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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
I love my zoom lens. I've got several zoom lenses. They're mostly what I shoot with. But you gotta be careful with them because they will make you lazy. Here's what I mean. Got some nice subject matter over there. I can stand here and take a picture of it, and maybe go, Oh, really, to get the composition I want, I need to get a little bit closer. Oh, I don't have to walk over there. I can just zoom in. Well, there's a difference. The picture that I get from standing back here and zooming in is very different from the picture that I get when I walk closer and zoom out. If you watched Foundations of Photography: Lenses, you should know all about this.
So, I want you, if you're willing, to try an exercise here. If you, like me, mostly shoot with a zoom lens, stop. Now you can do that either by going and buying an expensive prime lens. Or, you can just promise yourself that you're going to go out shooting at a particular focal length and you're never going to zoom. So, for example, I'm going to go easy on myself today. I typically like shooting at wider angles, so I'm going to set my zoom lens here at 35 millimeters.
Just to be sure, maybe I'll get a little piece of tape or something, and tape it down. And I'm going to spend the entire day shooting just at 35 millimeters. Maybe I'll spend the entire week shooting at 35 millimeters. Give yourself a particular assignment. Give yourself a particular deadline and stick to it for that time. Do like I've just done, pick a focal length that you're pretty comfortable with and do that for a few days. Then challenge yourself. Pick one that you never shoot at. I rarely shoot telephoto. I rarely shoot with a really long focal length, so I might go out to 105. Take that down and shoot that way for awhile if you never shoot very wide then go to the other end and shoot like that for awhile.
I think what your going to find is that you have to move a lot more then your use to. Rather than just being able to zoom in, you're going to have to walk places. And what that's going to do is force you to work your shot a lot. It's going to force you to move, and really think about your composition, and find new things. So give it a try. Set your zoom lens on a fixed focal length. Or borrow a prime lens. If you have one, stick it on. And shoot exclusively with that for a few days. Challenge yourself. Go to the difficult focal lengths, go to the easy ones. And see what it feels like when you're out being forced to walk around.
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