Life can be complicated these days. Choice is often good though, whether it’s simply closing clothing to suit an occasion or the weather or picking a place to eat we like to have choice.
When it comes to photography we have always has choice over gear and this has bode well for the manufacturers! Whilst this might be good for the industry it may not be good for us. Let me explain why less can sometime mean more when it comes to lens choice.
Weight / bulk
One thing that has always been a bugbear with photography has been the amount of heavy gear we all seem destined to carry around with us. In its infancy the photographer needed to carry some unfeasibly bulky and heavy and, by definition, restrictive gear around with them.
Nowadays we have more choice in lenses than ever but they are still heavy due to the limitations of optics to make them smaller.
So, if we can restrict ourselves to just one lens and if that lens is a light weight prime then our lives would be greatly lightened. We’d be able to travel further and faster, own smaller camera bags which can only be a good thing.
Of course, if you already have a collection of lenses then your money is spent. The cost aspect is more relevant for those hankering after yet another lens. Most photographers have more than one lens in reality so the points I’m making are more about weight and how it affects are photography in other ways. Opting to take just one lens out for the day is the main point I’m making.
Knowing your lens
When you do use a single lens over a long period of time you get to know it. You get to know how it performs under different lighting conditions, how it renders your images in terms of colour. You’ll get to know where it’s weaknesses are and, most importantly, you’ll instinctively know what the subject will look like even before getting the camera out of the bag.
Speed of working
Not every subject requires rushing around but some do. Street photography needs far greater response times that landscape photography for example and faffing around changing lenses will result in many missed opportunities in a rapidly moving and evolving street scene.
On a productive day you might have many images that you are happy with and want to show them as a set on social media for example. Images displayed together can become much stronger, providing they all work together. If they all have a similar feel to them in terms of subject, colour rendering and focal length then they will generally hold together much stronger and more successfully. On the other hand, you may struggle with a set of images of differing focal lengths. It’s not the case that it’s impossible to have a cohesive set of images taking with differing lenses, but it is more difficult to do so successfully.
Working with several lenses throughout the day is quite normal and expected for a working photographer. On a typical day I might use three quite different focal lengths on a commission. As a professional we need to work with more than one lens and have enough experience to know which one is best before even fitting it to the camera. Here though, I’m talking about less experienced photographers and those just starting out. If money allows, then the temptation of building a kit with several lenses is strong. My point is that each lens forms a vital part of you creative vision (more so than the camera it’s attached to in fact). It takes time to work with each lens you own and to gradually build your collection rather than plunge for an instant shiny set of optics.
Further more, when you are relatively new to photography you may not know your style or even subject yet. The subject will be an important aspect to deciding which lens or lenses you’ll need. Rushing in too early will result in a poor selection and waste of money in a short time.
Even if you are more established as a photographer you will benefit for getting back to basics from time to time. It’s liberating if nothing else not having to carry around several lenses and make so many lens choices each time you see a subject. You’ll still need a lens collection for your professional commissions of course but you know your gear by now anyway as a professional.
Photography by Dayve Ward