Red, yellow, blue signage. Osaka, 2018

Everything is Permitted in Photography!

Red, yellow, blue signage. Osaka, 2018
Red, yellow, blue signage. Osaka, 2018

Dear friend,

A word of encouragement: shoot photography however you would like — everything is permitted in photography; there are no rules!

There is always an “exception” to every rule

Cindy drinking sake. Osaka, 2018
Cindy drinking sake. Osaka, 2018

This is my rationale: after studying all the masters of photography, for every “rule” in photography there is almost always a counter-rule.

For example, Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “Don’t crop” or “only shoot black and white and 50mm”. But then you had some of his own pupils who went against him — William Eggleston and Martin Parr shot color with great success, Rene Burri shot with a telephoto lens, and Robert Frank did aggressive crops in his “Americans” project.

Polite. Osaka, 2018
POLITE. Osaka, 2018

Also when studying philosophy, I’ve realized that all the moral/ethical “truths” we are taught are nothing but opinions. For example, the Bible says that “money is the root of all evil”, whereas philosophers like Publilius Syrus will say that, “Money, when used wisely, is a blessing.”

Also Zen Buddhists say that having no desires is good, whereas my buddy Nietzsche tells me that indulging our desires is a good thing.

Follow your own vision

Cindy and Osaka river. 2018
Cindy and Osaka river. 2018

Essentially, the moral of the story is this:

Discover your own truths in life, and figure out what works best for you, what resonates with you, and what feels right to you. Ignore everyone else, and follow your own vision and voice — like a brave eagle which flies high, and only focuses on their lofty flights.

Go against the grain

Lights and shadows. Osaka. 2018
Lights and shadows. Osaka. 2018

All great artists and innovators have always gone “opposite” or “against the grain” from the majority. For example, Picasso pissed off everyone with his cubist works, whereas the art world preferred “realistic” and romantic paintings.

When Alfred Stieglitz started to shoot with a handheld camera, all the snobby photographers of his age (using tripods and large format cameras) shunned him. When Kanye West made his album “808s and heartbreaks” and started to sing-auto tune with his raps, the entire hip hop world was up in arms.

Creative isolation

Cindy hand shadow, uji, tilt, Dutch angle

Practical tip: if you want to nurture your own unique and creative artistic vision, you must allow yourself periods of time of “creative isolation” from the crowds. All the crowds on Instagram and social media all follow the same cliches and trends. If you care more about developing a unique artistic vision (instead of getting a bunch of likes), spend periods of time (perhaps weeks, months, or even years) not using social media.

My shoes Nike Freerun Flyknit RN, and red and yellow colors. And two O’s

Rather, use your free time to experiment with new artworks, and also spend time studying the master artists from the past. Studying the artistic works of those in the past are a lot more durable — Nassim Taleb calls this the “Lindy Effect”: things which have existed for a long time will probably continue to exist for a long time. However things which are trendy will probably die off (remember the hype behind Crocs, GoPro, and MySpace in the past?)

Be your own judge

Dutch angle composition tilt. Cindy in hallway. Osaka, 2018
Dutch angle composition tilt. Cindy in hallway. Osaka, 2018

Another idea: don’t ask others for their approval. Rather, pause, look at your own work, and ask yourself:

“Do I like my own artwork?”

If you like it, it is good. No need for approval or affirmation from others.

Cultivate your own taste

Dinner in Uji. 2018 Cindyproject
Dinner in Uji. 2018 #cindyproject

A lot of us are spoon fed stuff, and told, “This tastes good. You should like it.”

However, very rarely are we given the opportunity to develop our own tastes.

As with food and artwork, you must develop your own palette, and your own taste. You must discover what tastes you like, and what tastes you don’t like.

Cindy laughing. Osaka, 2018
Cindy laughing. Osaka, 2018

Most people if you ask them, “What do you like?” — most people have no idea what they like. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the courage, opportunity or chance to reflect and meditate on what they like. They might be too busy with work or life that they just follow the rest of the herd.

Fly solo

Osaka skyscrapers, looking up.
Osaka skyscrapers, looking up.

The philosopher-economist Fernandinho Galiani once said:

“Philosophers are not made to love one another. Eagles do not fly in company. That is for partridges and starlings. Gliding above with claws, is the destiny of geniuses.”

Friend, you are that eagle. Soar high with the strength and virtue of your own wings, and fly wherever your heart desires. Let the lambs on earth follow their own herd and their own shepherd. It is your destiny to forge your own path.


Photography 101

Dear friend,

If you’re new to photography, start here:

  1. The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Photography
  2. Free Photography Bootcamp
  3. 100 Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography “How-To” Articles

Mad men. NYC, 2017. Pentax 645Z

Photography Techniques

Everyday Photography

RICOH GR II selfie in mirror, double eye surreal. Prague, 2017
RICOH GR II selfie in mirror, double eye surreal. Prague, 2017

Color Photography 101

Photography Philosophy

Cindy white face. Saigon, 2017

Photography Inspiration

The Fundamentals of Photography

Photography Equipment »

How to Take Better Photos »

Composition Lessons »

Photography Assignments »

Contact Sheets »

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Editing (Image Selection) »

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Creativity »

eric kim Cindy project reflection flash

Motivation »

eric kim portrait by Cindy nguyen


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How to Create a Body of Work

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Technical Photography Settings

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Learn From the Masters of Photography


“He without a past has no future.”

Start here:

  1. Why Study the Masters of Photography?
  2. Great Female Master Photographers
  3. Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
  4. 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
  5. Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography
  6. Download All Articles >

The Masters of Photography

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

Classics never die: