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Here’s the Number One Challenge for Photographers


One camera, one lens, one film/preset, one year. The “Number One Challenge” is as simple as that, and at the same time incredibly difficult as well. This challenge, at the end of it, promises to change your approach and style as a photographer.

I originally got the idea from photographer David Brommer and tweaked it a little. Originally the idea was to find your style but I turned it into a way to simplify a photographers workflow, style, and life.

First, pick a camera, preferably one you already have, be it a DSLR, point-and-shoot, or a cellphone. Whatever you have, use only that. No upgrades, no newer model later in this photography challenge. One camera, that’s it.

And if your camera has a fixed lens in the body the better. For those that don’t have this, you must also choose a single lens to mount to your camera body — prime, zoom, cell phone.

Now the easier part is over, and it’s time to settle on one film choice or preset. Use Google’s free Analog Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, VSCO or any of the countless presets available to you, but only pick one. I personally chose VSCO Kodak Tri-X 400.

After you make your final decision, all you have to do is stick with your choice for a year. Easy… right?

Sadly, you will get buyer regret and Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) during this photography challenge. You will be guaranteed to hit a wall of frustration and limitations. Once you hit this wall during your Number One Challenge, grit will see you through.

Focus on getting over that first initial wall. Once you do, everything will become simpler, easier, and natural when it comes to your photographic process. After talking to a few other photographers who have done this challenge, we have all found this to be a difficult but (eventually) enlightening process.

Keep in mind that this is a personal photography challenge, not a career challenge. But in saying that, some photographers found they never picked up other gear when doing the Number One Challenge, even when it came to commercial work. People found it helped them to define their personal style or help to find it down the road (me included).

And a warning: most participants got rid of all the gear they no longer used. This simplified their gear decisions and insurance costs, which is an added bonus.

But the number one advantage about this challenge is you will end up developing a personal style. You will also learn your camera and focal length inside and out. No more need to chimp — you will see a scene and know where to stand and compose even before you pull the camera up. I’ve even gotten to a point where I know the setting needed — no more light entering or looking at a screen for me.

So give it a go, what do you have to lose?

About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.