Innovation is Knowing What Not to Do in Your Photography and Life

eric kim street photography

One of the ideas I’m constantly obsessed about is innovation. Steve Jobs once said that innovation wasn’t saying yes to a lot of good ideas— rather, innovation was saying “no” to 1,000 good ideas (and knowing which great ideas to choose from).

Which made me realize — perhaps if we want to innovate in our photography, we should figure out what not to do in our work, approach, and process.

Things not to do

eric kim street photography

I love the idea of looking at what everyone else— and doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

For example, when everyone is on social media, perhaps the best way you can innovate is by not using social media (perhaps focusing on printing your work, having exhibitions, making books).

Perhaps in a world where everyone is uploading one photo a day to social media, you only upload one photo a week to social media.

Maybe instead of using social media, start a photography blog instead.

eric kim street photography

In your photo projects, figure out what not to include in your projects. The photos you decide to exclude from your project are more important than the photos you decide to include in your projects.

If you want to build your style in photography, figure out what kinds of genres of subject-matter you don’t like to photograph. And simply avoid taking those kinds of photos.

To make better compositions or images, seek to reduce clutter, complication, and distractions from your frame. Only focus on the essential. Kill noise at all costs, and subtract the superfluous.

eric kim street photography colors

When it comes to your camera gear, figure out what gear not to use. Perhaps that means getting rid of the gear you don’t use, and only focusing on the gear that you really do use (either stick to one camera, one lens, or the minimum amount of gear as possible).

Seeking simplicity is complex

We often think that “simple” is dumb, straight-forward, and stupid.

However, simple is more difficult to achieve than complicated. It takes a ton of work to distill our thinking, ideas, and art to make it simple.

“The height of cultivation returns to simplicity.”- Bruce lee

What to say “no” to

eric kim street photography colors

For me, I think the more I think about my photography and life, I am less of a photographer, and more of a teacher, blogger, and idea-creator/sharer.

I think moving forward, I want to showcase my photography less. Because most people don’t know me for my photography. They know me for this blog, YouTube, e-books, and articles.

For me, this means figuring out what not to focus on — which can include the following:

  • Social media
  • Exhibitions
  • Networking

I figure the less distractions, less focus, and energy I give to the superfluous in my life— the more focus I can have to the truly important (blogging and teaching for me).

Figure out what to remove from your life

eric kim street photography colors

“The fool adds one thing a day. The wise man removes one thing a day.” – Lao Tzu

For a while, I had a practice of uninstalling one app from my smartphone. And eventually I realized, for most of the time, I didn’t even need my smartphone. So most of the time I just keep my phone off, unless I need to contact someone, or someone needs to contact me.

What is one thing you can remove from your life a day, to innovate and change your life?

Does that mean removing 1 negative person? Does that mean visiting 1 fewer distracting website? Does that mean uninstalling 1 superfluous app from your phone? Does that mean subtracting 1 unnecessary outfit from your closet? Does that mean subtracting 1 social media platform for your life?

The goal isn’t to do nothing — the focus is to just get rid of the fat in your life, and to focus on the #1 thing that is truly valuable to you — the thing that also brings the most value to the life of others.

By having fewer options, you need to be more creative

eric kim street photography colors

Just think about it — if you wanted to be more innovative in your photography, imagine a world where you didn’t have any social media. How could you share your work? This will help you stir some new ideas.

As a blogger, how can I share my articles without using traditional forms of social media to help me? I’m sure by thinking this — I will be able to innovate more in my blog.

In your photography projects, what can you decide not to do, and how to innovate? What traditional things can you decide not to do in your book? Maybe don’t have a cover? Maybe don’t print a lot of copies? Maybe don’t print them at all — but only do it digitally?

Necessity is the mother of all innovation.

Just don’t do what you don’t like what others are doing

Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject
Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject

Lastly, a simple tip: to know what to do in life — study the actions of others, and figure out what not to do.

If you’re on social media, and you see someone uploading too many images- don’t complain. Just make it a point not to upload too many photos.

If you see that everyone is overly obsessed with cameras, don’t complain. Just make it a point not to overly-obsess with cameras in your own life.

No complaints. Let us just change our actions. Innovate for ourselves, and hopefully some others will follow and be influenced in a positive way.

Never stop innovating,

To keep learning, check out all Life Lessons >