Why Learn From the Masters of Photography?


If you gain too much inspiration from the past, will that mean you will never find your own style?

Learn From the Masters of Photography

1. Their work is better than modern photographers.

Hà Nội, 2017

The work of the masters (if it still exists today) is probably still around for a reason.

99% of modern photography is just noise.

If you want a more potent filter:

Don’t look at any photos from the past 10 years.

Hà Nội, 2017

That means less time on Instagram, and more time looking at photo books.

2. Fewer excuses.

Sa Pa, 2017

In the 1920s, there was so much innovation in photography.

Photographers were limited with huge, heavy cameras. Yet they made amazing street photos.

Sa Pa, 2017

Today we complain that our cameras aren’t good enough. We complain that they aren’t “full frame”, that we cannot shoot at ISO 12,800 (without noise), or that our camera is too heavy, or doesn’t have good “bokeh.”

Sa Pa, 2017

Nowadays most of us are keyboard photographers. We stand on the sidelines, and waste time on gear forums and websites. We fantasize about buying a new camera, instead of just going and shooting photos.

Hà Nội, 2017

For myself, I often feel I am held back by my lack of gear. But in fact that is just an excuse.

Now, I look at the old cameras of the Masters and think:

If they can make phenomenal photos on their old school, cumbersome cameras, on film… Why can’t I just make good photos on my phone?

I shot this on Cindy’s Samsung S7, and processed it on Instagram. Saigon 2017

3. No envy / jealousy

All the master photographers are dead. We don’t feel envy or jealousy with dead people. Kind of how I’m not envious of the success of Henry Ford, but I might be envious of the success of my friend (who is richer than me) who is still alive today.

Hà Nội, 2017

If you’re inspired by a master photographer from the past, you’re not competing against them. Rather, imagine them from the grave… Pushing you forward to make better photos.

For me, the dead masters are like my guides, who want me to become better photographers than them.


Hà Nội, 2017

He without a past has no future.

Study the history of street photography, to find more appreciation of the Masters who paved the path for us today.

But don’t get discouraged. Rather, build upon their legacy, and seek to innovate in your photography.

Share your best photos in ERIC KIM FORUM.



Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos
Prague, 1968. Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

“He without a past has no future.”

Start here:

  1. Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
  2. 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
  3. Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography

The Masters of Photography

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