Suit without eyes. Surreal.


For this chapter in STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MANUAL let’s continue our exploration into street photography via risk taking.

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So I think street photography is the best way to build your confidence in real life. Street photography is only fun because it is scary and risky.

Think about it, any video game that is too easy is not fun.

Let me tell you a story: when I was a kid, I only had fun playing Time Crisis (arcade shooting game) because I had “skin in the game”– I paid $1 as a 12 year old (a lot of money for a kid) for only 3 lives. I focused like my life depended on it. I wanted to go as far as I could with just one buck.

Another time, I was able to play Time Crisis with unlimited lives. It was no longer fun. I was like God, dying had no consequences.

Which made me realize at age 12:

Unlimited lives makes things boring.

For example, my real human life is only fun because I have the risk of death, and also I know one day I will die. Even if I were given a magical pill to live forever, I would resolutely say “no”.

Street photography is fun because it is scary. I personally get an adrenaline rush whenever I shoot street photos that are scary and difficult.

Easy street photography no longer interests me. For example, I’m bored to photograph people walking by a billboard or poster. I’d rather shoot aggressive, head-on, with a flash and 28mm lens.

Now that does make ERIC KIM a bit of an asshole. How do I sleep at night? I shoot aggressively, but I also smile at folks, and usually give them a fist bump or high five after.

For those of you who know me in real life, I’m probably the nicest and most charming motherfucker out there. I can make people like me in less than a minute, because I don’t bullshit. I smile, shake hands, and make myself naked. I ask more questions than talking about my own opinion. I’m pretty much the most social, and socially-skilled person I know.

Even in my workshops, I’m just teaching social skills (they are skills that can be learned), and teaching my students how to build their personal confidence.

The secret to confidence in street photography: love taking risks.

Risk Taking

Whenever you shoot a street photo, you’re taking a risk.

  • Risk of pissing someone off
  • Risk of not making a good photo
  • Risk of getting punched in the face

How do we become less fearful of taking risks in street photography? Some ideas:

  1. Learn how to take a punch. Take a boxing class. Learn that getting punched in the face isn’t a big deal. I used to box in my garage with my friends at age 17, and I got knocked unconscious once. It wasn’t that painful.
  2. Take icy cold showers: anyone can do this. This is Stoic training, to not become afraid of the cold. I started to start with really hot showers, and then ending icy cold. Now I just go straight cold. Your body will adjust.
  3. Deadlift. Men and women, anyone can deadlift. You will feel more like a beast after doing the “1 rep max” style of training. It is easy, I was able to deadlift more than 405 pounds by the following: deadlift once a week, and just add 2.5-5 pounds a week. I started at 135 pounds at age 18, now I can do over 410 pounds at age 29, after 11 years of training.

Therefore my solution is this: to build confidence in street photography, build your physical body and resistance to pain. Also, try to practice “intermittent fasting”– personally I don’t eat breakfast or lunch anymore. This has helped me lose body fat (I have a 6-pack) and has made me sharper, more keen, and more wild, like a hungry lion.

How to take more risks

Whenever you do anything in life, you’re taking a small risk.

For example, when you cross the road, you’re taking a small risk. You might get run over or die.

When you text and drive, you make a small risk of dying in a texting and driving incident.

When you ask someone on a date, you have a small risk of having the person say “no.”

I think in modern society, we have been made passive. Passive by Facebook, Netflix, weed, alcohol, and other things that make us passive consumers. Because it is scary to take risks in real life.

Other sad trends: I see games in the App Store which simulates being a “professional YouTuber”. This drove me crazy. I thought to myself, “Why would you play a fucking stupid ass YouTube simulation game? Why not just make your own YouTube channel, and upload real videos?”

I cannot blame the individual. I blame our modern entertainment driven culture. Like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, we aren’t being oppressed by the government. Rather, were just made passive by pointless entertainment that distracts us.

My suggestion:

To be happier, take more risks in your life.

Examples of risk taking:

  1. Take that job offer which forces you to move from home.
  2. Join the more risky startup instead of just getting a cozy job at Google or Facebook.
  3. Start your own company, if you have the chance.
  4. Ask someone on a date that you would like to with. Ask someone who you think is “beyond your league.”
  5. Take a risk when getting a new job, ask for a 25% raise.
  6. When charging for your photography services, charge 25% more than you think you should.
  7. With restaurants, take a risk and try out a new place, even though your old and tried restaurants are good.
  8. Take a risk, travel to somewhere that you haven’t been to before.
  9. Go to that party that you were invited to, if you’re scared that you might not know anyone there.
  10. Share an unpopular political belief of yours, either in real life, or on social media.

I do believe that if we do take smaller risks in our everyday life, we will become more fearless.

How to take more risks in street photography

Some risk taking assignments in street photography:

  1. When you’re not sure whether you should make a photo or not, JUST SHOOT IT.
  2. For a month only shoot street photography on your phone.
  3. When in doubt, take a step closer to your subject.
  4. Prefocus your lens to .7 meters or 3 feet, and only shoot at that distance for a month.
  5. Share or publish a street photograph of yours that you like, but you’re afraid others might not like.
  6. Intentionally try to get people to un-follow you on social media.
  7. Delete your Instagram (I did this, and I’ve been thriving more in my street photography since, because I shoot stuff that I like, instead of trying to please my followers).

Of course, these assignments are just suggestions. Do them or don’t do them. You have full control.


Everyday, do something that scares you a little bit. Your confidence will build, like a snowball.

For more confidence, buy STREET NOTES MOBILE EDITION to inspire and empower you on-the-go, or buy STREET NOTES (paper version, it fits in your back pocket, perfect during your morning commute, or enjoyed with a cup of coffee).



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