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Monthly Photography Challenge – Limit Yourself to One Lens

Since I've been running these monthly challenges here on Digital Photo Mentor I've been flooded with comments and emails about how much people are enjoying them, how much you're all learning, and how valuable they are. Hopefully we can continue that this month – keep reading, and keep having those “aha” moments.

Photo by: Chuck Coker

Last month's winner announced

Last month your challenge was to use your camera daily for 30 days in a row to help you get really familiar with it, become one. Here's what some people had to say about taking part in that one:

I am so glad that I did this challenge! In a mere 30 days, I am doing so many more things with my camera! I am now using my speedlight (which has been sitting untouched in my computer room for over a year!) both on and off camera. I've experimented with ISO's, back button focusing, light painting, auto bracketing, and multiple exposures. I also have more knowledge on how to use my info and menu buttons to find various settings. It IS possible to become a better photographer in 30 days—even without a class or course—just by picking up your camera (even for just 30 minutes or less) and playing with it. Thanks for the challenge and the inspiration!!

Diane Silverthorne:
I haven't quite made the 30 day challenge but sure have benefitted from the days I have spent just becoming one with my camera – and my manual- to be become more familiar and comfortable and proficient with one feature at a time. You have always said how nb this is but this was an excellent framework to challenge us on really doing it – thanks!

Cheryl Schmidt:
Great challenge. Am using the top buttons on the Canon 7D which really speeds things up. Am still learning how to use the Back Button Focus button efficiently.

Last day of the challenge for me today. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed the challenge and by how much I learnt in so short a time, although once I picked up the camera I usually spent at least 30 minutes with it. Time just flies once that camera is in my hands. Thank-you so much for the motivation I needed to make time to learn. Now when I got out to shoot I look forward to using my new knowledge to make better images.

Jim Mc:
Hi Darlene, and thanks. This was a great exercise! I started thinking that I would run out of things to look at after a few days (after all, I have used a camera for years, and my current cameras for 1+ years). Was I wrong. I could probably keep this going for another month or two. It absolutely surprised me as I realized how many options I just ignored, or didn't practice enough to use quickly. This has been a real help and I really appreciate your suggestion to daily just play with some item on the camera. These stand out as I review my notes: on my Fuji x100s – push (instead of rotate) the command wheel and the image in the view finder is enlarged for better focusing; and a photo taken in panorama mode can be viewed as a series of independent still shots. On the nikon d610: in the view finder, and on the camera top display, the buffer capacity is indicated when the shutter button is pushed half way down (helpful when shooting basketball games), and face recognition is available in ‘live view' on the LCD screen. And on both cameras it was very helpful to play with focus point selection. Thanks, again!

Terri Noleen:
Yay! I did it!! January 2nd to February 2nd. Picked up my camera and shot each day. Still have to find the time to go through the images and delete or keep, process etc. I found the challenge a great learning experience and taught me to look for photo possibilities in even the most mundane things. I may even continue on for another month.
ught me to look for photo possibilities in even the most mundane things. I may even continue on for another month.

We've now closed last months challenge and randomly selected a winner. Congratulations to Chris who successfully completed it and will be awarded a free registration to the 4 Weeks to Better Photography online course.

New challenge – use only one lens for a month

Photography Challenge Use only one lens
Limit Your Gear
This one is about limiting yourself in terms of what you use for gear, specifically to one lens – even more specifically to one focal length. The logic behind this is that as photographers we've become too relaxed, one might even say lazy, in our reliance on using zoom lenses. We don't move our feet or get creative, we just tend to stand in one spot and zoom in or out to get the shot.

Use one focal length for a whole month
By forcing yourself to only use one focal length you will have to think outside the box to get the shots you want. You'll have to rely on your own brain power to do this and you will become more creative in the process. You have to! 50mm.jpg

If you have several lenses including prime or fixed ones – pick one of those. If you only have zooms, or even if you only have one zoom lens – pick one focal length on it and stick to that only. For example if you have an 18-135mm lens pick say 35mm within that range. Set the lens to that mark and tape it in place and leave it there for 30 days.

I'm a huge fan of the 50mm f/1.8 – you'll know that if you've taken any of my courses, workshops or been on one of our photography tours. I love it because it's so light weight, inexpensive, and has a huge aperture of f/1.8 so lets in lots of light (great for low light photography and creating bokeh backgrounds). If you use a cropped or APS-C sensor camera you might also consider the 35mm version. Whichever one, I highly recommend this type of lens as your first upgrade once you're ready to move past the kit lens.

But won't I miss shots?

You might miss some shots by having the wrong lens on, but I can almost guarantee your photography overall will improve by doing this. You'll get new and different shots you may never have considered before with your new heightened creativity. So the shots you may miss will be replaced with others that might be as good, or better.

So your challenge is a bit of mind game with yourself as well. Try to move past the feeling of missing something and instead of thinking about what you don't have, use what you DO have to its full potential. Remember this phrase:

Love the one you're with!

After you've recovered from that blast from the past it's time to pick your lens. Let's do this!

The contest

The deadline to enter will be March 17th (remember to wear green for St. Paddy's Day!) and will run on the honour system like the last one. If you comment and post that you've done it successfully for 30 days we trust you. The winner will be chosen and announced on the 19th.

To be clear, you must first comment that you're taking on the challenge. Then when the month is complete, comment again saying you've completed it, how it worked out for you, and what you've learned.

The prize

A $50 Amazon gift card to buy something of your choice. I recommend a photography book full of images that will inspire you. If you want to see the ones I have or recommend check out the list here.

Well, get going. Feel free to keep going on the use your camera daily challenge if you participated in that one last month. This is a perfect extension of that one.



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