The 1 Focal Length Weekend Challenge

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Are you up for a photographic challenge this weekend?

1-focial-length-challenge-weekend.jpg

Here’s My Challenge – Shoot at just one focal length for the next couple of days.

I’m a Lazy Zoom User

Most digital cameras sold today come with a zoom lens fitted to it as standard whether it be a DSLR sold with a kit lens or a point and shoot digital camera. There’s nothing wrong with having a zoom lens – it creates many possibilities for photographers – but one of the things that I’ve noticed when I’m shooting with a zoom lens (my favorite is a 24-105mm lens – pictured left) is that I get a little lazy.

Instead of moving around to get the best framing I tend to anchor myself to one point. While I can still zoom in and out I find that this means I’m always shooting from the same angle and level. I still get good shots – but perhaps could do better if I put a little more thought and effort into my shooting.

Going ‘Prime’ Makes Me ‘Work It’

Yesterday I was photographing our new baby and set myself a challenge to do the whole shoot with just a 100mm prime lens (I find that my 100mm Macro lens – pictured left it’s great for portraits too). There was no zooming (except what I did with my body – moving in and out).

While at first it can be a little frustrating not to have the zoom capabilities I found the shoot to be a lot of fun. I had to work harder, put more thought in and as a result I think my images were better.

This leads me to this weekend’s challenge….

The Challenge

This is something that anyone can do – whether they have a DSLR with a prime lens or not. Choose a focal length to shoot at this weekend (or for at least one day) and don’t allow yourself to shoot at any other focal length.

  • If you have a prime lens it’ll be easy – fit it to your camera and don’t take if off.
  • If you have a DSLR with a zoom lens just choose one end of the focal range and resist the temptation to zoom.
  • If you have a point and shoot camera with a zoom – again, just choose one end of the range and stick to that.

When choosing which focal length you go with – try to pick something you don’t normally shoot a lot at. For example if you tend to shoot fully zoomed in – try shooting with a wider angle. If you normally shoot with wide angles challenge yourself at the other end of the spectrum.

Share Your Results

There are a couple of ways that you can share your results with us.

DPS share some of your best ones and how you found the challenge in this thread.

Flickr – Are you on Flickr? Share your photos there and tag them as dpsfocalchallenge so we can see everyone’s images by searching for that tag.

Good luck and have a fun weekend with your digital camera!

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Heather Kay

    What a darned good idea! I shall fit the 50mm prime (80mm on my EOS 400D) and see what happens.

    Thanks.

  • drew

    Great timing for this post – I just purchased a 50mm f/1.8 for my Canon XTi and was planning on keeping this 50mm on my camera for the bulk of our upcoming family vacation as I learn this all about XTi (and with the help of the Peterson’s ‘Understanding Exposure’ book)!

    We leave Sunday morning to trek from Ohio to what looks to be a very wet Myrtle Beach next week, so I may be spending a lot of time with my prime lens, pent up kids and nice overcast for some shooting.

    I’m a newb to DPS and Digital Photography, but I’m learning TONS from you guys – thanks for that! 🙂

  • I’ve been doing this for the last week or two … it’s amazing how much more discipline it takes to get the shot with a fixed 50mm lens …

  • YES! In fact I own only a 50mm prime lens (only one lens at all!, no zooms, nothing else), so it’s not a challange for me – it’s usual. But idea is fantastic. Good luck!

  • Darren.

    Excellent post and challenge. Look forward to seeing the results. Will you be posting any of the shots you took?

  • I did that a few months ago, unintentionally, actually – I only had my nifty fifty for the weekend… and it did bring some good shots! Now I try to take these “focal length challenges” from time to time… it’s a good exercise, and it leaves you with quite a few “keepers”

    –Klaidas
    http://www.klaidas.lt

  • Bob

    I actually just bought my first (non-kit) lens last weekend (the ever-so-praised Canon 50mm f/1.8) and took it around while visiting Paris. I didn’t manage to shoot the whole weekend without switching (had to get a few wide-angle shots of the Eiffel Tower and such), but it was AMAZING not to have to use a flash indoors in relatively low lighting (especially in the museums).

    Actually walking around to zoom was a new experience as well, I quite enjoyed it.

  • This is a great idea! I just bought that same 100mm macro lens! Ill test it out in about 2 weeks when it arrives!

