Why You Only Need One Lens To Make World Class Images

Dec 25, 2014

Marta Bevacqua

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Why You Only Need One Lens To Make World Class Images

Dec 25, 2014

Marta Bevacqua

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I’ve been a professional photographer for 6 years and like most photographers I have invested in a number of high quality lenses (check my kit over at InMyBag), but have recently concluded that this has been a waste of money.

It’s not that these are not great lenses, but I truly prefer to use a single lens.

At first, I used other lenses and always changed lenses during the shoot. Once I started using my 50 mm prime lens, I slowly started using the others less and less, until now I shoot everything with that ones.

I’ve hesitated from selling my other lenses because they can occasionally be useful for some jobs, but what 50 mm gives to me, it’s totally great. I feel comfortable with it, and now I know it so well, that I really do use it constantly.

So, here’s why I think that you only need one lens to make world class images:

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1) Consistency and cohesion:

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A single lens gives your work a consistent and cohesive viewpoint and feel. I can say in some ways that my style is also the 50 mm, used for large shots, landscapes and portraits as well. This represents the perspective in my photos.

2) Narrative:

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Your story telling and the ability to construct a narrative is a far better use of your time than on which lens to use.

What I do, before each shooting, is to research inspirational images, decide about location, make-up, models etc. Most of all, I decide about the style of the final images, the emotions I want to give, and, at the first place, the ATMOSPHERE and the STORY behind all the series, if it’s a fine art project or a fashion editorial, I do exactly the same.

It’s not important thinking about which light I will use, which lens, which kind of technical skills. For me, it goes beyond skills and techniques, it’s all about story and atmosphere. Obviously I treat light in different ways for each shooting, to reach the result I want.

One thing is for sure, is that I am going to shoot it with my 50 mm lens.

3) Do one thing well:

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When you only use a single lens you truly push to find its limits far more than when you can just pop another lens on. You build a relationship which has far more depth.

That’s the point; this lens represent my perspective, my way to see everything through the camera. it’s like my vision as a photographer, not the vision of “life and world” you can catch from my finished photos, but the real vision I have when I look through it, with my camera in my hands. My camera just wouldn’t be the same without this lens attached.

4) Saves time:

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It saves you time worrying about lens choice and longer term, saves you time that would have been spent cleaning your sensor from all those lens changes.

5) Normalization:

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A 50mm lens mimics the perspective of the human eye, this consistent and familiar perspective helps the viewer feel comfortable and gives them the sense that they are actually there.

I live in photos, every time I walk down the street, that I’m in a shop, or when I watch a movie – I see photos everywhere. For a particular place, light, composition, atmosphere and with my 50 mm , if I want, I can exactly take that precise scene. Even when I work on more constructed shots, I build the set, I look around, just to search the perfect point of view for me, and I’m sure that my 50 mm will catch exactly what I see with my eyes.

6) Cost:

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Invest in one amazing lens and save the rest of your money.

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About The Author

Marta Bevacqua is a professional photographer based in Paris, France. Her photography is based around storytelling with a certain style, whether it’s fashion or fine art. You can follow her portfolio on Behance and see more of her work on her site. This article was originally posted here.

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38 responses to “Why You Only Need One Lens To Make World Class Images”

  1. Katrin Albert Avatar
    Katrin Albert

    I always wonder why people carry all the gear on them at all times, when it’s really not about how many things you CAN use..

    1. Mario Avatar
      Mario

      For some it’s not even about using it but showing off how much gear they own.

    2. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      because of course you can use a single club to play golf… but wouldn’t it make your life easier if you had a putter and a pair of fairway clubs to use? In photography is the same … of course you can use one club… try to drive a ball 200 yards with a putter. Lenses are tools and it is OUR responsability to learn how and when to use them.

      1. MysticCowboy Avatar
        MysticCowboy

        Yes, you use multiple clubs, but a limited number, each of which you practice with separately. You don’t use a continuously variable length club with an adjustable weight and angle head. Think about how difficult that would make practice.

  2. Stephen ᴳᴼᴰ Ridley Avatar
    Stephen ᴳᴼᴰ Ridley

    Donna remeber how you were looking for a new lens?? Lol

    1. Donna Harrison Avatar
      Donna Harrison

      Bite me!

