How I Motivate Myself to Make Photos

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eric kim photography hanoi-0007166
About to leave our apartment in Hanoi / Macro photo of Cindy’s hand.

I have a hard time motivating myself to take photos. This is what works for me:

1. Wear my camera like a bracelet

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Bored in the elevator, taking selfies / Hanoi, 2017

I am currently shooting on the Ricoh GR II camera. One of the ways I find more inspiration to shoot is to wear it like its a bracelet.

For example, I keep on a wrist strap, and whenever I leave the apartment or the house I always keep it strapped, to my wrist, like a bracelet. Or like a watch.

What I’ve discovered for me is this: the biggest resistance I have in my photography is just having my camera in my hand. Therefore, the more often I have my camera in my hand, ready, the more likely I am to shoot.

I’ve also found that by having a camera in my hand, I see more photo opportunities. This is because I feel the weight of my camera in my hand, which triggers some part of my brain to see the world differently. To look for photos.

2. Don’t turn on my phone

Album cover Pusha T
Album Cover from Pusha T

I love the smartphone, in terms of how it has empowered people. But I also hate it, because it has turned us into digital slaves, with a ball-and-chain, which keeps us tied to notifications, vibrations, and updates.

I’ve found the biggest problem of having a smartphone is that I am no longer bored. Whenever I face an uncomfortable social situation, it is easy for me to just take out my phone, and escape into my alternate reality.

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Some interesting patterns on the ground walking to dinner, about to meet some friends / Hanoi, 2017

Not only that, but I feel boredom is what stirs creativity. For example, nowadays I try to keep my phone off as much as possible. I get bored more often. I get bored as I’m waiting for Cindy to get ready to leave the house. I get bored when I’m waiting for the bus. I get bored when I’m sitting around in a restaurant or a cafe with nothing to do.

But in these moments of boredom, I try to find myself ways to entertain myself. And often, that means taking photos.

For example, the other day I was waiting for Cindy to pack up her things before leaving our apartment. Imagine me standing at the door of our apartment, looking around, and once again— feeling bored. I then looked around myself, if there was anything interesting to photograph. I noticed the number ‘5’ on the inside of the door. I put my camera in macro mode, and shot that with a flash. I photographed random shapes and forms around me. I knew they weren’t interesting photos, but they kept me entertained. And looking at these photos, I actually like them quite a bit. I would have never taken these photos had I not allowed myself to become bored.

3. Treat my loved ones like it were their last day on earth

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A nice stairwell with leading lines, at the top floor of the Lotte Building in Hanoi / Cindy telling me to hurry up silly. 2017

Another is this — I try to treat my loved ones like it were their last day on earth.

Which means, I imagine them dying tomorrow. Or perhaps I’ll never see them tomorrow, or ever again.

Then, I try to photograph them like it was the last moment I had with them. I try to capture their soul in my image, perhaps for the fear of them dying. Or maybe the idea that by making a photo of them, I will feel more connected with them, and more appreciate of them.

I know with Cindy, I often fall into anger, frustration, impatience, and other negative emotions. But whenever I consider that today might be her last (or my last), these feelings quickly evaporate. Why would I feel resentment in my heart to whom I love the most, if today were their last day on earth?

Therefore, I photograph her with all my heart, soul, and every fiber of my being. I know she will be my main ‘photo project’ for my entire life. Because when she dies, or I die — I want to leave some sort of document of our love together. And I hope this will help inspire and motivate others to document their loved ones.

4. Gratitude of life

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Walking to Cindy’s archive, noticed some shadows on the ground, shot -1 exposure compensation / Hanoi, 2017

These are things that work for me. Try them out for yourself, and see if they can help stir motivate you to make photos.

But ultimately, I feel that art is about giving a damn of being alive in the world. Art is to find beauty in everything. Art is to find beauty in the mundane, and what better tool to use than a camera, which is simple to use, and always with us?

We can be artists with our smartphones, with a microphone, with our bodies, with a chisel, with paints and brushes— anything. The most important thing is that we put our soul in the art we create, and not give a damn of what anybody else may think.

5. We all have an inner-genius that guides us

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While waiting, bored, by the elevator — noticed this fly / My apartment, Hanoi, 2017

Ultimately, I also see that we all have an ‘inner-genius’ — not that we are geniuses. But we are all appointed an inner-genius (like a guardian angel), which helps guide us each step of our creative journey. Even as I type these words, I have no idea where they are coming from. It is a distillation of all my life experiences, the amazing individuals I have met, and the masters of art that have guided me along the way.

But to sum up, I think death is the ultimate motivator. If I were to live forever, I would have no motivation to drive me. It is perhaps the fear of death, or perhaps the idea that I don’t want to waste my life (credit to Cindy for this idea). I think that my life is the most precious thing that God has given me, so why waste any moment?


Motivation Articles

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Shot from my taxi / Hanoi, 2017

Re-inspire yourself:

  1. Wear Your Camera Like a Necklace or Bracelet
  2. Have Your Photos Come to You
  3. How to Level Up in Your Photography
  4. How Not to Give a Fuck of What Others Think of You
  5. How to Overcome Procrastination in Your Photography
  6. How to Reinspire Your Photography
  7. What is Your Mission in Photography and Life?
  8. How to Overcome Photographer’s Block
  9. Be a Photographer Now
  10. How to Overcome Boredom with Photography

See all Motivation Articles >