Tokyo street photography

How to Become a Stronger Photographer

Tokyo street photography

Dear friend,

One of the most difficult things I personally face, and what you might face is overcoming resistance in your photography.


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I. What is resistance… and can it help us?

Tokyo urban landscape

Resistance: the difficulty to finding power, or will-power to go out and make pictures.

Some ideas:

  1. If photography or any creative act had ZERO resistance, that would be bad. To become more muscular and powerful, we NEED more resistance. For example, if you always deadlifted only 100 pounds for the rest of your life, you would never get stronger. You NEED to INCREASE the resistance, the weight, the tension… the difficulty… in order to avoid boredom. We NEED a challenge to get stronger.
  2. Therefore, CHALLENGE and resistance is a good thing in our photography, physical, and mental health.

II. We need resistance

Man with flip phone. Tokyo, 2017

To sum up so far, the propositions are:

  1. We need resistance to become stronger.
  2. The secret isn’t to eliminate resistance… but rather, how to use resistance as our slave, in order to become more strong. We need a challenge to grow as artists.

III. Avoid boredom by increasing the difficulty and challenge

Woman with umbrella in rain. Tokyo, 2017

For example, I get easily bored. I get bored in photography very easily.

Solution: Make the pictures I shoot more difficult.

That means, pursue more difficult types of images. That means, instead of single-subjects, shooting more layers and multiple subjects. Or perhaps if my pictures are too busy, for me to go SUPER ZEN, and make my photographs ridiculously minimalist. Uber-minimalist pictures. The next level of zen imagery.

IV. The more difficult, the better.

Another idea: perhaps it is precisely having a big, heavy, cumbersome, and difficult to carry camera which motivates us to make pictures.

For example, I’ve been shooting with a heavy and big digital medium format Pentax 645Z the last few weeks, and because it is so big, heavy, and difficult to carry around… I think to myself,

Man, this camera is so big and heavy and annoying to carry around. I might as well make pictures, because I am lugging around this brick anyways.

Therefore, in order not to waste my energy carrying around this heavy camera… I make more pictures.

V. Shoot what scares you

Another idea:

Street photography is fun precisely because it is so scary, difficult, and hard. We NEED difficult subject-matter to shoot, or else we would not have an opportunity to grow to the occasion. We NEED challenge and difficulty in our art to grow.

In practical terms, I try to shoot pictures which scare me. I approach strangers who scare me. I take pictures on the streets which are risky… that might get me into trouble. I see myself like a Spartan soldier… more risk means more reward.

After I took a picture of this man, he stole my camera strap. Tokyo, 2017

Therefore, for more glory in your photography, take bigger risks. We all know in business and entrepreneurship: the bigger risks you take, the bigger potential upside or profit. Why not apply the same philosophy to photography?

VI. How to add challenge to your photography

Flash street picture and layers. Ginza, Tokyo 2017

To go back, perhaps we need more resistance to add to your photography. Perhaps instead of trying to make photography easier… and perhaps instead of trying to lower the resistance … we need to ADD resistance.

Some ideas:

  1. Try to shoot on a daily basis with a BIGGER, HEAVIER, and more cumbersome camera. Experiment, and see if that motivates you to shoot more.
  2. Try to shoot an aesthetic you’re not comfortable with. For example, if you usually shoot color, try monochrome. Or if you shoot monochrome, try color.
  3. Make it a personal rule to yourself: “Whenever I see a person or a scene that scares me, I MUST photograph it.”

VII. Level up!

Helicopter. Omotesando, Tokyo 2017

Don’t seek to make your photography and life easier. Rather, ADD CHALLENGE! The more difficult your challenges, the stronger you will become.

If you’re a level 70 Paladin, will you keep fighting the same level 5 Orcs? No. You know, you MUST take on stronger, more frightening, more challenging bosses. You might die. But you train, you level up, you pack up the health potions, and you FIGHT! And the more challenging the bosses, the rarer and more unique the items they drop.

Man looking back, walking up stairs. Tokyo, 2017

So friend, in your photography and life … BE MORE BRAVE! Take greater risks. Greater risks, greater reward.


Diagonals and selfie. Red. Tokyo, 2017

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