The great thing about photography is the zen-like state that it gives you. That you disappear. You’re in the “Zen zone” of walking on the streets, and you lose a sense of yourself. You are totally perceptive of the world around you, and your visual-motor-cortex is in overdrive. You see and perceive all the beauty of the world around you, and you stay focused on re-arranging the visual building blocks of reality, to make your own unique art.
How to shoot more photos
So I think the secret is this:
Create the least amount of possible friction between yourself, your eyes, your hand, and the photo-making process.
For example what I mean is this:
- Always have your camera on your neck or wrist: The reason Cindy and I made the new HENRI SHOULDER STRAP is to make sure you have your camera always ready BEFORE you see an interesting decisive/moment photo opportunity. I do truly believe that photography is all about regret-minimization. I’ve missed a billion photo opportunities in the past because I didn’t have my camera either on my neck or wrist, and therefore missed a ton of photo-opportunities as a result. By having my camera always around my neck with the HENRI SHOULDER STRAP or the HENRI WRIST STRAP, I end up shooting more photos. And the more photos I shoot, the happier I am!
- Using the simplest possible settings on your camera (‘set it and forget it!’): I’ve been using the Lumix G9 Pro and Leica 12mm f/1.4 Lens in “IA MODE” (intelligent auto), which the camera automatically chooses your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus. And it works phenomenally well — it allows me to think less about the technical settings, and focus more on the creative act of actually framing, composition, and timing (when to click the shutter). Not only that, but I’ve been shooting in JPEG (medium size, around 3000px wide) so I can worry less about the processing afterwards (I just import my photos into my laptop with Lightroom Classic CC, and apply the ‘ERIC KIM CHROMA’ presets upon import.
- No phone or music: I think photography/street photography is all about a ‘zen walking meditation’. For myself, when I walk without a phone (only using my “stand-alone” camera), and when I don’t listen to music — I can let my mind wander, and I actually see more photo-opportunities! My theory is that the less you bombard your mind with music-auditory inputs, and the less distractions you have on your phone, you can just become more perceptive to the world around you! Therefore, I recommend you to unplug when you’re out shooting photos. Turn off your phone completely, or if you shoot photos on your phone, switch your phone to airplane mode. I would also recommend shooting photos without headphones on. Sometimes shooting with headphones can be good to get you into the groove of making photos, but when you have your headphones off, you can over-hear interesting conversations, you can hear the beauty of the ambient sounds of the world (birds chirping, rustle of trees in the wind), or practical benefits (hearing cars driving by, so you don’t get hit and die — I almost got hit by a car once while shooting photos with headphones on and I wasn’t paying attention//couldn’t hear the sound of incoming cars).
A thought I’ve been pondering to myself recently: Why walk?
I mean to say this:
Do humans need to walk in order to survive/thrive?
In today’s world where we can just drive everywhere or take a bicycle/motorcycle/motorbike/scooter anywhere — what is the practical function of walking?
My theory is this: much of the human brain has evolved to coordinate our bi-ped movement (it is really hard for an organism to balance on two legs). And the reason why humans perhaps evolved to walk on two legs is to free up our hands (hands to do more intellectual stuff). And therefore if we don’t walk, perhaps we will get some sort of mental-problems/dysfunctions in our mind.
If you look at organisms that need to move in order to procure food, they all have brains. Look at plants (no brains); they don’t need to move in order to get food — they just get it from the soil and the sun.
Why I love walking
I know for myself I come up with the best ideas while I’m walking. Many philosophers in the past have said similar things:
- “The best thoughts are conceived while walking!” – Nietzsche
- “To first become a philosopher, start by taking long [pointless] walks.” – Nassim Taleb
Not only that, but if you’re a street photographer, you can only make photos if you’re walking! Therefore as a practical idea: the more you walk, the more street photos you will shoot!
I know the excuse a lot of us (myself included) make in our photography is that our neighborhood is boring, and therefore we don’t find inspiration/motivation to shoot. Living in the suburbs of LA, I know the feeling.
But I’m pretty amazed: even though my neighborhood is boring, whenever I walk (even around the block for 10 minutes) with my camera on my neck or in my hand, I will always see photo-opportunities! Whereas if I’m simply driving, I don’t see anything. And if I walk around the block without my camera, I generally regret it– because I will end up seeing something I want to photograph (But unfortunately, I don’t have my camera on me).
The smaller the camera, the more photos you will shoot!
