DARK SKIES OVER TOKYO / Man with umbrella.
DARK SKIES OVER TOKYO / Man with umbrella.

Dear friend,

If you want to make better pictures while traveling– here is some advice I would give you:

I. Why do you want to travel, and why do you want to make pictures while traveling?

Man in suit. Tokyo, 2016
Man in suit. Tokyo, 2016

First of all– ask yourself — why you are traveling, and why you are taking pictures while you’re traveling.

  • Are you traveling to escape the monotony of your everyday life — and you want to find excitement and novelty in your travels?
  • Are you searching for ‘enlightenment’ during your travels– to find more meaning and purpose in your life? Are you trying to ‘find yourself’ through your travels?
  • Are you traveling in order to make more interesting, ‘exotic’ pictures of a foreign place?
Dark man in silhouette and boot. Dark Skies Over Tokyo.
Dark man in silhouette and boot. Dark Skies Over Tokyo.

Going onto photography:

  • Do you want to take pictures while traveling– because you think foreign places will inspire you to shoot more, and be more ‘interesting’ and ‘exciting’ than scenes back home?
  • What kind of pictures do you aspire to make when shooting abroad or while traveling? Do you wanna make pretty pictures like Steve McCurry/National Geographic– that your friends back home will like? Or are you trying to make more … ‘unique’ art?
  • Do you think you will make better pictures abroad, than when back home?

There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers here — just ask yourself these questions, to better understand why you want to travel, and why you want to make pictures while traveling.

II. Practical advice

Dark man in suit. Dark Skies Over Tokyo.
Dark man in suit. Dark Skies Over Tokyo.

Some practical tips when shooting travel pictures:

  1. Make sure to shoot pictures of yourself (selfies), your loved ones, and whoever you are traveling with. Traveling with family IS A BLESSING! Your pictures of your loved ones while traveling will probably be more meaningful and interesting than pictures you take of strangers.
  2. Be realistic– you’re NOT going to get your Pulitzer-Prize winning, National-Geographic cover picture while you are traveling. Shoot a lot– but don’t have any unrealistic expectations through your travel pictures.
  3. The best pictures to take are probably near your hotel, near your airbnb, or in the back-alleys, where there are fewer tourists. The busy, touristy, downtown areas rarely render good pictures. My best pictures when traveling have been in quiet residential areas, or alley-ways ‘off the beaten path.’ To add more serendipity to your pictures, DON’T use Google Maps, GPS, or your smartphone to get around. Rather, follow your own nose.
  4. Don’t use TripAdvisor. To get recommendations where to eat, and what to see– ask your host what they like to do… or what locals like to do. Knowing where NOT to go while traveling is more important than knowing where to go. In other words, AVOID TOURIST TRAPS! Almost all places on TripAdvisor suck. The really interesting places to visit (coffee shops, parks, restaurants, bars) that locals visit… will not be online on trip review websites. So if I stay at a hotel or airbnb and I’m talking to the host or the staff, I like to ask them: “Where do you like to hang out after work, or on weekends?” Then I write down their recommendations.
  5. Look up: Some of the best pictures when traveling are when you look up. Don’t just get stuck looking at street-level.
  6. Shoot a foreign place — imagining like it is your own hometown. This will help you make more ‘authentic’ travel pictures.
  7. Don’t take pictures of stuff you have already seen. Honestly, will your Eiffel Tower picture really be that much better than pictures you’ve seen online already? Sure — of course, shoot it — but don’t have unrealistic expectations thinking that photographing a touristy landmark will render you a very good or unique picture.
  8. Don’t try to take snapshots– try to MAKE ART! Make what you consider a beautiful picture — not just a ‘pretty’ picture that your mom would like.
  9. Make pictures inside restaurants, grocery stores, or other places you wouldn’t expect to make good pictures. Street Photography can be shot anywhere, and everywhere. Shoot at the beach, at the park, or in the subway.
  10. Have fun and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. If you can even make 1 meaningful picture during your travels, you’ve done a good job. Be present with your family — don’t make picture-taking be your primary occupation or focus. If you’re traveling solo — I encourage you to travel with a laptop, and MAKE STUFF while you’re traveling– whether blog posts, poems, processing and uploading your pictures, or any other creative project you have. Be an active CREATOR while you’re traveling, not just a consumer.

Conclusion

Tokyo eye. DARK SKIES OVER TOKYO
Tokyo eye. DARK SKIES OVER TOKYO

As a photographer, I’ve honestly made my most meaningful images of my loved ones– personal pictures of Cindy. I can do that anywhere.

Of course, traveling has helped re-spark creative juices, and inspiration within me. But ultimately, I’ve realized even with travel– eventually everything becomes normalized, and the ‘same.’

Cindy at work at cafe, with red light. Kyoto, 2017
Cindy at work at cafe, with red light. Kyoto, 2017

Ultimately what I learned from traveling and photography is this: All of humanity is much more similar than dissimilar. We all love to laugh, sing, drink (alcohol and coffee), share meaningful experiences with loved ones, eat good food, and to make art.

Selfie with Cindy. Kyoto, 2017
Selfie with Cindy. Kyoto, 2017

Don’t be like me– seeking escapism through travel. You will not discover ‘who you are’ as an artist or human being through your travels. Traveling will help you meet interesting people, give you the chance to reflect on life, as well as help you travel/live lightly.

Eric Kim Cindy Red Kyoto Curtain
Cindy and red curtain. Kyoto, 2017

Traveling has helped me become less materialistic (I can’t travel with that much stuff), and has helped me realize– I can live a fulfilling life via making art, and by living simply.

Kyoto, 2017 #CINDYPROJECT
Kyoto, 2017 #CINDYPROJECT

I still do think that traveling is one of the best ways to spend your money– in terms of gaining rich experiences, and learning. Traveling is one of the best ‘bang for the buck’ experiences for your money. Much better than buying new equipment, new gear, new cars, or a newer or bigger home.

If you want to travel more, shoot more, and re-inspire yourself, INVEST IN ERIC KIM EXPERIENCE >

NEVER STOP EXPLORING,
ERIC


TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

Travel Photography Articles

Travel photography tips video