Three reasons why you should use only one lens in documentary photography

Sep 2, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Three reasons why you should use only one lens in documentary photography

Sep 2, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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We have discussed several times why shooting only with one lens can be a good call. And no matter the genre you shoot, you can benefit from using only one lens. In this video from Advancing Your Photography, documentary photographer Daniel Milnor will share three reasons why you should use only one lens if you’re shooting documentary photography.

YouTube video

Daniel admits that he didn’t know how to use his first 50mm lens when he bought it back in the ‘90s, so he sold it. He did it with the two more 50mm lenses until he bought a Leica M6 and a 50mm f/2. He committed to using only that camera + lens combo for a while, and this is when his love for 50mm began.

During his recent trip to Albania, Daniel says that he never took off his 35mm (50mm equivalent) lens from his Fujifilm X-T2. It’s a compact, weather-sealed lens, and he took plenty of great images with it. And from Daniel’s experience, these are three main reasons why it’s good to use the same lens all the time:

  1. You don’t look like a photographer: if you only have one camera with one lens on, you will attract less attention. And less attention means that it’s easier to do documentary and street photography.
  2. Consistency: using a single lens provides consistency to your images. If you want to shoot stories instead of individual images, this is where you want to achieve consistency.
  3. More time for shooting: the third reason is very simple and logical, yet very important for documentary photographers. Using only one lens lets you spend all of your time shooting, and none of your time fumbling with your gear.

Personally, I think there are a few more benefits to shooting only with a single lens, regardless of the genre you generally shoot. If it’s a prime lens, then being limited with its fixed focal length can make you more creative. Also, they are usually faster than zoom lenses, which gives you more flexibility when shooting in low light. Even if you opt only for a kit lens as I did on my trip to Zagreb last year, there are also benefits to this choice. It gives you lots of flexibility and freedom, and it enables you to pack light, fit all your gear and clothes into a single backpack, and go on a 250-mile motorcycle ride. : )

But if documentary photography is your genre of choice, Daniel suggests that you choose one body, one lens, take a giant stack of batteries, and gout there and shoot until all those batteries are dead.

The Advantages of Using a Single Lens — Documentary Photographer Daniel Milnor via ISO 1200

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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6 responses to “Three reasons why you should use only one lens in documentary photography”

  1. Dan Dolar Avatar
    Dan Dolar

    My 17-400 f/1.4L IS lens, of course. ?

  2. Lorenzo Morgoni Avatar
    Lorenzo Morgoni

    For JUST ONE lens choice, I’d take my good ol’ Canon 28-135 on a FF body… better, I’d buy a L series classic, let’s say a 24-70, and that’s it.

  3. John M Fuller Avatar
    John M Fuller

    My Nikkor 18-300 f3.5 does everything I need in a lens. On my trusted old(er) D300 body.

  4. Nelson Dizor Avatar
    Nelson Dizor

    My canon 60D with Sigma f2 17-55mm.

  5. Smarten_Up Avatar
    Smarten_Up

    Consistency? Way overrated!

  6. Smarten_Up Avatar
    Smarten_Up

    35 mm f2 Nikkor….