Most of us are happy to continue along the path of least resistance. Easy is good, right? But easy can lead to stuck.
Even with photography, it’s easy to get into a rut – creating similar images over and over with only subtle variations to mark one from the next. On the positive side, this routine or repetition produces a body of work that has consistency and helps you hone your artistic voice or style. On the other hand, it can get you stuck. When that happens, improvement and real breakthroughs with your art may not happen until you shake things up… get out of your comfort zone and normal routine. How do you do that? Commit to a challenge!
There are lots of photography challenges out there: the black and white, 365, weekly themes, scavenger hunts… Just type “photo challenge” into a search box and you’ll be flooded with choices. I’ve recently tried out a one camera, one lens challenge. For several weeks, I have taken the same camera out (my not-yet-beloved mirrorless) and used only one lens. It’s been an eye opening exercise that has not only helped me get out of a rut, but provided unexpected benefits and surprisingly good results.
Here’s why I think it works…
Using only one camera and one lens forces you to get to know them – intimately. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you get proficient at something. Focusing your time on one lens and one camera body means you clock those 10,000 hours much faster. When you know your camera and lens well, you remove the technical stumbling blocks.
When you don’t have a bag full of lenses, you learn to make due. Sometimes the shot you want is not one you can get with the one lens you have; so it forces you to either get creative or to look for another (and often even better) shot.
Speeds You Up and Slows You Down
Having only one lens will both speed you up and slow you down. You’ll find you’re “ready” more often to catch fleeting moments because, instead of digging through your bag and switching lenses, the camera is in hand. Plus, the more time you spend practicing with just the one lens and one camera, the faster you become at knowing how to set them to get the shot. At the same time, the limitations force you to slow down. Learning to find pleasing compositions within the limitations takes more time… more considered time. But this is time well-spent and your images will start to reflect this.
Any Camera? Any Lens?
Sure! It doesn’t matter what camera or lens you choose – even your phone could work. But I suggest that you’ll see greater technical improvement if you choose a combination that you currently struggle or are less familiar with. And for even greater growth in creativity, try a fixed or prime lens. Why? Because it’s even more limited. You can’t micro-manage the scene by zooming. You have to move your feet. Which means you are more engaged in actively seeking out compositions. Either way, when you limit yourself to one lens, eventually you’ll notice that you can look at a scene without the camera and see it as if you had the camera to your eye. You’ll start to pre-visualize your images and that, my friends, is when the fun begins. See it, frame it, make it. To do this effortlessly is the goal; and the one camera, one lens challenge is a great way to move you towards that goal.
So… if you’re feeling like your photography or art is stuck, why not give yourself a challenge? Break out of the rut. Get inspired again. Be sure to share your breakthroughs within the comments below.