  3. Stephen ᴳᴼᴰ Ridley Avatar
    Stephen ᴳᴼᴰ Ridley

    Lmao what?? Its a very adaptable lens lol

  4. Marta Bevacqua Photography Avatar
    Marta Bevacqua Photography

    thanks!

  5. Niko Avatar
    Niko

    So you went from “I need all the lenses” to “I can do tons of images with one good one”. Great for you. After some time you will get bored by the look of this one focal length and get back to using more than one prime, then you notice that you can do most of it with a good 2.8 zoom (to save time), then you get back to using one prime again….
    It’s the circle of a photographers life.

    1. xxbluejay21 Avatar
      xxbluejay21

      Lol that’s for amateurs.

  6. godling Avatar
    godling

    Totally agree. 50mm is also my favorite.

  7. Stefano Avatar
    Stefano

    this apply on some situation only, go shoot something like a live concert with a 50mm and u’ll have a “meh” result

    1. xxbluejay21 Avatar
      xxbluejay21

      Thank you, captain obvious. But what kind of person that shoots portraits also shoots concerts and wildlife. A do-it-all ‘photographer’? There’s a name for that, an amateur.

  8. rea5245 Avatar
    rea5245

    Looks like you only do portraits. Maybe that’s why you can get by with just one lens.

    1. xxbluejay21 Avatar
      xxbluejay21

      lol she’s a portrait/fashion photographer. “Only do portraits?” You make it sound like shooting many different things is a good idea. Honestly that’s what amateurs do and that’s why most of them never improve.

  9. Fuzen Design Avatar
    Fuzen Design

    Great adoce. Thanks. Also, checked out your site and love your work.

  10. JPhilipson Avatar
    JPhilipson

    I completely disagree. I need a variety of lenses to complete assignments and tell compelling photo essays. Using one lens is boring for me, for the viewer, sorry brah. And the 50mm is hardly the lens I would use as my “go to.” The goal of photography isn’t always to “mimic the human eye.” It is to show us something we would ordinarily not be able to see.

    1. xxbluejay21 Avatar
      xxbluejay21

      Different from person to person. Many fashion/street photographers use one lens for all or a vast majority of their work. Wedding and commercial photographers don’t have that option. Most amateurs think they need every focal length to get good pictures.

  11. MysticCowboy Avatar
    MysticCowboy

    Thanks for the interesting article, Marta. You bring to mind that many of the classic greats used one or two lenses. I spent a week with a National Geographic photographer who had a pair of Leicas, one with a 35mm and one with an 85mm. He’d used mostly that combination over a long career, that covered many, many scenarios. His point was similar to yours, that learning a focal length deeply frees us of the need to constantly zoom and reconsider. You know what photo you will get and are free to operate within that constraint. In reviewing my shots for this year I see that 75% of them were shot with a 40mm. I’ll focus more on that next year.

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      -” You know what photo you will get and are free to operate within that constraint. “- But the question is why would you want to constrain yourself if you have the solutions at hand to expand the point of views and perspectives of your work.

      1. randy Avatar
        randy

        All art or mediums have constraints. The point is once you accept a certain set of constraints, you ate free to make a decision and shoot.

        1. MysticCowboy Avatar
          MysticCowboy

          Well put, randy. Mastery comes from practicing a skill over and over. Shooting at all focal lengths makes us a master of none. I can shoot Nikon at every focal length from 16-200, 400 with a doubler. I’m competent and can cover a lot of situations. In the last year and a half I’ve spent most of my time with a Fuji 27mm (40mm equivalent) and have seen my photography take on a more individual character that doesn’t look like everybody else’s.
          Look at the old NatGeo and Life magazines. Really look. Notice that most of the shots were taken with two or three primes, not zooms. Cartier-Bresson mostly used one focal length as did Robert Frank. The list of 20th century masters goes on and on. How much did their work suffer from constraints?

  12. Mark Andersen Avatar
    Mark Andersen

    one other benefit is that a standard 50mm lens is one of the smallest lightest lenses you can carry saving your back and arms and letting you be more free as to where you go…. it doesn’t dangle and catch on things like a longer lens can!