I still believe the RICOH GR II is the best camera for most people as an ‘everyday’/’street photography’ camera. Why? It is small, compact, has phenomenal image quality (APS-C/DSLR-sensor), has an integrated flash, and a great 28mm prime lens.
I’ve shot with the Ricoh GR II for a long time, but the problem was always having it with me. After seeing my friend Wilder travel with his RICOH GR II in Vietnam with a neck strap, I wanted a neck strap as well, but couldn’t find any which were compatible with the RICOH GR II (the Ricoh doesn’t have the traditional lug-nuts of most cameras, but rather requires a small nylon string).
Therefore, I worked closely with Cindy and our friend Lan in Saigon, to design and make the ERIC KIM NECK STRAP (compatible with the RICOH GR II). This was awesome, I started to shoot SO MUCH MORE with the RICOH, because the camera was always around my neck.
Why are you shooting with a Lumix?
Since about a month ago (my RICOH died after about a million photos, the aperture blades get stuck) I got the Lumix G9 Pro (because I wanted to shoot more videos for my YouTube channel), and have been loving the new HENRI SHOULDER STRAP. We designed the new Henri Shoulder Strap to be longer (can be worn around the shoulder/cross-body), and also increased the size of the neck pad (which is good for the heavier Lumix G9 camera).
I’m also becoming a pretty big proponent of the Micro 4/3rds system. Why? The image quality is phenomenal, the cameras are smaller, and the autofocus is insanely fast and accurate! It is seriously the best sensor (in my opinion) for everyday/street photography. I am still a big fan of digital medium format, but to be frank I think ‘full-frame’ is overrated (either go with a really small sensor like a phone, Micro 43rds, or go REALLY BIG with a digital-medium-format).
What is the best camera?
Once again remember, the most important thing about a camera is for it to disappear. The best camera is frictionless, always with you, and you can shoot without thinking. The less you can think, and the more you can let the photograph shoot itself; the better.
The world is so full of beautiful moments, beautiful people, and beautiful matter– just waiting for you to photograph it!
There are so many ripe stories for you to tell through your photography. Never let the weight or cumbersomeness of the camera hold you back. Never stop exploring, walking, and shooting new photos! Your creative life thrives on the NEW! Never stop innovating in your photography, by adopting new technologies (like 3d/augmented reality), and new places for you to travel to and explore!
YOU HAVE NO LIMITS!
Straps by HAPTIC INDUSTRIES
Discover all of the camera straps made by HAPTIC INDUSTRIES:
New Henri Shoulder Strap (available in CREMA BROWN + PHANTOM BLACK)
ERIC KIM NECK STRAP (Compatible with RICOH GR II)
ERIC KIM Wrist Strap (Compatible with RICOH GR II)
There is no “perfect” camera. Don’t fall into GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and falsely believe that buying a new camera will make you a better photographer.
- Zen Body-Hand-Mind Connection with the Camera
- Why It Doesn’t Matter What Camera You Shoot With
- What is the Best Camera and Lenses for Street Photography?
- The Best Travel Street Photography Equipment 2018
- 6 Lessons I’ve Learned After Shooting All the Expensive Cameras
- How to Make Good Photos on a Shitty Camera
- Why I Shoot With One Camera and One Lens
- My Travel Equipment, Winter 2017
- What is the Perfect Camera For You?
- What to Consider When Buying a Camera
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Smartphone Photography
- Benefits of Shooting Street Photography With a Smartphone
- In Street Photography, The Smaller the Camera, the Better
- Film Street Photography Manual
- What I Learned Shooting 100 Rolls of Black and White Film
- What I Learned Processing 164 Rolls of Film
My favorite camera for street photography
There is no perfect camera for street photography and everyone’s tastes are different. My favorite camera for street photography is the Ricoh GR II.
The Ricoh GR II is the best bang-for-the-buck camera for street photography on the market. It has an APS-C sensor (DSLR-sized sensor), a super-sharp 28mm lens (no anti-aliasing filter), and literally fits into your front pocket.
The Ricoh GR II is pretty much the same as the prior Ricoh GR, except it has Wi-Fi built in.
Why do I recommend the Ricoh GR II?
First of all, for street photography you want the smallest, most compact, and inconspicuous camera (that you can always carry with you). I find that with other digital cameras, you end up never carrying them with you 24/7, simply because they are too big. The Fujifilm X100F and digital Leica’s are fantastic tools, but honestly even those cameras are too big to fit in your front pocket.
In street photography, the size of the sensor is also not very important. In-fact, having a non-full frame camera is generally preferable, because you have more depth-of-field in street photography, which is beneficial to “zone-focusing.”
