to self-confidence

Of course this piece is just another advertisement for an ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE— to conquer your fears and meet new peers. To be honest, doing a workshop on how to conquer your fears in street photography– a good investment that will pay dividends for decades to come.

I have found having confidence in my street photography help me in so many practical ways in life:

  1. Having the confidence to raise my prices for my services– because I started to value my labor more (read the “My labor is not free” essay by Cindy Nguyen).
  2. Having the confidence to take risks with travel– not to just travel to Paris, but to go to Portugal, rent a car, and see the beautiful seashore — an epic adventure with family I highly recommend.
  3. Having the confidence to publish controversial ideas, even though I might be crucified on a digital social media cross.

VI. Confidence building exercises

Hollywood, 2011

What are some practical things I can do today to build confidence in street photography and life? Some ideas:

  1. Make a photo of a stranger without permission. After you make eye contact with them, walk up to them and then ask for permission to make more photos of them.
  2. Ask a bunch of stranger to make a portrait of them, and get 10 people to reject you and say “no.” Keep shooting and asking until you get 10 rejections.
  3. Prefocus your lens to .7 meters (3 feet), and only shoot at that distance for a month.

For more inspiration, invest in an ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE, or in STREET NOTES MOBILE EDITION. Also see more empowering tools in the HAPTIC INDUSTRIES SHOP.


Above all, know that you have the key to self confidence already — in your own palm. That golden key is hidden in your front shirt pocket, you just don’t know it. So friend, fly high– no limits.

Paris, 2015



Tokyo, 2012

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Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos
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