Try to Master One Simple Thing in Your Photography

Try to Master One Simple Thing in Your Photography

It's tempting to go from one thing to the next, whether it is a piece of gear or a method of shooting, but have you tried mastering one of them without losing your interest at the first hurdle?

In this modern world, where we are all so interconnected with the help of the Internet, it is easy to get lost in new trends or become easily influenced to purchase a new piece of gear as soon as it comes out on the market and generally promises to make you a better photographer in some shape or form. And I know just how easy it is to fall into the trap of quick promises and fixes just to come out on the other side feeling disappointed.

To stop yourself from falling into this kind of routine, it's helpful to choose something in your photography that you can focus on improving and stick with it. It's difficult to fully dedicate yourself to learning numerous things at a time, because your brain will feel like an Internet browser with 20 different tabs open, becoming more anxious as you switch between all of them without achieving anything tangible. Don't take too much on at once, and instead, pick something that's relatively simple to begin with and go from there. 

Where to Start?

For example, I chose to do a one photograph a day project for a year using the same camera and the same lens. Because I had just purchased my first mirrorless camera, a cheap secondhand Fuji X-Pro1 combined with a 35mm lens, I knew I needed to come up with something that would require me to extensively use it; otherwise, I would only pick it up on occasions when I travelled, and that may not have been enough. I had always wanted a small camera that I could throw in my handbag and use for street photography, but simply having that piece of equipment in my handbag wasn't enough for me to ensure I actually became active in using this camera and making the most of it. 

A silver haired woman sat at the bottom of steps.

What Will You Gain From It?

Focusing on one piece of equipment will allow it to become an extension of your vision. Instead of searching through your bag and wondering which body and lens combination to use, you will gain a thorough knowledge of what your chosen piece of equipment is capable of, and you will work around it. Instead of spending time swapping your lenses around, you will be physically moving yourself to alter the composition, because you will immediately know what is possible and what isn't. 

This doesn't mean you should disregard your whole kit, but it's rather a reminder for you to rely on your skills and vision in using what you already have instead of seeking out the next best thing that may or may not improve your photography, because generally, it doesn't. This is because although the newest piece of equipment may perform better under certain conditions, it still doesn't create a well-composed and thought-through image, it merely creates a copy of what is in front of you. 

A person crossing a road in Amsterdam.

It has been so liberating to only take one small piece of equipment with me when I travel and not worry about different types of lenses.

Using the same piece of equipment over a period of time and getting to know it thoroughly will allow you to take the technical knowledge you've gained and put it at the back of your head. All you will be left with is vision and imagination to compose your photograph and create a story of it, whatever it may be. I find that the less equipment I use, the more I actually have time to focus on what is around me and how to capture it, knowing the possibilities and also the shortfalls of the type of equipment I'm using. 

Have you found this to be true in your photography, too?

Log in or register to post comments

13 Comments

Dylan Bishop's picture

This is a great tip, I’ve recently been doing this. I had an aging Sony mirrorless collecting dust so I decided to take it out shooting with a 30mm f/3.5 macro lens. I’ve been having a lot of fun and have even come up with a style that I can shoot during the middle of the day which is usually less than ideal light-wise. I’ve found myself starting to form my own “rules” for this particular style and I feel like I’m growing creatively.

I've been shooting 50mm equivalent lenses for the past 3 years. Sticking to one focal length is very challenging at first. I'm having a lot more fun shooting after I got comfortable with my chosen focal length.

Fstoppers :
1/2 posts tells you photography is not about gear and gear won't make you a better photographer.
1/2 posts tells you how important gear is and why you should/shouldn't use/discard mirrorlesses/DSLRS/Iphones.
2/2 posts are just clickbaits written by 20-something photographers trying to make a name for themselves.

As the orange muppet who sits in the White House would say : "sad, very sad".

I know, I'm so negative that I will never belong to the cool team, the one always grateful for something and so inspiring for the others. Sorry, but I don't get hooked by PR bullshit.

Besides, am I the only one that understand "I don't know how to use flashes" wherever I read "natural light photographer" ?

Josean Rosario's picture

I don't think that because I have flashes in my bag for certain shots or conditions and use natural light whenever I am able. I also know that fstoppers needs to hit multiple audiences and make money so I read the articles I think fit me and what I do :)

No, you're not the only one. In addition to that, when I hear "natural light photographer" I tend to expect someone who didn't bother to master even that natural light. It is, because once you understand light and how to use it properly its source becomes a secondary consideration. You will use sun, surrounding, reflectors, continuous and strobe lights as you require.

"Natural light photographer" usually means 'I have no clue what I'm doing but it sounds like I'm doing something intentional'.

Anete Lusina's picture

Hmm.. not sure how this is related to my article but let's go with it! In regards to your discussion about getting or not getting gear, this article is about reminding you to make the most of what you have instead of chasing new gear for no reason (different from when you do need new gear and are looking at what's the most suitable item for your requirements). And, regarding the light discussion - that's a great idea for someone to focus on - researching and testing different ways of capturing light with or without any external additions, instead of searching for that one ideal piece of gear that will make it "easy" because there is no such thing!

It appears you meant to answer to Aurélien :-)

As for the point of your article, I wholeheartedly agree. This level of familiarity with one's gear is required if you are to express your vision the way you actually want, and it can only be achieved by knowing your tools to the point there is no guesswork of what is possible, how to achieve that and how the end result will look like. The tool must disappear.

Your method sounds good, but I often do something even more basic. If I notice something hasn't been entirely intuitive during a shoot I practice at home or in the garden until I internalise the thing that bothered me in the first place.
Same if I have an idea for something new and worry it may be too complex when the time comes I need to focus on the picture. Repeat the task shooting bookshelves or a chair until it becomes intuitive (and repeat three days later just to be sure ;-) ).

Anete Lusina's picture

That sounds reasonable, I think we often overlook these simple ways of learning/practicing and assume the only way forward is either workshops or hiring models, or hiring new gear or expensive studios when sometimes it simply comes down to hard work of grinding that one thing until it "clicks" and we understand it or can reapply that knowledge on our next shoot.

Aaron B.'s picture

Well considering the articles are written by many different photographers/videographers etc. with different experiences of course the content is going to be a singular thread. I might write something that says why you only need prime lenses and you may right something that says you only need zoom lenses. Each article would have its own merits and hopefully the folks who read them take into consideration the different discussions from the variety of articles.

Colin Robertson's picture

"Besides, am I the only one that understand "I don't know how to use flashes" wherever I read "natural light photographer" ?"

LMAO! I have the same thought too, but try not to judge too harshly... (I only recently started using flash myself).

Aaron B.'s picture

The minute I can acquire a small mirrorless camera I will do so. But for the time being, I get a little tired carrying around a DSLR all day. Even if it is only 1 lens.

Anete Lusina's picture

I feel the same way Aaron, that's why I wanted to run away from my DSLRs and get a mirrorless for a more comfortable travelling and carrying!

This can work great with primes from 30-60mm FF equivalent area. Walking around with an 85 or a 20 for a year could prove limiting. Also when you go to the zoo in the meantime, just take your telephoto.