Quick Tip For Recharging Your Creativity

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

In a previous post, I talked about something you could do when you need inpsiration: look at a ton of photos.

Well, if you’ve already tried looking at a hundred photos, and still don’t feel that creative energy kicking in, then there’s something else you can try that I just recently discovered:

Limit yourself to just one lens and one camera body.

So, instead of taking all your lenses (or even just a couple) on your next hike, just take ONE. And, preferably choose a prime lens (a lens with a fixed focal length), so you eliminate even more variables.

The idea behind this exercise is that limitations force you to be creative: they force you to think of interesting solutions to problems. For example, wildflowers are typically shot with a long telephoto lens to help isolate them from a background, but if all you had was a wide angle lens, you’d be forced to think of an interesting way to use that lens to get a good photo.

Another benefit of limiting yourself like this, is that it helps you focus on particular types of photographs. For example, if you choose to limit yourself to a 100mm Macro lens, then you’ll mainly be thinking about macro shots.

One of the most popular lenses to use for this exercise is the normal 50mm lens, but feel free to choose any of your lenses. I’ve found it works best if you choose a lens you don’t normally use very often.

If you’ve already tried this exercise, please tell us about your experience by leaving a comment below. Did it work for you? What did you learn? What lens did you pick?

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.

Comments

  1. I’ve used this technique on many occasions myself. Sometimes to challenge my creativity. Many times out of necessity, like when there wasn’t any room to carry more than one camera and lens. It’s a great way to learn the benefits and shortcomings of each of your lenses, and will make you a better photographer in the long run.

    It reminds me of what professional and serious amateur golfers do. They will on occasion play an entire round of golf with just one club. From tee shot to putting. And they will do this with every club in their arsenal. It’s the same principal. To learn the benefits and shortcomings of each club and master thier use in a variety of situations.

  2. Colin Burt says:

    Sorry Steve, this may work for you but to me it is like a runner trying to improve his times by running in only one shoe. I go out, always with my camera, and if I see something worth photographing I try for a good image. With only ,say, a 50mm lens I will miss that soaring osprey on the wing. With only a long telephoto how can I capture that stunning sunset ? Perhaps if as a professional you are looking for one sort of image only it might work, but for a fairly unskilled amateur I dont need handicaps ! I know many people say smugly ” I love a challenge” but I love to capture that fleeting chance as best I can , not make it more difficult. To take a photograph just to prove you can do it in spite of the self imposed handicap puts me in mind of the judge’s comment – “Technically excellent, but I wonder why the photographer took it ?”

  3. Paul Esteves says:

    Steve, thanks for your great articles. I have tried this method before. At one point only because I ONLY had the 50mm 1.8II. It was all I could afford! :) The problem I found was that I was never finding new shots or angles, instead, everything I shot would look the same. I’d isolate the subject and get great bokeh (because of the 1.8). That is great. But like Colin said, I started really wanting to get some bird shots, I couldn’t. I wanted to try be creative with landscapes, I couldn’t. I wanted to try some macro, I couldn’t. So, in principle, I think this method is great for improving creativity. However, it can also cause great frustration at times because you just CAN’T take a close up of a bird flying with a 50mm, unless it’s close.

  4. Steve suggests doing this occasionally, to get out of a photographic funk or test yourself, not as an every day thing. I know when I do this, my photos improve tremendously in a short amount of time. You will always miss some shots, no matter how many lenses you carry with you – it’s part of the nature of photography. But really learning a lens, front to back, inside and out, will always improve your images. And sometimes using a nontraditional lens for a shot gives you a whole different way of looking at it.

    Every time I get a new lens I do this. Sometimes it’s just part of the infatuation with a new toy, but also because if you don’t really know the limits of your equipment, you’re not getting the most out of it.

  5. That’s a great idea. I recall that when I played golf, we used to play a game called one-club. We’d take one club and a putter and play 9 or 18 holes. Interestingly, our scores didn’t change much but we had to think more about the play and because we bet $100 a game or $20 a hole.
    I’m trying t decide between the 100 2.8 macro or the 85 1.8 prime. I’ll report back.

    h

  6. Do they make an 18-1000mm lens yet? lol

  7. I need one of those… 18-1000mm ;)

  8. I tend to do this anyway. If I am shooting birds, I take the 400mm f/5.6 and have the 1.4x teleconverter in my pocket. If I am shooting macro, I take 180mm macro lens and tripod. The venues are often different, and I may have specific shots in mind.

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