Eric Kim Allowing High-Res Downloads of His Work for Free, Going ‘Open Source’


Street photographer Eric Kim has always believed in the value of ‘open source.’ Usually a term reserved for software and code, open source is a development model that promotes free public access and redistribution rights for a product.

Much of what Kim has put out into the world — be they videos or ebooks — he’s made available in the same way: use, alter and share as you’d like. And now, he’s adding his photos to the list of things the public has almost unlimited access to.


He made the announcement in a recent blog post, in which he explains a few of the reasons behind his draw to the open source community, and how he’s tried to embody that community’s principles in his own work. Part of that involves being willing to share much of what he creates for free:

I want to reiterate the fact that I will never charge anything on the blog in terms of information. I will make sure that anything information-based (articles, videos, features, etc) will always be available openly and for free on the blog.

I also wanted to announce that I have recently made all of my photos on Flickr available for free as full-resolution downloads. So if you have ever liked any of my photos and wanted a print, feel free to download any photo and print any sized photo you want. Use it as wallpapers, prints to hang on your wall, or whatever you want to use them for (non commercial). And no, you don’t need my permission.


Kim grew up in the lower socio-economic class in America, with his mom holding down three part-time jobs to put him and his sister through school. He made it through college thanks to a combination of Government grants and a subsidized work-study program, and he credits “countless mentors” who gave selflessly of their time with helping him become the person he is today.

It’s because of this that he feels he has “a moral and societal obligation to give back to the community.” And for him, that obligation means he’ll never charge more for his work and time than it takes for him to make a living.


In his own words, he never wants to become “a blood-thirsty capitalist/vampire trying to suck profits out of the street photography community.” And if he does, well, he gives you permission to “stab a wooden stake through my heart and bust out the garlic.”

My Vision of Open Source Photography (Volume 2) [Eric Kim Street Photography]

Image credits: Photographs by Eric Kim.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Neil!

  • ton of bs

    It does help get him free press for sure and a following…due to the Orphan Works Bill I wonder what will happen when someone takes a file and uploads somewhere and some company finds it with all the metadata stripped out and makes millions on it and he can collect nothing.

  • MS

    I can’t believe this kid has been shooting “street” for a few years and is now traveling the world teaching seminars. Oh well, more power too him I guess.

  • mlieberman85

    It’s not an orphaned work though.

  • agour

    there’s plenty of people out there who could do the same… But most people are too lazy to get off their asses and make things happen.

  • Carl Meyer

    It’s not like he hasn’t spent money on it and also the time promoting himself on multitude of sites and polishing his approach to create enough hype is not something lazy people do.

    He’s not giving for free his work his allowing others to promote his work, without a steady income he would have never done this step.

  • ProtoWhalePig

    Who would actually want any of those on their wall?


    I do believe he’s found out his fifteen minutes ran out some time ago.

  • TheGloriousEnd

    So, selling street photography prints makes you a capitalist vampire?

  • Martin Nilsson

    It might be that he references the proposed law in England that adds a sort of “fair use” for companies. If you can’t find out who made the picture, i.e. no metadata and has been re-posted, you can use it for free.

  • Don

    That’s cool. It’s good to share and give things away. Some open source guys get more militant and _demand_ that people share, which is disrespectful of the ideal.

  • Eziz

    As an open-source IT Consultant, I approve :)

  • 9inchnail

    I wouldn’t want any of the photos shown here on my wall but he does have some nice shots. He is overrated in my opinion but he’s certainly not bad. I don’t know why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for his seminars, though. Grab your camera and get out there. Shoot “Program” or even “Auto” if you have to. It’s not rocket science.

  • 9inchnail

    He would be selling them, too if he didn’t have a stable source of income with his overpriced seminars. Ok, I admit, if people were willing to pay 800 bucks to hear me talk, I wouldn’t say “no” to that, either.

  • 9inchnail

    Well, if you work hard and give the fruits of your labor away for free, it’s kind of ok to demand people that use your product to give something back. That’s the whole spirit behind open source. Sharing does not mean one guy keeps giving, the other guy keeps taking.

  • Tapo

    His photographs are ordinary.. his claim to being a street photographer is mostly to do with him owning a leica.. not sure if anyone would want to buy these, so it does not hurt that he is giving them away for free..

