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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
If you’re new to photography, start here:
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Photography
- Free Photography Bootcamp
- 100 Photography Tips for Beginners
Photography “How-To” Articles
- 20 Dark Tips How to Shoot Shadow Photos
- How to Give a Constructive Critique in Photography
- 15 Tips How to Shoot Better Selfies
- Photography is All a Matter of Perspective
- Photography Warmup Assignments
- 5 Simple Tips How to Take Better Pictures
- 10 Tips How to Shoot Better Architecture Photography
- 7 Reasons Why I Love Digital Medium-Format Photography
- My Experience Shooting Digital Medium Format in Street Photography
- My Experience Shooting my Friend Wedding on Digital Medium Format
- Photo Technique: Look Up
- Street Photography Technique: Overlap
- The Fishing Technique in Street Photography
- The “Bookend” Technique in Street Photography
- How to Shoot Better Night Photography
- How to Shoot Better Macro Photography
- Everyday Photography
- 10 Tips How to Take Better Photos of Everyday Life
- 15 Tips How to Shoot Better Selfies
- 10 Tips How to Take Better Photos of Everyday Life
Color Photography 101
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Color Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Theory For Photographers
- How to Become a Self-Confident Photographer
- The Spirit of Becoming a Photographer
- How to Make Better Pictures
- 10 Tips How to Take Better Photos of People
- How to Avoid Boredom in Photography
- How to Master Photography
- A Photographer’s Guide to Seeing
- PRETENTIOUS PHOTOGRAPHY
- Photography Energy Management
- How to Unlock Your Potential in Photography
- There Are No Good or Bad Photos
- The 5 Minute Photographer
- A-Z: PHOTOGRAPHY DICTIONARY by ERIC KIM
- Why I Want to Be a Photography Newbie Forever
- PHOTOGRAPHY FLUX.
- 10 Creative Photography Assignments to Re-Inspire You
- 50 Photography Tips by ERIC KIM
The Fundamentals of Photography
- Make Simple Pictures
- The Art of Reading a Picture
- How to Choose Your Best Photos
- GET CLOSER.
- Keep or Ditch?
- What Makes a Good Photo?
- Why Photography?
- Everyone is a Photographer
- How to take better pictures
- How to take better selfies
- How to Paint With Light
- Why Bokeh is Overrated
- What is the Perfect Camera For You?
- What to Consider When Buying a Camera
- More Megapixels, More Problems
- How to Take Better Photos
- How to Capture Emotion in Your Photos
- How to Create a “Curiosity Gap” in Your Photos
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- 40 Practical Photography Assignments
- 15 Street Photography Assignments
- 25 Photography New Year’s Resolutions
- Street Photography Contact Sheets
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume II
- Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”
- Each Photo You Take is an “Attempt”
- How to Overcome Photographer’s Block
- Why Do You Need “Inspiration” to Shoot?
- How to Edit Your Photos
- Grain is Beautiful
- Are Filters “Cheating” in Photography?
- Video: Introduction to Editing, Processing, and Workflow in Lightroom
How to Create a Body of Work
Technical Photography Settings
Learn From the Masters of Photography
“He without a past has no future.”
- Why Study the Masters of Photography?
- Great Female Master Photographers
- Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
- 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
- Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography
- Download All Articles >
The Masters of Photography
Classics never die:
- Alfred Stieglitz
- Alec Soth
- Alex Webb
- Alexey Brodovitch
- Anders Petersen
- Andre Kertesz
- Ansel Adams
- Blake Andrews
- Bruce Davidson
- Bruce Gilden
- Constantine Manos
- Daido Moriyama
- Dan Winters
- David Alan Harvey
- David Hurn
- Diane Arbus
- Dorothea Lange
- Elliott Erwitt
- Eugene Atget
- Eugene Smith
- Fan Ho
- Garry Winogrand
- Gordon Parks
- Helen Levitt
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Irving Penn
- Jacob Aue Sobol
- Jeff Mermelstein
- Joel Meyerowitz
- Joel Sternfeld
- Josef Koudelka / Part 2
- Josh White
- Lee Friedlander
- Lisette Model
- Magnum Contact Sheets
- Magnum Photographers
- Mark Cohen
- Martin Parr
- Martine Franck
- Mary Ellen Mark
- Rene Burri
- Richard Avedon
- Richard Kalvar
- Robert Capa
- Robert Frank
- Saul Leiter
- Sergio Larrain
- Sebastião Salgado
- Shomei Tomatsu
- Stephen Shore
- The History of Street Photography
- Todd Hido
- Tony Ray-Jones
- Trent Parke
- Vivian Maier
- Walker Evans
- William Eggleston
- William Klein
- Zoe Strauss
Unleash your creative potential:
- November 7th, 2020: ERIC KIM BLOGGING MASTER CLASS (Online, via Zoom). [Register Intent Here]
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.