Guest Post: One Lens – By Jessica Sweeney


He knows what you have in your camera bag!

I love my photography gear as much as anyone. And I have a good reason to do so, because if I didn’t have any gear I wouldn’t be able to take any photographs. Ever. Even for sketching you need paper and a pencil, or the wall of a cave and some sort of pigment, if we want to go back even further. And talent. Which is why sketching has never really worked out for me.

So, gear is necessary. However, at the same time, choice creates confusion. It slows us down. Should I take my point and shoot with me? Or should I take my DSLR? Or do I want to bring my film SLR with me? And what lenses? Extra batteries? Lens hoods? What camera bag should I put them in? Do I need a tripod? A monopod? And once I’ve made these choices, packed my bag and gone out into the world to shoot, I’m still not done.

If you’re like me you can’t bear to leave lenses at home. Tripods, yes. Ugly, heavy things only slow me down! Extra batteries I’ve been known to forget. Lens hoods have been lost in the wilderness and I didn’t even mourn. (True story.) But my lenses are my pride and joy. I cherish them. I don’t go anywhere without at least two. Because what if I need that wide angle shot? What if I see some rare beast 500 yards away and I couldn’t get a shot without my longest telephoto? What if I need the delicious blurring ability of my Lensbaby? It would be a tragedy to miss the shot.

Or would it?

Chances are, that rare beast will be long gone by the time I change lenses. And that wide angle shot might not be so life-or-death. Most of the time when I go out to shoot, I end up shooting with only one lens. So why am I carrying all the others? They only slow me down.  And here’s the key point of my post today: those other lenses slow me down even if I never use them. Because I think about whether I should. If I have a wide angle on the camera and a telephoto in the bag, I’m wondering if I should switch to the telephoto, while I’m composing my wide angle shots.

So my proposed solution is this: start going out with only one lens. Bonus points if it’s a prime, because then you won’t have to think about the possibilities of a zoom. And if you can, keep that lens on the camera for a few sessions. I promise, by the third or fourth time you take it out your shots will be better composed, because you will start to see like the lens.

I’m primarily a wide angle to normal length lens kind of gal. I keep my wide angle zoom or my 50 on the camera 99% of the time. But for the past week I’ve been forcing myself to shoot with my telephoto zoom, and although I’m finding it a bit more difficult, I’m starting to see like the lens, even when the camera is by my side. If you don’t spend enough time with just one lens, you’ll never get to the place where your eye starts to interpret the world in the same way it does. And it will take you longer to compose a good shot.

So tomorrow (or today!) pick up your camera. Put a lens on it. Don’t grab a bag. Don’t bring your lens cleaning cloth.  No filters, no remote cable releases, no camera manual. (You do, however, have my permission to slip an extra battery in your pocket. I have been there one too many times.) Don’t take anything else with you. No tripod. Maybe even leave the lens cap at home. Walk outside your door and start framing and shooting.

Lather, rinse, and repeat. I promise, you’ll thank me later.

If you enjoyed my post today, please feel free to mosey on over to my blog, Quotidian Photography. I try to post a photo plus a few thoughts there every day.

  • Interesting concept. I know I can take my zoom 18-200 mm, and have a successful day. At the same time, I will take my 50 mm prime, and I am struggling. Is taking a zoom cheating?

    January 11, 2010 at 10:35 pm
  • that’s pretty pigeon

    January 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm
  • I think if you’re struggling with the 50mm, then that’s the lens you should choose. I’m currently working with the lens I use the most. And actually, now that it’s been a few days, I’m loving it. Shocker! I can take shots with it that I can’t take with my other lenses.

    January 13, 2010 at 12:48 am
  • When I said most up there, I meant least. The lens I use the least. I’m tired.

    January 13, 2010 at 12:49 am

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