When I shoot with the Ricoh GR II, I generally keep the camera on “P” mode, ISO 1600, and center-point autofocus. I treat it like a point-and-shoot: I simply point and click. This makes me have to think less when shooting, and spend more energy focusing on the composition, framing, and capturing emotion in the photos.
Many photographers bemoan the fact that the Ricoh GR II doesn’t have a viewfinder. Honestly, I feel that viewfinders are a bit overrated — the LCD screen helps you be more creative with your compositions (shooting super-low angle, or a super-high angle), and also helps you photograph your subjects closer (putting a small compact camera close to someone’s face is less intimidating than putting a big DSLR lens into someone’s face).
Also if you want, the Ricoh GR II has a fantastic “snap mode” which allows you to pre-focus to a certain distance (1 meter, 1.5 meters, 5 meters, infinity), which is like zone-focusing on a rangefinder camera. This means when you’re shooting on the streets on a sunny day, you can set your pre-focus to 1.5 meters, ISO 1600, aperture-priority mode in f/8, and take photos that are all sharp and in-focus.
In addition, the Ricoh GR II has the simplest yet comprehensive menu out of any digital camera I’ve used. You can change the function buttons, you can change whether the power lamp is on or off, and everything in the menu is easily searchable. I believe the Ricoh GR II was designed by photographers, not simply by engineers.
The camera is extremely affordable, which means you can save all your hard-earned cash on buying experiences, not stuff. Use that money to travel to a country you’ve always wanted to travel, to buy photography books, and to invest in photography-education (workshops, classes, seminars).
Furthermore, you can charge the camera via USB, which means you don’t need to travel with a bulky battery-charger. As long as you keep the camera off while you’re not shooting on the streets, one battery should last you a full day.
- Read my review of the Ricoh GR II
Best Equipment by ERIC KIM
This is a list of my personal favorite equipment in photography, computers, and life:
Of course, this list probably won’t apply to you — but this is advice I would give myself (if I needed to buy stuff):
My favorite cameras:
Best value digital camera for street photography
Best digital compact camera
Best 3-inch screen protector
For Ricoh GR II: Expert Shield 3” LCD protector ($14)
Best designed mirrorless camera
Best value mirrorless camera
Best digital rangefinder
Best digital video camera
Best SD card
Best fashion digital camera
If you’re new to shooting film, pick up a copy of FILM NOTES.
Best film rangefinder
Leica MP + Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Lens
Best affordable film rangefinder
Leica M6 + Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Lens
Best compact film camera
Best medium-format film camera
Fujifilm GF670 (discontinued, find on eBay)
Best black and white film
Best color film
Best film scanner
For medium-format/35mm: Epson v800: $800
For 35mm: Plustek OpticFilm 8100: $270
Best camera shoulder bag
Best camera backpack
Fits 13” Laptop and Camera: Thinktank Perception 15 (black): $120
Best photography neck strap
Best photography wrist strap
Best photography inspiration website
Best photography news blog
Best photography software
Best video editing software
iMovie (free) or Final Cut Pro X ($300)
Best educational photography book
Best black-and-white photography art book
Best color photography art book
Best photography handbook
Best philosophy book
Best digital tools
Any MacBook Air or Pro
Best value phone
iPhone SE (cheapest model): $400
Best android phone
Best value android phone
Best Mac Apps
Best writing app
IA Writer (for writing) + Ulysses (for note-taking)
Best screen recorder
Best image resizer
Best noise-cancelling headphones
Apple Beats X
Darn Tough Socks Merino Wool
Merino Wool Leggings (black)
Best bank / credit card (USA)
Chase / Chase Sapphire credit card
Best entrepreneurial tools
Best blogging platform
Best paid online services
Best cloud storage
Diet & Nutrition
Deadlifts (one rep max) + squats + dumbbell press + chin-ups + pushups
Of course this is just a list of stuff that work for me. It probably won’t work for you.
But I got inspired to make this list– because it took me about 10 years to figure out the best equipment for me. And this works for me, and I hope it can help simplify your purchasing decisions (at least in photography and some other details).
I’ll continue to do articles and videos related to equipment– because I do believe (up to a certain degree) having the ‘right’ equipment in life makes life easier. But the problem is falling victim to GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) where we are buying stuff for the sake of it (has happened to me).
If you already have a bunch of equipment that works for you– stick with it. But if you need some help, I hope this list helped you.
Unleash your creative potential:
- 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.