Shooting With Prime Lenses: Take the Prime Challenge

February 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Prime lenses are different. They don't zoom, they don't have as many fancy knobs or switches, and they usually have minimal distortion (if any at all). They can usually produce some of the most extreme shallow depth of field that zoom lenses typically cannot. They serve a single focal length, and they do it very well. 

Why would you want to shoot with a lens that doesn't zoom? Isn't that inconvenient? 

Not quite. Prime lenses force you to "zoom on your feet", to walk back and forth, left and right, just to get the shot you've been envisioning. Primes allow you to shoot at extremely large apertures (some even larger than f/1.0) that produce a focus area of mere inches. This just means bokeh, tons and tons of creamy bokeh. Backgrounds melt away and your subject is presented in such an isolated state that the picture itself is dreamy, unique. Not to mention, the larger available apertures (such as Canon's EF 85mm F/1.2L) allow you to capture more light in a shot. That just means a faster shutter if needed and a lower ISO. Lower ISO speeds only mean less noise.

But still. You have to walk around! Your lens might be too narrow or too wide! Your subject might be too far away! What is one to do?

I'll be honest. In terms of "photography" itself, a prime or a good zoom lens will get the job done. They both "work". Prime lenses are just a bit more demanding. They force you to be creative. They force you to put in extra effort to walk around to catch a shot. They test you on your focus ability. One slight shift to the back or front would throw off your focus on such a large aperture. Prime lenses, when used at their potential, are difficult. They're controlling, demanding, yet can be tamed.

Up until recently, my Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II was my favorite lens. It's a great zoom and I highly recommend it. Then, out of the blue, I bought a cheap ($400 cheap) Canon 85mm f/1.8. It has no image stabilization, it doesn't zoom, yet it hasn't left my camera. 




This lens is making me create. It's making me adapt myself to fit its standards. This lens truly challenges my skill as a photographer.


So, go for it. Take the "Prime Lens Challenge".

Get yourself a prime lens. Preferably something between 35mm-85mm. Be aware of any cropping on your sensor unless you shoot full frame. 

Put the lens on its maximum aperture (the smaller number) and leave it there. 

Head out to your favorite city, town, park, or anything. 

Spend a single hour shooting anything you find interesting. I guarantee that it won't be as easy as it seems. However, once you start to become "part" of your prime lens, you'll learn how to "tame" it. You'll learn how to force it to work for you. 

Best of all, your creativity levels will go through the roof.

Send us your prime images. After we've collected a few, the best 10 images will be published in another post.


Good luck all!


-Aakaash Bali



Long Island Photography by Aakaash Bali
Aakaash B. Photography (ABP) is an Elite professional photography team based in Long Island, NY.
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