Hanoi Street photography
Hanoi, 2017

Hanoi Street photography

You’re feeling stuck; how do you elevate your photography and take it to the next level?

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1. Shoot more scenes that scare you

Suit walking through subway

To advance your photography, censor yourself less. Which means,

If you see something you want to photograph, yet you feel nervous or afraid — lean into the fear, and shoot it anyways.

Why shoot more of what you’re afraid of?

I don’t really know what it means to take “better” photos, but I know what it means do take more challenging photos. In street photography, scenes or people who scare me are more challenging.

Assignment: For a month, whenever you see a person or a scene that scares you, you must photograph it, or ask for permission to shoot.

2. Be more experimental with your compositions

Sapa eric kim street photography layers

Experiment with your compositions, by trying to shoot layers, create more depth, or moving your subject around your frame.

Rather than shooting your subjects in the center of the frame, compose them off-center, to make a more dynamic picture.

Focus on what’s furthest away in the background, not what’s closest to you.

There’s only one way to elevate and grow yourself as a photographer: never stop challenging your compositions in photography. Keep experimenting.

3. Get closer

Man looking up, low perspective, Saigon black and white street photograph

Generally the closer your photos, the better. The biggest difficulty we have in street photography is to get closer.

Why get closer? The closer you get, the more intimate and soulful your photos.

4. Make a social statement with your photos

KKK ku klux klan Henry ford museum

It’s not enough to just make pretty photos. Make a social, economic, or political statement with your photos. This is what I attempted to do in my “ONLY IN AMERICA” series, I tried to highlight racism, social inequality, and the overall misery of wealth disparity in America.

Whites only water fountain

To me, photography is like visual sociology; you use your camera to judge, critique, and analyze society. This is the genius of the photographers Lars Tunbjork and Martin Parr.

Kid on shoulder of father

As a photographer, don’t be a unpassionate, disconnected, and “objective” photographer. No— I encourage you to put your heart, soul, and to be subjective in your photography! I want to see your opinion of the world and society, manifested through your photos.

Fathers and children downtown la

What are you trying to say with your photos? Are you an optimist or pessimist?

Assert your opinion and worldview through your photography!


5. Shoot in uncommon places

Portrait of woman at Costco
Portrait of woman at Costco

There is still so much unpaved ground in photography, especially in indoor places.

Man suit Japan Kyoto woman street photography eric kim

Shoot more indoors, in public places, like inside the gym, mall, restaurant, bar, grocery store.

Manila Street photography eric kim flash long distance eye surgery clinic

Indoor street photography is totally ripe; a great opportunity for you to fill this gap!


Conclusion: Think long-term

High angle perspective street photograph, Hanoi

Lastly, I’m amazed, it has been 10 years since I started shooting street photography. 8 years ago I made this blog. I’m still learning, growing, and evolving, as a photographer, visual artist, philosopher and teacher.

I’m amazed how quickly time has gone. Time flies.

I’m actually quite proud of looking back at my old work, and putting together a new street photography portfolio. But I still remember when I was shooting those photos, I felt like I wasn’t making quick enough progress. I still had lots of self-doubt in myself as a photographer.

Red cowboy. Santa Monica, 2014

Last words of encouragement:

  1. Focus on the long game in photography: How can you stay motivated and inspired as a photographer for decades, and to shoot until you die? Longevity is more important than short-term success in photography.
  2. Only seek to impress yourself through photography: This will keep you motivated.
  3. Have faith in yourself: You’re on the right path!

NEVER STOP SHOOTING!
ERIC

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

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