  • I will try – but this will not be easy. 😉

  • I was shooting with my 50mm f/1.8 yesterday exclusively. I was shooting macro in my yard with a set of extension tubes and my tripod.

    http://www.petelanglois.net/Macro

  • I tried this with my canon 28 1.8 the other day on a 30D. It was a lot of fun shooting a semi-wide and having to zoom with my feet. What is really cool about that lens is the focusing distance. You can almost shoot macro if you want.

  • Jae

    I dont have a zoom lens 🙂

  • I do most of my casual and street shooting with a 43mm f1.9. Having a fixed slightly telephoto length forces me to get creative with angles and framing shots. I get a lot of great shots that I wouldn’t have otherwise simply because I’m forced to think differently than with a convenient zoom.

  • TikiPundit

    It’s a great idea. My first photography teacher, a Navy photojournalist, was seriously old school back in 1982 and preferred 50mm black-and-white photography with his SLR. He seemed to appreciate the discipline required of working with a prime lens, and boy was he good at it (had been a photographer for about 30 years before I met him).

  • I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now, unintentionally though. My favorite zoom lens is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, but it’s so damn big and heavy, I hardly use it as a walkaround. My walkaround is a prime lens, the Canon EF 35mm f/2. And it’s helped me a lot with framing and creativity.

  • Randy

    This shouldn’t be a problem for me as my Canon “nifty fifty” has become a staple of my everyday shooting. I don’t think I’ve taken it off in a couple weeks. I agree that prime lens make you really think about how you want to compose a shot.

  • Have just got my first DSLR camera (an EOS 20D) and might take you up on this challenge for one of the days this weekend at a festival I’m attending.

  • Reznor

    The same with me, just like Randy I haven’t taken off my nifty fifty for quite some time now. I have a Digital Rebel XTi and the kit lens sucks major balls. I have also have a Tamron 75-300mm 4.5-5.6 and it’s way too dark for me, a typical sunny day lens. I only use it if I can absolutely not get any closer to my subject. I’m working on a budget (I’m just a student) and can’t afford any quality zoom lenses so the nifty fifty is my weapon of choice.

  • Peach

    Perfect timing! I just got a 50mm f/1.8 two weeks ago and have been playing with it a lot. Takes a lot of getting used to, but I’ve been having fun. Funny thing is, when I switched back to my kit lens yesterday, I still ended up moving around because I got so used to the prime!

  • John

    I’ll try it out and let you know…

  • S. Kerner

    Great idea! I recently had to use my old film camera with a 40/1.4 lens. The speed was nice, but I’ve gotten really lazy (and sloppy)with my DSLR with super zoom. I’m going to shoot prime for the next couple of weeks. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • David

    I’m on vacation and love this idea. Definitely going to get me thinking about what I am doing.

  • Bran Everseeking

    shooting primes is fine but “zoom with your feet” is pure bs. almost never will you get the same perspective or framing by zooming in as by moving closer. then there is the challenge of “zooming with your feet” when shooting from a bridge.

    pet peeve i guess.

    I generally shoot primes between 28 and 135mm and have an 80-320mm zoom for those times I cannot get close enough.

  • Ha!
    I anyways click with my 50mm these days!
    bring it on 🙂

  • Gayle

    Well this will be fun,, I do have a 150mm macro which will be great to use for the weekend,, OOOHHH. . . just heard the weather report . . . rain for the weekend. So expect some raindrops!!LOL

  • I do this everyday – choosing between a Canon 50mm f/1.8 or 28mm f/1.8

    The latter gives you a fair bit of flexibility (not a word usually associated with primes, I know) with its just-slightly-wider-than-normal perspective on a crop sensor.

  • Janson

    Great idea! I have a 50mm f/1.4 (got it used but in prime condition.) Come to think of it I have been using it far to little – and it really is the best lens I have in terms of image quality.

  • steaminhaggis

    Quality Challenge!

    Just a weekend too late for me ;o) I got my first prime lens last saturday ( Canon 50mm f/1.4 ) and used only it for my trip to the UEFA Cup final. Great challenge to get the shots I wanted and superb results from a nifty lens.

  • Cool thought,
    I have a wedding assignment tomorrow, shall put my 50mm to a good use,or just simply can’t lock the focal on my tamron.But i doubt i can do it without zooming on wedding photography

  • Bob

    @Janson: Not sure if it was intentional, but I got a kick out of your “used but in prime condition” pun.