  • Perry

    I´m not a fan of him but aren’t people in the comments here just a bit too jealous … I think his work is great, no not the best in the world but then again, these days it not all about being a 1 in a million photographer. And more about being able to bring it to the masses. And there are not a lot of people doing that as good as Eric. And this is a free service, if you don’t like it, don’t use it :P

  • Jake

    So “he never wants to become ‘a blood-thirsty capitalist/vampire,'” but has no problem sneaking up in front of people and taking obnoxious pictures of them without their permission for his own gain?

  • Burnin Biomass

    Interesting marketing move.

  • vinterchaos

    Considering he makes his money from his webpage and his workshops, big deal.. this isn’t very noble.

  • vinterchaos

    I also want to add I think he’s got some good insights on things and has some good tutorials before someone comes here and points fingers about a whole bunch of things.

  • jonathan pearson

    they are snaps easy to do and quick and cheap

  • Neil

    As a friend of Eric’s, I’d like to commend him for doing this because as a photographer myself, I don’t plan on giving away my images any time soon.

  • jonathan pearson

    one word flickr

  • Ed Haas

    Commenting on the quality of his work is not important to me. It stands on it’s own. Some like it and some don’t. But as a photographer working in New York for the last 36 years, I become more troubled by a well intended act being viewed as “business as usual” on the client/recipient side of the equation. All too often “free” is the new paid. There was a post the other day about a non-profit organization telling a photographer that they don’t pay for photographs. While Eric makes money in other areas and chooses to do this, I am concerned the impact this has in the further expectation of free being the new norm. I have made a modest living in this business and raised a family because people have valued and paid for my work. Yet these days the value of our work is so compromised, I wonder how many of the younger photographers out there will be able to say the same 36 years down the road.

  • twocuteblogs

    As someone that has taught with Eric a few times, I can attest to the fact that his workshops are easily worth the money. On the last workshop we did, every student made considerable improvements in their photography (within the space of a few days). Many will argue that for similar money you can do a workshop with a Magnum photographer – but I don’t know of any Magnum workshops when you actually hit the streets with the teacher. Given that the large majority of Eric’s students are beginners, they can learn a great deal from him. The fact that he hasn’t been shooting long doesn’t matter – it’s been his full time job for a couple of years now. And I can honestly say that Eric talks about nothing else than SP – so he probably knows more from 5 years that many have learnt in 10.

    As an aside, compare Eric’s approach with Alex Coghe – whose Noise collective charges for people to download their images. If Eric is a mercenary, what is Alex?

  • twocuteblogs

    good point Ed.

  • elmakias

    Awesome, nice job Eric.

  • ERic

    perhaps its your resentment thats holding you back.

  • Laurel Ede

    Jonathan – since you think it’s so easy to take snaps like these,
    perhaps you’d like to share some of your own photography? Sure, Eric
    isn’t a Magnum photographer, but getting a good street photograph is
    harder than it looks. Not saying you are obliged to like his
    photography, but if anyone is going to say his work is “easy to do and quick and cheap” I’d like to see if they could produce anything better.

  • dudung10

    same here. I respect what he’s doing for the community but man, his style is kinda whack and unoriginal. I’m sure he’d make a good instructor tho

  • dudung10

    great? Just because he’s a nice kid with good intentions, doesn’t mean you have to say his work is “great.” come on.

  • dudung10

    please try and replicate any of his images. same people, same place, same everything. thanks

  • twocuteblogs

    i found two jonathan pearson’s when i searched his name and photography on google. both produced piss poor images.

  • MrJimmy

    First Let me say I like the concept of street photography, But I don’t like the idea
    Mr. Kim giving away free photography’s and calling it open source or Mr. Kim claiming to be giving back to the community. If in his short years IF he has become such a great maker of world class street shots as his followers keep asserting to and typically without providing evidence of that by ways of sales or major events such as major exhibition of his work. Then I see this as Mr. Kim doing what he does best. Sale himself. He is a blogger. Print, Internet, Photo, Video, Mr. Kim is about promoting Mr. Kim. And nothing more. Mr. Kim I am sure loves cameras and picture taking so he has found a way to pay for it all. Cant blame him for that. If Mr. Kim was a great talent then he would sale is photographs and make millions and then give his workshops to anyone that shows up for free. But no! he is a blood-thirsty capitalist/vampire trying to suck profits out of the street photography community by charging 10 to 20 people a 1000.00 dollars each to shot a camera on the street. And saying he is giving back by giving away photos he cant sale in the first place. Mr. Kim is a Blogger.

