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How Limitations Can Help You Grow as a Photographer


Have you ever said to yourself, “If only I had that lens, or this camera I’d be an amazing photographer”? Or maybe you’ve thought that if only you had more time or money, your dreams of being the photographer you want to be, would finally be realized. Many times as photographers we will have limitations put on us. Sometimes we may set those limits on ourselves, and sometimes they are limits that can’t be helped. Either way, we can use those limitations to our advantage and become better photographers because of them.

Set aside those “if only” thoughts. Push away those feelings of inadequacy. Don’t let those limitations hinder your progress as a photographer. Once we have gone through some of those limitations that can help you grow, you might even decide to limit yourself on purpose sometimes, just for the challenge.


I don’t have an expensive camera

Do expensive cameras make a difference? Of course they do. There’s a reason some cameras cost more than others. However, the person behind the camera matters a whole lot more. If you’re looking at your favorite photographer’s work and thinking that their camera is amazing, you may be right. Their camera is possibly amazing, but the reason you love their photos isn’t because of their camera, it’s because of what they do with that camera.

If you constantly think that you can’t do what you want to because your camera isn’t fancy enough, then you’re probably right. With that kind of thinking, you’ll always be waiting for the next purchase before you even try to get better. If you can convince yourself that your camera is good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like it, then your photos will change with your perspective. Find out what your camera CAN do, instead of lamenting about what it can’t do. Pull out your camera’s user manual, and practice until you’ve truly worn out your camera. You might decide to get the next big thing then, or you might have fallen in love with your camera so much that you wouldn’t dream of trading it in for a newer model.


I don’t have the right lens

Want to know a secret? For a long time I used my kit lens, and a 50mm f/1.8 on my first camera body. That’s it. I made those lenses work for me, and I learned how to get the most out of them. Want to know another secret? Now I use a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4, and that’s it. Nothing else, ever. I’ve looked at other lenses, and thought about them a lot, but when it comes down to it, I really feel like I don’t want any other lenses.

I’ll often go through an entire session with only one lens on my camera body. I feel more free to concentrate on what’s going on in front of me, and capturing what I want. I’m completely comfortable and familiar with my lenses, and I know exactly what they can do. I don’t waste time switching to another lens, and risk getting dirt on my sensor. Your lens of choice may be different from mine, and that’s okay. If you are photographing other things besides portraits, you may very well need a different lens from what I have.

However, you don’t need EVERY lens. Figure out how to make the lens (es) you have work for you. Challenge yourself to work with the constraints of a 50mm prime, or even a kit lens. You might realize that you don’t need that expensive new lens after all.


I don’t have ALL the equipment

It’s exciting to dream about all the photography equipment you could buy. All the different flashes, reflectors, tripods, timers, camera bags, diffusers, and straps are calling to your wallet, begging you to buy them all. Money is a real issue for me, and likely for many of you, too. If it’s not something that you are going to use on a regular basis, see if there are ways that you can work without it.

There are many DIY ideas that will stretch your creativity. You might find that you can make beautiful photos, even without all the extra equipment. Sometimes having a limit to what you are able to purchase can make your creativity grow, because creativity is free. You can use it abundantly without hurting your budget one bit. Cameras don’t care if they’re stored in a bag you’ve had for years, that is worn on the corners (at least that’s what my camera tells me).


I don’t have any pretty locations available nearby

Wouldn’t it be great if we always had beautiful waterfalls and trees and majestic mountains right there to photograph? Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way. I live in a place that is actually truly spectacular, but when I first moved here, I was quite underwhelmed. It’s one of those places that takes time to appreciate, and sometimes certain camera angles to hide the parts that aren’t so photogenic. Look at your surroundings with new eyes, and you might find that you actually have a lot of gorgeous views. You’ll not only be able to make some beautiful photos, but you’ll be happier with your life and surroundings.

Sometimes you might be at a location that you must shoot then and there, and there’s not much to choose from. A back deck at high noon can work in a pinch. This is where your creativity and resourcefulness can come in handy. Hone those skills, and you will find that you are never at a loss for great locations.


I don’t have enough training or knowledge

Every photographer has had to say this at some point, we all have to start somewhere. If you are turning down opportunities to take photos, or scared to try something new because you’re afraid you don’t know enough, you’re selling yourself short. The worst that could happen is that you could learn what not to do.

Find every opportunity to practice and learn. Don’t let a lack of knowledge stop you from trying, instead, let it motivate you to learn more. While you are in the process of learning, remember the saying, “Fake it until you make it”. If you pretend that you know what you are doing, that fake confidence can pull you through, and you’ll gain more real confidence for the future.

***However, I must insert a warning here. Don’t agree to be the sole photographer for a very important once in a lifetime event, like a wedding, if you aren’t knowledgeable and prepared enough. You’re welcome.


I don’t have good weather today

Suck it up and get out there. That may sound harsh, but unless the weather is going to ruin your camera, give it a try. Some of my favorite sessions have been in the wind, in light rain or snow, or in freezing temperatures. If you always seek out comfortable conditions, you won’t stretch yourself to find new ways to deal with things. You’ll miss out on some very compelling shots, because you won’t be forced to make something less than ideal work to your advantage. You might get dirty, cold, wet, hot, or sunburned. Don’t limit yourself when conditions aren’t perfect.


I don’t have time

Quality over quantity will help you here. Instead of thinking you have to take 1000 frames at a time, challenge yourself to capture something great in 10 frames. Instead of spending two hours on one session, see if you can get a handful of truly great images in fifteen minutes. Sometimes when we have more time, we don’t end up with more great photos, we just end up with a whole lot of mediocre photos. Use your time constraints to help you focus on capturing exactly what you want, and not wasting time with thoughtless clicking. Use the little time you have to your advantage, and make every click count. Read: 6 Tips on How to Make More Time for Photography

Summary – let’s hear from you

What limits do you think are holding you back? Could you find a way to make those limits benefit you and make you a stronger photographer? Change your perspective on your limits, and see if you can make your photography growth limitless.

How have you found limitations have helped, rather than hindered your own growth as a photographer? Have you tried any limitation exercises on purpose? If so please share your actions and results in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles this week that are Open for Discussion. We want to get the conversation going, hear your voice and opinions, and talk about some possibly controversial topics in photography.

Give us your thoughts below on the article above on limitations and watch for more discussion topics this week.

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Melinda Smith
Melinda Smith

was born to be a teacher. She teaches violin lessons and fitness classes, as well as photography classes and mentoring. She lives on a mini farm in Eastern Utah with her camera, husband, kids, chickens, horses, bunnies, dogs, and cats. Visit her at Melinda Smith Photography.

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