One of the unavoidable truths about being an artistic creator is that you’ll undoubtedly and inevitably hit a rut. As is the case with landscape photography, that wall hit me after I realized that all of my photos started to look the same, even when the locations varied.
Even when I’d visit different locations, I’d still find myself deflated after reviewing that latest batch of imports. And for a while, I just couldn’t figure out what was causing this rut. After spending some time searching for common threads that could explain why, I found that it had to do with falling into a comfort zone of using the same zoom lenses over and over.
What’s more is that even when I used a zoom lens, with its variable focal range, I’d always favor one particular focal length. In virtually every case, that turned out to be around 16mm.
That’s when I decided to impose a creative constraint on myself by limiting myself to only using a prime lens. By constraining myself to a single lens, a single focal length, and one that I have not used much in the past, I forced myself to approach any scene in entirely new ways. For this experiment, that lens was the Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8.
As someone who is most comfortable at the wider end of the focal length spectrum, this was quite the departure. Fortunately, this practice has paid back with dividends and has reinvigorated my creative juices so much that I wanted to share this video making the case for prime lenses.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need to use a prime lens to participate in this creative constraint. If you’re honest with yourself, you can use any zoom lens that you have access to and stick to a single focal length. Ideally, it’ll be one that you’re not as familiar, or comfortable, with. The key here is to work through the creative constraint that you’re imposing on yourself. It shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance because it isn’t.
Comfort breeds complacency and complacency is the murder weapon for creativity. So, give it a shot and force yourself out of your comfort zone. The results will likely surprise you.
About the author: Brian Matiash is a professional photographer, videographer, and published author based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. His passion is to serve other photographers by helping them grow their own visual pursuits. Learn more about Brian by visiting his website, on Instagram, and on YouTube.