Labor to Make Your Photos Concise

eric kim photography hanoi-0007483
Hanoi, 2017

‘I labor to be concise.’ – Horace

Let us work hard to make our photos short, and to the point:

1. It takes a long time to make things concise

I once read a saying from an ancient, who said something like:

Sorry for making this letter so long. If I had more time, I would have made it shorter.

The basic concept is this: it takes more work to make something short and concise, rather than long and flowery.

2. I need to work on brevity

I have a hard time making my writing concise. I am very verbose. Because I write like I talk. And for those of you who have met me, I love the sound of my own voice.

But anyways, I think true art is cutting away the superfluous. A photographer is an artist who takes a rough diamond (reality and the world) and chips away at the imperfections. Just like a sculptor starts with a blank slab of marble, and slowly chisels away the marble, to reveal the David inside.

Brevity is an art. If you want your photos, or art to be remembered— labor and work hard to make it concise.

3. Short sayings stick

The best advice is brief sayings, like:

  • Know yourself
  • Don’t do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you
  • Better late than never
  • Live today like it were your last

I also think the best photography is short, concise, strong, and ‘all killer, no filler.’

What I mean by that is this — labor and work hard to make your photography projects shorter, not longer.

4. Reduce your photography

The music producer Rick Rubin calls himself a ‘reducer’ (not a producer). His job is to help reduce the number of tracks in an album. To reduce the concepts. To focus on the core essence of the music.

I know for me, I want to show all my photos. Because I think they’re all beautiful, and deserve to be looked at.

But in reality, nobody has the time for your art. We are busy and frantic in our day to day living. To have someone even give you a minute of their time is asking for a lot.

5. 1 minute slideshows

I’ve been inspired by Instagram lately – how you can upload (up to) 1 minute videos.

I learned from my friend Sandra that you can make video slideshows and upload them to Instagram. So I tried it out.

I used iMovie, made a simple slideshow, added some music, and kept it under 1 minute. I then uploaded it to Instagram, and other social media networks. And I loved it.

The music added a nice texture to the photos. And 1 minute is the perfect time to show someone your photos. It isn’t too long (so it doesn’t get boring). I know for myself, I don’t like to watch videos longer than 1-2 minutes. I have the attention span of a gadfly.

6. When in doubt, throw it out

In your photo projects, less is more. Constrain your photo projects to 12, 10, 7, 5, or even 3 photos.

Remember what your momma told you about rotten food in the fridge:

When in doubt, throw it out.

I try to do the same in my photography. When I’m unsure about a certain photograph, I just throw it out.

Another good way to think of whether you want to keep your photos or not:

Either the photo is a ‘hell fucking yeah’ or a ‘no’ (credit Derek Sivers)

Trust your gut, when deciding to keep your photos or not.

7. Paint your own reality

At the end of the day, just make photos and art because it is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. Be like a kid, with a blank sheet of paper, and a crayon.

Paint your own reality. But when sharing your work with others, remember— less is more.


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