  • YoAshnish

    That sounds like fun! Not sure which lens or focal length I’ll go with…but I’ll participate…it’s excellent way to explore new possibilities! Thanks for the great idea =D

  • I’ve made a friends weeding with only my Cannon 50mm MKI.This was some weeks ago and after i was exhausted but feeling mentally great! I had so much fun struggling to take the photos just the way i wanted. Imagine taking the all familie photo with the 50mm 🙂 with a wall too near them, you think, and you panorama!Like i said… great fun!

  • Evan

    @fireball: i sure hope you weren’t the only tog…

    Well in regards to this challenge pretty soon i’ll only have primes (selling my 70-200 f/4 for the 100mm macro you talked about) so this should be easy. My only other lens at this time is the 50’II but im pretty tired of that thing hunting so i’ll expect the 100′ to be my new walkaround (not that i’ve ever had a true walkaround lens… lol)

    This should be fun.
    -Evan

  • I am setting up a competition with local photo bloggers to all use the same EFL (equivalent focal length) at the same place for 1h and see who comes with the best pics. That is a challenge 😉

  • If only Canon were to make a 10mm prime lens! That would be soooo sweet.

    Since many people will be shooting with 50mm primes, I’ll go the zoom-lens-without-zooming route and leave my 10-22mm at the wide end. We’ll be shopping at IKEA for a bed later today, which should work well with the wide angle.

    http://www.stuvel.eu/

  • I am a Wedding Photographer in Fort Lauderdale – Miami area http://www.paulopics.com , and last month I decided to buy a canon 50mm 1.4 USM. It is a great lens and I got some great portrait shots, but I tried to use it in a Wedding few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe the hard time that I had with a lens that is not Zoom lens.
    So… Whenever I am in my studio or I am in a situation that I have extra time and space to move around, I will be ok with my 50mm, but not for my weddings (maybe one or another shot inside the Church).
    Great Post…
    Paulo Jordao

  • Andrés Torres

    This challenge remembers me old times. My First Camera was a Minolta Srt-101, and i only had two prime lens: 50mm 1.4 and 28mm 1.2. I really did good shots with the 50mm lens

  • Since I’m a poor student I prefer the cheap and sharp primes over expensive (and lazy ;)) zooms.

  • osborne

    Hey Darren,

    As a newbie to photography, love and support your website and love learning from you and whatnot, but you know it would be useful not to mention wonderful if you dated your topics. Nothing more meaningful that this for now. Again, just thought this might be useful to us all.

Some Older Comments

  • osborne August 13, 2010 02:42 am

    Hey Darren,

    As a newbie to photography, love and support your website and love learning from you and whatnot, but you know it would be useful not to mention wonderful if you dated your topics. Nothing more meaningful that this for now. Again, just thought this might be useful to us all.

  • Fredrik July 12, 2008 10:15 pm

    Since I'm a poor student I prefer the cheap and sharp primes over expensive (and lazy ;)) zooms.

  • Andrés Torres July 8, 2008 05:23 am

    This challenge remembers me old times. My First Camera was a Minolta Srt-101, and i only had two prime lens: 50mm 1.4 and 28mm 1.2. I really did good shots with the 50mm lens

  • Paulo Jordao July 6, 2008 03:53 am

    I am a Wedding Photographer in Fort Lauderdale - Miami area http://www.paulopics.com , and last month I decided to buy a canon 50mm 1.4 USM. It is a great lens and I got some great portrait shots, but I tried to use it in a Wedding few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe the hard time that I had with a lens that is not Zoom lens.
    So... Whenever I am in my studio or I am in a situation that I have extra time and space to move around, I will be ok with my 50mm, but not for my weddings (maybe one or another shot inside the Church).
    Great Post...
    Paulo Jordao

  • Sybren July 5, 2008 07:53 pm

    If only Canon were to make a 10mm prime lens! That would be soooo sweet.

    Since many people will be shooting with 50mm primes, I'll go the zoom-lens-without-zooming route and leave my 10-22mm at the wide end. We'll be shopping at IKEA for a bed later today, which should work well with the wide angle.

    http://www.stuvel.eu/

  • Megapixelicious July 5, 2008 06:53 am

    I am setting up a competition with local photo bloggers to all use the same EFL (equivalent focal length) at the same place for 1h and see who comes with the best pics. That is a challenge ;-)

  • Evan July 5, 2008 05:37 am

    @fireball: i sure hope you weren't the only tog...

