Be a Photographer, not a Lens Changer

Years ago, I had a conversation with my brother about what equipment to bring to a photoshoot. I was all into gear—and I proudly named the lenses I would lug to the location. Prime this and zoom that. I listed 4 lenses, but before I could add a macro lens into that list, he asked me, “Do you really need all that?”

I thought I did. What if I wanted a closeup of an eyelash?

Then he asked, “Do you want to be a photographer, or a lens changer?”

That question changed my outlook on gear.

Lately I’ve been wishing for a really wide lens to use with the 7D, for those tight shots in crowded markets and temples. But often when I go to a photoshoot these days, I find myself bringing just one lens. Yes, that’s right. One lens.

My bag is lighter, my shoulder and back love me more.

One lens forces me to move, to ‘zoom with my feet’ and think about my compositions. Ultimately, I know I will learn something about photography if I don’t think too much about changing lenses. Here’s what I learned recently.

Change vantage point

 

"Trapped" Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

I saw this tree that had fallen during a wild storm. The branches were clutching the ground. It was a perfect setting for an image of being trapped. I asked the model to sit in the middle of the branches and stood up, opening the lens to 18mm to include the branches in the foreground. What I got was an unusual interpretation of the portrait using the environment, an illusion of the branches closing in on the model.

Frame the shot with what you have

"Winter butterflies" Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

The 17-55mm lens at a location where you can’t really move around a lot, forces you to frame your shot a certain way. At this location, I had a lake behind me. One step back and I’d have been wet. So I decided to frame the shot like how I felt—that any time, I could fall. The root on which the model stood helped me create the illusion that we were high up. In reality we were beside the lake, on its banks. I just crouched really low, and leaned back as far as my poor back would go, hoping I wouldn’t fall, and pulled off an illusion.

Normal focal length with tilt is cool

"Storm" Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

On this shot, I had about 4 feet of space around me, the model, and a softbox plus a couple more lights on lightstands. I really didn’t have a lot of moving space. So to add a bit of drama, I used the 35mm focal length and then tilted the camera. This way, I could add just a bit of distortion to the image and give the illusion of movement, almost like the model was bearing down on me as she ran from a storm.

On these shoots, I didn’t have the option of changing my lens. And I was able to learn some new things about how to work the lens to get the shots I wanted.

_________________
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You might also like:
Let the Shadows Speak
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Let the Light Inspire You
The Beginner’s Guide to Photography’s Holy Trinity
11 Ways to Build a Better Photo
How to Stay Creative

 

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

17 Responses to “Be a Photographer, not a Lens Changer”

  1. I love this post. The photographic eye is more important than the gear.

  2. Hi, thanks for your comment!

  3. great read. I would like to add IMO that you do need more the a 17-55 at a wedding unless your the minister your never getting the close up of the kiss without being in the 2nd row. I will agree most other places you just move I love my 50MM prime best lens I own I think. thanks again for the great post and many others .

  4. hi Joe, thanks. I agree about needing more than one lens at weddings. For those I bring two bodies and a bunch of lenses and lighting equipment too. And yes, the nifty fifty is the one I prefer on an every day basis. :)

  5. I love this. It reminds me of what our photo editor used to tell us at my student newspaper back in the day: “Zoom with your feet.”

    This is a good reminder. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for this post … NY Wedding photographer said it all … the eye is more important than the gear

  7. Thanks Bob. I think that’s why vision is a popular topic with photogs, especially these days. As soon as someone started talking about it, it made a whole lot more sense!

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