Ever since I have started shooting Street Photography I have been a strong advocate of the “One Camera – One Lens” philosophy. If you don’t know of the term, it is pretty self explanatory. It means that I like shooting with one camera and one lens without making any change to my setup while on a project / assignment or just a photowalk. Personally I like simplifying things even more by making that lens a prime lens, always. I feel that zoom lenses do not count for “one” lens. They count for as many lenses as the available focal length offers. So for a example a 16-50mm zoom lens, can shoot like a 16mm lens, a 17mm lens, an 18mm lens and so on and so forth all the way up to a 50mm lens. When I go on a Street Hunt, I take only one camera with one prime lens with me and leave the rest of my gear at home. Have you tried this? You should and here are the reasons why.
7 reasons why One camera & One lens are best for Street Photography
1. You learn the size and weight of your camera.
The size and weight of your camera is not only determined by the camera body size, but also by the glass you use. You might own one camera body for quite a while and you might feel that you are familiar with it, but once you remove your lovely little pancake prime lens and stick on a huge tele focus zoom lens, you immediately feel as if you are holding a new camera in your hands, one that is not as comfortable as what you are used too. This feeling will take a while to fade away. Some photographers get used to the new size and weight of their camera faster than others, but the sense of change is apparent to all. When using one camera and one lens, the size and weight remain the same long enough for you to get accustomed to your kit.
2. You learn how to frame a photo before lifting your camera to your eye.
When you spend a lot of time framing photographs at the same focal length, you begin to get accustomed to that focal length and get a good understanding of what your camera sees before having to look through its viewfinder (or LCD screen). This is the same as with driving a car and knowing how to park it in tight places. You do it so many times, using the same car, that your mind starts to understand the mass of your car and knows if you fit in a spot before you even try. So, by knowing what your camera will see before you lift it to your eye, gives you the advantage of framing multiple images in your mind before you choose to actually capture one and when you choose to do so, you will know long before you lift your camera what you will be photographing. This is a huge time saver and a great way to prepare yourself for capturing superb candid moments on time.
3. You learn how important your feet are in photography.
Many photographers tend to forget that when a subject is too close they can just walk closer and take the shot. This is something that having many lens options or zoom lens options, can be easily forgotten. I remember hitting the streets with a friend once and he wanted to take a photo and he was too far away from his subject. He flipped open his bag and fumbled for another lens. I asked him what he was doing and when he told me I couldn’t help myself and I smirked. I said he was a friend, so my smirking was accepted. He was like “WHAT?!?” and I simply told him to put his bag away and just walk closer to the subject and take the shot. He looked so puzzled. He later told me that because he had the options of changing lenses, he completely forgot about just walking closer. Another thing that a single prime lens and feet are good for are creativity. Because you move yourself more and use your feet more often, you realise that you can try out different points of view and get more creative.
4. You learn how take much better hipshots.
As I mentioned in point number 2. You learn how to frame a photo before lifting your camera to your eye, framing becomes much easier when you use the same camera & lens combo. Because it becomes easier you can also start guestimating your hipshots more accurately. After quite a few trials and errors you will start getting really great hipshots, as if you had the viewfinder to your eye.
5. You don’t have to worry about having many options.
This used to be the most annoying thing for me and for many of my friends when were are out shooting street. Having camera bags packed with options or zoom lenses that give you the ability to change focal lengths just confuses things. It makes you worry about your options and by the time you make up your mind you have probably missed your shot. Just think about it. If you are shooting in A mode (Aperture priority mode) you have to only think about the setting of your aperture, the light and your composition. Those are 3 basic things you have to have in mind before hitting the shutter button. Think about adding to that focal length. Not 1 more focal length, but many focal lengths from X mm to Y mm. You now have 4 things to think about. Then add to that the contents of your camera bag… Yup. You see what I mean.
6. You become more creative having to work with what you got.
As I have mentioned in previous points, when we are restricted by our tools it is when we become most creative. Yes, that is a fact. The less options we have the more things we think about in order to achieve our goals. So, when you are out shooting Street Photography with one camera and one lens you know what your kit is capable of, your options are limited and known to you, so the only thing that can help you rise above what you have at your disposal is your creative brain. That is when you get into zen and when you start Street Shooting without thinking. You start taking photos experiencing a creative surge. You try things, you have fun and you enjoy yourself. Just like a kid playing. Magic.
7. You don’t carry any extra weight with you.
This is a most important point. Less gear means less weight to drag you down and less bulk to carry with you. It means that your movements are easier, lighter and more accurate. Because you don’t carry extras with you, you will not get tired as easily, you will not feel discomfort as easily. You will not feel thirst or hunger as easily. You will be free as a bird.
If you haven’t tried this approach to Street Photography, I highly recommend it. All the reasons are clearly stated above. You will feel a sense of freedom and manage to get into a Street Photography Zen state much easier and faster. Having less options to work with gives you the power to make faster decisions and that is a major part of the Street Photography experience. So, the next time you are about to head out on a Photowalk, do what my mate Paul Griffiths says and “leave your camera bag at home”.
Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!