eric kim photography hanoi-0007059
Portrait by Cindy / Hanoi, 2017

Dear friend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the philosophy behind compression — to make things into a smaller size.

Small is beautiful

First of all, I believe that small is beautiful. Smaller is easier, less stressful, and more manageable.

For example, it is better to have a small car than a big car. Smaller cars use less gas, have cheaper maintenance costs, are easier to park, are generally cheaper, and take up less room.

Smaller cameras are better than bigger cameras. Smaller cameras are generally lighter, easier to carry with you everywhere you go, less complicated to use, and you end up taking more photos.

Smaller smartphones are better than big smartphones. Smaller smartphones are easier to use with one hand, aren’t as heavy, and encourage you to not use your smartphone as much.

Compression in photography

One thing I’ve been doing a lot in my photography is compressing my images.

In today’s world, we are in a megapixel war. It seems that all these camera companies are trying to tell us: “The more megapixels, the better.” And of course, us as suckers, we believe it. We generally think higher numbers equal better quality.

However in reality, I believe in more megapixels, more problems. The larger your image sizes are, the more difficult it is to backup your photos. The longer it takes to upload online. You spend more money on storage.

One of the best tools I got was JPEG Mini Pro. The creator gifted it to me, and it has been my most valuable tool. I’ve compressed thousands of photos, with no visible degradation of image quality. And the truth is, most people are going to see your photos on a 5’’ smartphone — how few of us actually plan on printing our photos on massive billboards.

The benefit of compressing my images is many. I worry less about image storage, I can upload my photos online quicker, and I just feel lighter, and more free.

Going back to the point that smaller is better— at this point I don’t want any new digital cameras with more megapixels. I don’t want the added stress of bigger file sizes. So I’m either going to stick with my camera gear right now, or perhaps — even invest in cameras the future with smaller file sizes.

Compression in cameras

The innovation of the Sony A7s series is that they made the megapixel size smaller— but that improved the image quality, and the high-ISO capabilities. A lot of smartphone companies are realizing this too — often more megapixels equals worse image quality. So smartphone companies are scaling back the number of megapixels in their cameras, in order to produce better image quality.

Not only that, I am a fan of how camera companies have been able to compress the sizes of their cameras. To fit larger sensors in smaller bodies.

The benefit of compressing in travel

When it comes to traveling, the smaller you can compress your stuff, the better.

I don’t recommend getting big backpacks when you’re traveling. The bigger your backpack, the more stuff you’re going to over-pack. I believe in ‘creative constraints’ — the idea that you constrain yourself to a certain size, and by having a smaller size, you are forced to be more creative and resourceful.

For example, when I travel, the only backpack I carry with me is the Thinktank Perception 15 backpack. It fits my laptop, a few extra clothes, and my camera. It isn’t too big, nor too small. It is a good medium size— and I end up not overstuffing it with superfluous things.

I also favor travel clothes that are easily packable, and can compress to a small size. My t-shirts are UNIQLO airism v-neck mesh shirts, which fold up tiny. My socks are Drymax hyper thin socks, which fold up tiny. I also make it a point to travel with only 2 pairs of something, which means less bulk, less weight, and less stress.

Compression in Tokyo

One of the things I was most impressed in Tokyo was compression. Compression of the cars, buildings, and the people.

The average Tokyo apartment is tiny. Yet, a lot of Japanese have found innovative ways to save space. By using containers that collapse into themselves, by not accumulating a lot of stuff, and by organizing their space effectively.

In the book: “The Japanese Art of Tidying Up” Marie Kando encourages us to get rid of things in our lives which don’t ‘spark joy.’ The book summed up is this: hold a physical possession in your hand, and ask yourself: “Does this object spark joy in my life?” If it does ‘spark joy’, keep if. If not, say ‘thank you’ to your object, and either throw it away, donate it, or give it away.

How to compress ourselves in life

I feel there are a lot of different ways we can apply compression to life.

Perhaps we can learn how to compress ourselves to take up less space. To not need as much room in our homes. To have smaller bedrooms, to have smaller closets, and to have smaller bags.

Perhaps we can compress and distill all of the learnings we have learned in life in our minds, and share the best of what we’ve learned with others.

Perhaps we can compress our circle of friends, to just the key few friends who truly bring joy and happiness to our lives.

More compression, more freedom

Let us learn how to compress ourselves, to take up less space, physically and spiritually. Let us make more room for others, in order for us to breathe more, feel less stress, anxiety, and to feel more freedom.


Learn more: Philosophy >