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Set Yourself a One Focal Length Challenge

Recently while testing the Leica M9-P I spent 2 weeks exclusively shooting with a 35mm prime lens.

I wouldn’t normally shoot with that focal length but the lens was supplied by Leica with the camera and I wasn’t about to run out and buy another lens just for a 2 week test (they run at several thousand dollars) – so I decided to make the most of it.

The start of the week was a little frustrating – partly because it took a while to get used to the camera and its focusing system – but also partly because of the focal length. As someone who shoots mainly portraits I love longer focal lengths and usually shoot with a zoom to allow me to get in close without getting right in the face of my subjects (I normally shoot with a 24-70mm lens and sometimes even with a 70-200mm lens).

However by the end of the week I realized just how much I’d enjoyed being ‘forced’ to stick with the 35mm lens.

After a day or two I began to get in the zone and started to ‘see’ the opportunities before me to shoot at that focal length.

  • I found myself shooting more environmental portraits and began to pay more attention to backgrounds – using them to give context to the subjects I was shooting.
  • I found myself thinking more creatively about settings – particularly aperture to impact depth of field to impact the surrounds of my subjects.
  • I found myself thinking about how to position ‘me’ as a photographer rather than just how much to zoom (and as a result started mixing up the perspectives I was shooting from).

In doing so I found myself taking shots that I normally wouldn’t take. I did probably miss some shots I normally would get by shooting at a wider focal length – but all in all I think I improved as a photographer in those two weeks than I have for a while.

On viewing some of my shots from the week my wife even commented that my images had more impact and were quite different to normal (and it wasn’t just the camera I was shooting with).

Set Yourself a Challenge to Shoot from One Focal Length this Week

Here’s my challenge to you. Over the next week decide to shoot using one focal length only and see what impact it has on your photography.

For those of you with DSLRS with a prime lens – this shouldn’t be too hard. You’ve got a lens that won’t let you zoom so stick with it for a while week.

For those of you who only have zoom lenses – it might be better to choose a focal length at one end of the spectrum of your zoom (either wide or zoomed in).

Where possible choose a focal length that isn’t in your normal range of shooting. If you zoom in a lot – try a wider perspective. If you usually shoot wide – try a longer focal length.

Over the week I’d love you to drop back to this post to let us know how you go!

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Darren Rowse
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+.

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