  • Tsu

    This is the first time I’m hearing about this guy. Some comments make it sounds as if he’s a rock star. What clients has he shot for on a professional level and been paid for his photographic work? Serious question. Any advertising or editorial clients? Any photo agencies he’s been represented by or on contract with as a contributor? Surely people aren’t paying to attend workshops with someone who has no professional experience and no bio back it up. Right? Please inform me, I’m really being honest in my questions.

  • Guest

    Well, he’s a terrible photographer and a bit of a douchebag with his ridiculous flashing of people in “street”. For anyone that thinks he’s worth learning from, please go find a real street photographer to learn from.

  • JTWeld

    Well, he’s a terrible photographer and a bit of a douchebag with his ridiculous flashing of people in “street”. For anyone that thinks he’s worth learning from, please go find a real street photographer to learn from.

  • Oslo_DepthMental

    I don’t want to sound like some disgruntled person easily accused or written off as envious but I really don’t think I’d be comfortable downloading the evidence of people he’s pissed off with a flash in public… even if it is free.

    I’ve never really liked his style in general. There’s just something particularly irksome about the work and opinions of a guy who is more than happy to disturb people and abuse the laws set to protect street photographers. I’m surprised that no one has seriously decked him yet.

    All that aside, if he wants to put his high res work out for free… whatever. He’s not worried about it (or doesn’t appear to be) and neither should we. It’s all about stepping our own capabilities up anyway. As far as Eric and his work is concerned… well… we’ll see what happens down the line.

  • eritreo

    My photos are under creative-commons… i don’t think that it was something remarkable …

  • k-dog

    I don’t think that those sort of credentials back you up as a street photographer. fashion/portrait work, or famous clients don’t really imply that the photographer is very good, or has a talent outside that segment of photography. This isn’t to say they are bad, but I just don’t believe you need to have that sort of experience to be a great street photographer.

  • pagaphoto

    You want to give back to the “community”? Then charge as much as possible for each print you can sell and try to become so rich that you can start a couple of foundations Bill Gates style… you will then give something valuable to the community. Any way otherwise, you are just delusional: what you give away for free is worth nothing, by definition.

  • hornbeck

    As a member of noise, all of of my photos have always been available for free and available for download in their highest resolution

    Congrats to Eric for doing this but it’s not open source. Real open source photography would be putting your RAW files out there and allowing others to edit and redistribute them, even charge for them if they wanted, as long as they provided the same rights to those receiving the files on the other end.

    There’s nothing wrong with selling things and making money, that isn’t what open source is about, it’s about the freedom of information and not locking people into something that they’ve invested time and money into.

    Great that he can make money doing workshops, I know plenty of people who make money doing training and consulting for open source software.

    However, there’s nothing wrong with selling your photos, just like there’s nothing wrong with selling software, I’ve helped build and sell open source software for the past 10 years.

    I used to respect you and your work, now I realize you’re nothing but a troll that will use any platform to attack Alex and what he’s doing. Good job.

  • Francisco

    I think Eric Kim has got a few very good pictures, some nice ones and lots of uninteresting stuff (I certainly don’t criticize him for using sometimes flash). He appears to be passionate for what he does but if I was a potential student, I’d expect much more qualification, experience, credentials from my teacher since his workshops are expensive. Passion is fine but it’s not enough. I read somewhere he studied sociology, maybe that has helped much in making him what he seems to be: a marketer, a business-oriented young man.

  • opendna

    “There wasn’t any metadata so we couldn’t find the owner!”

    That witness would get destroyed in the first 60 seconds. Between TinEye and Google reverse image search, it’s pretty unlikely that the anything posted on Flickr can’t be found by anyone using the minimum of effort.

  • opendna

    The license is the license, and most OS licenses are viral. I think Don was referring to people who demand that others use open source for their own original work.

  • Jake

    Oh wow …that poorly exposed pic of an old lady’s arse that I’ve always wanted …finally its mine.

  • Richard Ford

    Snore. It is not that hard.

  • Cfr


  • Don Tusk

    Ok, street photography is his passion but he shouldn’t teach other people. He took 5 good pictures but the rest is just an “bruce gilden inspired” snapshots.

  • David Vaughn

    Has anyone else noticed that the photos in his Flickr seem to get better the further back you go? Like; the first eight are really nice (I especially like the one of the Superman leaning on the mural), but after that it’s just kind of “meh.”