The Impulse to Photograph

SF, 2016 #cindyproject

Dear friend,

I think one thing a lot of us are chasing — to evoke more of the impulse to photograph.

Where does the impulse to create art come from?

Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject

All art is created from some opaque — hidden source inside your soul.

As a photographer, you might not always know why you want to make a certain photograph. But you feel it. You know if you don’t photograph, you will get ‘blue balls’ — like, feeling frustrated to not shoot.

Don’t let yourself censor yourself

I feel that in photography, you need to follow your gut and impulses. Don’t restrain yourself.

For example, if you’re shooting street photography, don’t censor yourself. Photograph everything and anything that interests you.

The death of your photographic impulse is when you see something you want to photograph, but you let your inner-critic say to yourself:

Don’t photograph that, it will be boring.


Have less free time

But how do we feel more of the impulse to photograph? I often lose inspiration.

For myself, sometimes the best way to evoke the impulse to photograph is through frustration.

For example, I was compelled to shoot street photography, because I was cooped up in my 9-5 office job prison. I would go out to release my pent-up energy, and pent-up steam. So sometimes the funny thing — having a shitty job can compel you to make more photos.

I think most human beings (when we have too much free time) we squander and piss it away.

So to find more impulses to photograph, use the little free time you have to make photos.

Assignment: Pomodoro Photography Technique

Hà Nội, 2017

Another assignment idea is the ‘Pomodoro Photography Technique‘. Set your phone timer to 25 minutes, put your phone in airplane mode, and only shoot for those 25 minutes. And when the timer is up, you are not allowed to shoot more.

Talk about a ‘creative constraint‘.

Use the simplest camera possible // ‘Set it and forget it’

Sa Pa, 2017

Often too many settings and technical things get in the way of our impulse to photograph.

For example, if I see something I wanna shoot, I want to just ‘Point and Click.’


Hanoi, 2017

That means just shoot with your phone. Or put your camera to ‘P’ (program) mode, ISO 1600, and just point-and-click.

Drugs, coffee, and street photography

Sa Pa, 2017


Hanoi, 2017

Before you go out and shoot, have a double-shot of espresso. Liquid inspiration. Or have some nice (caffeinated) tea– I’m a big fan of Matcha Green Tea.

The way I understand coffee and caffeine is this:

Caffeine is a natural poison that coffee plants and tea plants secrete. When insects eat the caffeine, they die. Humans– we are too big to die from caffeine. Rather, we get a mild buzz– a response to the poison of the caffeine. Apparently this process is called ‘hormesis’ — a small amount of poison makes us stronger.


Garden Grove, 2016

Some folks like to drink alcohol before shooting street photography. Certainly it lowers social inhibitions. A lot of people call alcohol ‘liquid courage’ (for good reason).

Personally, I feel more tired after I drink alcohol — this is why I prefer coffee. But if drinking a beer or two before you shoot helps you in street photography, go for it. I ain’t no puritan #NOJUDGEMENTZONE


Downtown LA, 2013

Ultimately, remember– the point of photography is to help you live a better life. Don’t force yourself to shoot more if it makes you more miserable.

But, if shooting more photography makes you more happy and more appreciative of life, perhaps you need a little fire up your ass to stir you into action.

At the end of the day, ignore what I say — follow what you believe in.

What gives you the IMPULSE to photograph? Share your tips in ERIC KIM FORUM.



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