Home Photo Tips Shooting with a Single Lens (Choosing Your Gear)

Shooting with a Single Lens (Choosing Your Gear)

Using a Single Lens

When I was a beginner, a casual conversation with a pro photographer once opened my eyes to the possibilities of shooting great images with a single lens. I always believed that with a DSLR you need at least two lenses on you at all times. “So what would you do if you forget the other one at home? Stop shooting I presume?” was his concern. “Not really. I will still keep shooting.” I tried to reason. “Well then why don’t you do that more often and learn how to make the most out of one lens, the one you have on you?”

I never really thought that way. As a matter of fact the reason why I switched from a Point & Shoot to a DSLR was so that I can use different lenses, as I believe most people do. Up until that moment I never really and consciously put myself in a situation where I would be forced to shoot with a single lens.

Shooting with a Single Lens - photo The photographer at the Dark Hedges Northern Ireland
The photographer at the Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland by Giuseppe Milo

This is what a lot of beginner DSLRs users do, they feel that they can shoot great images only if they had two or more excellent lenses on them at all times. A good lens does make it easier to shoot good images, e.g.; an expensive f/2.8 tele lens would allow you to shoot from a distance and yet make great bird photos, but that does not mean that a pro-tog with a cheaper lens, opening up to only f/5.6, wouldn’t get something at par, or even better. They will simply use his knowledge and experience and get closer so that they can use a wider f-stop. It’s necessary to learn all about camera lenses so you can use these tools at your disposal to their full potential.

Shooting with a Single Lens - photo Serious Photographer
Serious Photographer by Garry Knight

Better gear can sometimes make us lazy. Oh, that bald eagle is at 200 yards, let’s whip out the 400mm prime and shoot from inside the car! Or, ok, I need to shoot great portraits so let’s whip out that 135mm f/2. Good luck to anybody who does not have such expensive gear!

Most pro photographers start humble. They work their way around, gaining experience, making money and slowly funding those expensive gears that you see them using. Rome wasn’t built-in a day, and most professionals did not start with a D4 and a 500mm prime at the beginning of their career.

Shooting with a Single Lens - photo 8 Point Buck by Ray Dumas
8 Point Buck by Ray Dumas

My point is, know how to squeeze every bit of juice out of your gear. Don’t fret just because you are stuck with a ‘kit’ lens and you didn’t know better to order a different lens. Don’t forget that the reason that this lens was paired with the camera is because it is a great all-purpose walk-around lens. Most lenses will work at their best when they are stopped down to about one or one and one thirds. There are exceptions through. If you are using a cheaper kit lens, stop it down by about one stop and your images are going to be sharper.

Yak at Yundrok Yumtso Lake
Yak at Yundrok Yumtso Lake by Dennis Jarvis

Don’t complain that you don’t have an expensive tele lens. Zooming isn’t a necessary pre-requisite for better images. Zoom with your feet instead! For street photography, candid wedding photography and editorial style photography this is a necessity.

Wedding by Rodrigo Araujo
Wedding by Rodrigo Araujo

Shooting with the same lens allow you to master it. Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of street photography, used to shoot with nothing but a 50mm lens mounted on his Leica. The lens became an extension of his eye. Have you ever looked at a cinematographer making a frame with his thumbs and index fingers before a shot is composed? Why do you suppose he does that? He wants to know how the scene will look even before it is filmed. When you spend a considerable amount of time with your go-to lens it shall also become a part of you and you will be able to visualize a picture even before pressing the shutter release.

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