  13. M Vd Grift Avatar
    M Vd Grift

    Its really good not to use to many lenses. And its really good to shoot with one lens. I love to shoot with my analoge tlr with its 80mm (Medium format 50mm equivalent) but for ensingments I need more lensens … for a bottle packshot I have to use a 100mm (fullframe digital ) or something like that.I think its good to use not to much lenses so you really get to know your stuff but even on my 35mm film camera i have a 35 50 and 105…so its just not always true… you actually can make a lot of great images with one lens .

  14. James Avatar
    James

    Cool that your happy with your 50. For me it’s probably my 85 if I absolutely had to have one lens glued to my camera

  15. Kira Avatar
    Kira

    I am agree with you, I use my 50mm untill last week, then I bought 35mm, naw I moved to.

  16. Ricardo Correia Avatar
    Ricardo Correia

    Its great!! Check some 50mm pics : http://www.pistachophotography.com

  17. Amaryllis Avatar
    Amaryllis

    I agree with you, 50mm is also my everyday lens :) And for the rest, I’ve got a little S110 (for some family shots in a small area, for example, and not for work, of course).

  18. 345678654 Avatar
    345678654

    well you only shoot one kind of stuff.. kinda boring.
    i am way more versatile i shoof from birds to full head portraits.
    i need more than one lens.

  19. Bob Shurtleff Avatar
    Bob Shurtleff

    Provoking! But limiting myself to a 50 would take me out of doing architectural interiors…

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      This is a horses for courses kind of thing of course. It does not apply to any and everyone. I think the adapted question would be, do you NEED all the lenses you have and correctly use them all. if the answer is yes, then I would say it’s pretty close.

  20. nellyvc Avatar
    nellyvc

    It would be really hard for me to work without my 100mm macro…
    I also have a 50mm macro, but it’s not close enough for what I need to do..

  21. Peter Kim Avatar
    Peter Kim

    I take this article with a grain of salt. I’d be surprised if the author actually just uses a 50mm 100% of the time. I don’t think she’d be so dogmatic as to say that everyone should only shoot with a 50mm lens. It’s just food for thought. Thanks for the perspective!

  22. JoeX Avatar
    JoeX

    Since 2012, ive used a 50mm on about %85 of my work. And ive shot all styles. At some point the generic 2.8 telephoto look gets old and predictable. When I see every photo of someones work at 2.8 it really starts to look like glamour or wedding shooters. Im tempted to the get the rx1r ii as my main camera for 2016. I dumped my d800e and 70-200 because the size, weight, sensor shake, and amount of gear needed isnt worth hauling around. I would rather invest in high quality lighting then these guys who have 6 lenses and only use 2.

  23. jdizzl Avatar
    jdizzl

    Shooting with just a 50mm is very limiting, but it can teach beginning photographers how to compose. I don’t see the point of buying a DSLR and only shooting a 50mm though, might as well get a small rangefinder or fuji/sony/leica fixed and not carry the weight if that’s really your style.

  24. Vincent Cyr Avatar
    Vincent Cyr

    I think some folks have missed the point of this article. It isn’t saying “shoot everything with a 50mm”. It’s saying there are benefits to minimizing, to picking the lens you use the most and using only that. You shoot mostly architecture, go with a wide-angle. Shooting mostly portraits, go with an 85mm. Wildlife, go with a longer lens. Macro… you get the drill. This isn’t for the people who do a little of everything, those are the people who need multiple lenses(or zooms) to cover all eventualities. It’s more for the people who have settled in a certain niche. They can minimize their gear, cause they can achieve all the looks they want with one lens. To extend the golf-club metaphor from earlier, limiting yourself to one club might not be great in a full game, but if you’re playing minigolf, or in a long-drive contest, you don’t need a full bag.

  25. Michael Pawlik Avatar
    Michael Pawlik

    24-70 and 70-200 is all one should ever need. Maybe a 200-400 for super telephoto needs.

  26. janaka Avatar
    janaka

    Thanks for the nice article.. Agree with you 100%….
    I am an amateur in photography… But ability to zoom kills my imagination… So I stick to my 35mm f1.8(50mm equivalent) and I have to be creative to shoot whats coming on my way.. It Doesn’t matter how many lenses I have but I only shoot with one lens at a time. I miss some shots but even with a zoom I miss some shots. But 50 mm rocks. I have less to worry about .. More space to be creative.