    Well in regards to this challenge pretty soon i'll only have primes (selling my 70-200 f/4 for the 100mm macro you talked about) so this should be easy. My only other lens at this time is the 50'II but im pretty tired of that thing hunting so i'll expect the 100' to be my new walkaround (not that i've ever had a true walkaround lens... lol)

    This should be fun.
    -Evan

  • Fireball July 5, 2008 02:49 am

    I've made a friends weeding with only my Cannon 50mm MKI.This was some weeks ago and after i was exhausted but feeling mentally great! I had so much fun struggling to take the photos just the way i wanted. Imagine taking the all familie photo with the 50mm :) with a wall too near them, you think, and you panorama!Like i said... great fun!

  • YoAshnish July 5, 2008 12:49 am

    That sounds like fun! Not sure which lens or focal length I'll go with...but I'll participate...it's excellent way to explore new possibilities! Thanks for the great idea =D

  • Bob July 5, 2008 12:49 am

    @Janson: Not sure if it was intentional, but I got a kick out of your "used but in prime condition" pun.

  • azam saad July 4, 2008 11:55 pm

    Cool thought,
    I have a wedding assignment tomorrow, shall put my 50mm to a good use,or just simply can't lock the focal on my tamron.But i doubt i can do it without zooming on wedding photography

  • steaminhaggis July 4, 2008 11:54 pm

    Quality Challenge!

    Just a weekend too late for me ;o) I got my first prime lens last saturday ( Canon 50mm f/1.4 ) and used only it for my trip to the UEFA Cup final. Great challenge to get the shots I wanted and superb results from a nifty lens.

  • Janson July 4, 2008 08:05 pm

    Great idea! I have a 50mm f/1.4 (got it used but in prime condition.) Come to think of it I have been using it far to little - and it really is the best lens I have in terms of image quality.

  • Brent July 4, 2008 07:25 pm

    I do this everyday - choosing between a Canon 50mm f/1.8 or 28mm f/1.8

    The latter gives you a fair bit of flexibility (not a word usually associated with primes, I know) with its just-slightly-wider-than-normal perspective on a crop sensor.

  • Gayle July 4, 2008 06:59 pm

    Well this will be fun,, I do have a 150mm macro which will be great to use for the weekend,, OOOHHH. . . just heard the weather report . . . rain for the weekend. So expect some raindrops!!LOL

  • Aditya Rao July 4, 2008 06:28 pm

    Ha!
    I anyways click with my 50mm these days!
    bring it on :)

  • Bran Everseeking July 4, 2008 05:22 pm

    shooting primes is fine but "zoom with your feet" is pure bs. almost never will you get the same perspective or framing by zooming in as by moving closer. then there is the challenge of "zooming with your feet" when shooting from a bridge.

    pet peeve i guess.

    I generally shoot primes between 28 and 135mm and have an 80-320mm zoom for those times I cannot get close enough.

  • David July 4, 2008 05:22 pm

    I'm on vacation and love this idea. Definitely going to get me thinking about what I am doing.

  • S. Kerner July 4, 2008 11:24 am

    Great idea! I recently had to use my old film camera with a 40/1.4 lens. The speed was nice, but I've gotten really lazy (and sloppy)with my DSLR with super zoom. I'm going to shoot prime for the next couple of weeks. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • John July 4, 2008 10:39 am

    I'll try it out and let you know...

  • Peach July 4, 2008 10:24 am

    Perfect timing! I just got a 50mm f/1.8 two weeks ago and have been playing with it a lot. Takes a lot of getting used to, but I've been having fun. Funny thing is, when I switched back to my kit lens yesterday, I still ended up moving around because I got so used to the prime!

  • Reznor July 4, 2008 09:02 am

    The same with me, just like Randy I haven't taken off my nifty fifty for quite some time now. I have a Digital Rebel XTi and the kit lens sucks major balls. I have also have a Tamron 75-300mm 4.5-5.6 and it's way too dark for me, a typical sunny day lens. I only use it if I can absolutely not get any closer to my subject. I'm working on a budget (I'm just a student) and can't afford any quality zoom lenses so the nifty fifty is my weapon of choice.

