Kiss. Saigon, 2017

The Curse of the Modern Photographer

Kiss. Saigon, 2017
Kiss. Saigon, 2017

Preface: Digital photography really isn’t ‘free’

The great thing with digital photos — each photo is ‘free.’ But what is very COSTLY and EXPENSIVE? Our attention.

Let me flesh this thought out.

  1. With phones and digital cameras, all photos are essentially free.
  2. Storage is now free. You can get unlimited uploads/backups to Google Photos.
  3. Because we know that we have unlimited uploads, and because photos are free– we shoot more.
  4. We shoot everything, no discernment. We shoot our daily lives, we shoot selfies, we shoot our food– we shoot EVERYTHING.
  5. It is good that we shoot more– but the biggest stress of being a modern photographer– the STRESS of looking through all your photos, and choosing the few good ones.

Don’t upload 1,000 photos to Facebook

You might know this feeling– you go on holiday to somewhere exotic, and when you go home, you have like 10,000 photos to look through. You think to yourself, ‘I’ll look at it sometime.’ You never do, because you are overwhelmed with the seemingly unsurmountable task of looking through all these photos.

Some ideas and solutions:



Buy FILM NOTES and dust off your old film cameras. Start shooting film again.


a. Skin in the game with film


When you shoot film, you got ‘skin in the game.’ Meaning, every time you click the shutter, it costs you something. It costs you money and time. You also have a LIMITED number of photos you can shoot.

A lot of people think this is a disadvantage. Rather, I see the opposite:

Paying for your photos causes you to value your photos more, and it causes you to be more conscientious before taking photos.

b. The cost of shooting film

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For example, let’s assume that a roll of film costs $5 USD. Let’s say you have someone else develop/scan your film — let’s say it costs around $10-15 USD. That means one roll of film (36 photos) costs you around $15-20 USD.

Each photo costs you around 40 cents-50 cents.

So if you shoot film, you really gotta THINK before you shoot a photo. You gotta ask yourself,

Is this photograph or moment really worth 50 cents?

c. The benefit of shooting film

This can be good or bad– depending on how you see it:

  1. Good: You take fewer photos, but the quality of each photo is higher. Which means, you get more ‘keepers’ per roll of film. Which means, you have to crawl through less crappy photos. Which means less stress of looking through your photos.
  2. Bad: You might take fewer photos, and feel paralyzed of taking photos– and therefore you end up never shooting.

Let me analyze the two ideas:

  1. Good: You will die one day. Your time and attention is limited. Therefore, I think shooting film is great– you can spend less time looking through your photos. And the overall ratio of ‘keeper’ photos you get is better.
  2. Bad: Don’t be afraid to shoot a lot of film. To me, it is rare I see a good photo-opportunity. But if I do see a good photo opportunity, I will shoot the shit out of it. I don’t mind shooting a whole roll of film (36 photos) in one scene — if I think it might be good. To me, I would be willing to pay $20 for my one GREAT PHOTO of the year.


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OK, let’s say you got a shit load of photos to look through– that you shot on your phone or your digital camera.

Some practical suggestions:

1. Look at your photos as small thumbnails

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If you use Lightroom, use the GRID (G) view– and then pick (P) your photos as small thumbnails.

The benefit of looking through your photos as small thumbnails: less time having to look through all your photos as full-screen images.

Also, the benefit of looking at small thumbnails:

If your photos work as small thumbnails (in terms of composition, emotion, and mood) — they will work as big images.

If anything, your photos SHOULD work as small thumbnails to be qualified as ‘good’ photos.

2. Does the photo punch you in the gut?

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When you’re looking through your photos, follow your gut.

To me, a good photo should be FUCKING GOOD.

That means, a photo that feels like Mike Tyson just punched you in the gut.

A good photo should evoke emotion in your heart, soul, and tug at your heart strings. To me, a good photo should make me go:

Wow, that is a good photo.

3. Imagine like it were the photo of someone else

For me, I also consider and ask myself:

If someone else uploaded this photo on their social media stream, would I ‘like’ the photo?

Detach yourself from your photos. Don’t call them ‘my’ photos. Call them ‘the’ photos.

If you can disconnect your ego from your photos, then you can judge them more sincerely.


Blurry kid. Saigon, 2017
Blurry kid. Saigon, 2017

The curse of the modern digital photographer: drowning in a sea of images. The stress of choosing our ‘best’ photos. Some more practical ideas:

  1. Wait a week after taking your photos to look at them. Let your photos sit and ‘marinate’ for a week, before looking at them. Then, you can judge your photos better.
  2. Ask your (trusted) friend or partner to ‘kill your babies’ and help you choose your best photos.
  3. Give yourself a limit: Only choose your 1 best photo of each day. If you go on a trip, edit down your entire trip to your 7 best photos.

Need help choosing your best photos? Join and upload your (maybe) photos to ERIC KIM FORUM.

Or for personal help ‘killing your babies’ or for honest feedback and critique on your images, attend an ERIC KIM WORKSHOP.


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