  • Dave July 4, 2008 08:25 am

    Have just got my first DSLR camera (an EOS 20D) and might take you up on this challenge for one of the days this weekend at a festival I'm attending.

  • Randy July 4, 2008 08:08 am

    This shouldn't be a problem for me as my Canon "nifty fifty" has become a staple of my everyday shooting. I don't think I've taken it off in a couple weeks. I agree that prime lens make you really think about how you want to compose a shot.

  • Ryan July 4, 2008 05:47 am

    I've been doing this for a couple of weeks now, unintentionally though. My favorite zoom lens is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, but it's so damn big and heavy, I hardly use it as a walkaround. My walkaround is a prime lens, the Canon EF 35mm f/2. And it's helped me a lot with framing and creativity.

  • TikiPundit July 4, 2008 05:29 am

    It's a great idea. My first photography teacher, a Navy photojournalist, was seriously old school back in 1982 and preferred 50mm black-and-white photography with his SLR. He seemed to appreciate the discipline required of working with a prime lens, and boy was he good at it (had been a photographer for about 30 years before I met him).

  • Patrick July 4, 2008 04:52 am

    I do most of my casual and street shooting with a 43mm f1.9. Having a fixed slightly telephoto length forces me to get creative with angles and framing shots. I get a lot of great shots that I wouldn't have otherwise simply because I'm forced to think differently than with a convenient zoom.

  • Jae July 4, 2008 04:20 am

    I dont have a zoom lens :)

  • Luke July 4, 2008 02:52 am

    I tried this with my canon 28 1.8 the other day on a 30D. It was a lot of fun shooting a semi-wide and having to zoom with my feet. What is really cool about that lens is the focusing distance. You can almost shoot macro if you want.

  • Pete Langlois July 4, 2008 02:51 am

    I was shooting with my 50mm f/1.8 yesterday exclusively. I was shooting macro in my yard with a set of extension tubes and my tripod.

    http://www.petelanglois.net/Macro

  • zorra July 4, 2008 02:50 am

    I will try - but this will not be easy. ;-)

  • mikeboy July 4, 2008 02:39 am

    This is a great idea! I just bought that same 100mm macro lens! Ill test it out in about 2 weeks when it arrives!

  • Bob July 4, 2008 02:10 am

    I actually just bought my first (non-kit) lens last weekend (the ever-so-praised Canon 50mm f/1.8) and took it around while visiting Paris. I didn't manage to shoot the whole weekend without switching (had to get a few wide-angle shots of the Eiffel Tower and such), but it was AMAZING not to have to use a flash indoors in relatively low lighting (especially in the museums).

    Actually walking around to zoom was a new experience as well, I quite enjoyed it.

  • Klaidas July 4, 2008 01:44 am

    I did that a few months ago, unintentionally, actually - I only had my nifty fifty for the weekend... and it did bring some good shots! Now I try to take these "focal length challenges" from time to time... it's a good exercise, and it leaves you with quite a few "keepers"

    --Klaidas
    http://www.klaidas.lt

  • Brian July 4, 2008 01:38 am

    Darren.

    Excellent post and challenge. Look forward to seeing the results. Will you be posting any of the shots you took?

  • komsky July 4, 2008 01:34 am

    YES! In fact I own only a 50mm prime lens (only one lens at all!, no zooms, nothing else), so it's not a challange for me - it's usual. But idea is fantastic. Good luck!

  • LisaS July 4, 2008 01:04 am

    I've been doing this for the last week or two ... it's amazing how much more discipline it takes to get the shot with a fixed 50mm lens ...

  • drew July 4, 2008 12:54 am

    Great timing for this post - I just purchased a 50mm f/1.8 for my Canon XTi and was planning on keeping this 50mm on my camera for the bulk of our upcoming family vacation as I learn this all about XTi (and with the help of the Peterson's 'Understanding Exposure' book)!

    We leave Sunday morning to trek from Ohio to what looks to be a very wet Myrtle Beach next week, so I may be spending a lot of time with my prime lens, pent up kids and nice overcast for some shooting.

    I'm a newb to DPS and Digital Photography, but I'm learning TONS from you guys - thanks for that! :)

  • Heather Kay July 4, 2008 12:53 am

    What a darned good idea! I shall fit the 50mm prime (80mm on my EOS 400D) and see what happens.

    Thanks.

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