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It sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? Limiting your creativity, to improve your creativity. Hopefully, by the end of this article this will make total sense and will steer you towards better images when you hit the streets to take some photos.
Too many options
This whole idea of creative limitation all stems from giving ourselves too many options. A funny thing happens to us humans when faced with a few too many things we can do or choose. Let’s use food shopping as an example. We have all been in that situation when you’re super hungry and you go to buy some food. You end up buying way more than you needed due to indecision or not really enjoying what you bought, eating everything, and feeling sick as a result. Now let’s translate that into photography talk.
When you are out taking photographs, either street photography, landscape, travel etc… and you see a moment happening or a patch of light appears, you need to act quickly to capture that moment or the light and treasure that image. But, if you have too many options, that indecision kicks in and causes doubts or hesitations then before you know it, that moment has passed, that light has faded. All whilst you were fiddling with your camera bag changing lenses or zooming in and out.
One camera, one lens
Now how do I combat this issue when I’m out taking pictures? It’s really simple. One camera, one lens. Welcome to creative limitation. Let’s go back to the food shop. Now I look at the shelf, and there is only one meal, one chocolate bar or one drink. I have no option but to choose that one thing and enjoy it. Back to photography; now I have limited my options when I see that moment or amazing light. I no longer see the moment and think oh, this would be better with 50mm, actually 24mm, ahh what about 70mm. Rather, I see the moment happening and I know all I have is a 35mm prime and now I need to use that lens to make the best possible picture, to capture and tell the story that’s happening in front of me.
This frees up your creativity. Your mind is focused on composition, lighting, moment, and anticipation. Much better than peering into the camera bag and wondering what lens to pull out or racking focal length on that zoom lens wider, tighter, wider tighter. This is probably the one thing that helps me more than anything, especially in street photography. Moments are king in street photography and I want camera equipment to get out of my way.
Zoom lenses can work too
Now, I know not everyone has a prime lens but this whole idea of creative limitation does work with zoom lenses; it just takes a little bit of discipline. I had a 24-70 lens that I enjoyed using and often would set myself a focal length to work with, let’s say 70mm, and I would just leave the lens zoomed to that length. It is much harder to stick to your guns and leave that focal length alone but, if you can, you will definitely start to see and feel your attention and images improving.
Ignoring your equipment
The aim of the game here is to try your best to ignore your equipment. It’s no coincidence that most of the best and well-known street photographers use fixed lens cameras such as the Fuji X100 series or have a preferred focal length they always use such as 35mm. The best images are made when the equipment has no impact and the photographer is fully in the moment and capturing those fleeting things, that patch of light, that inverted umbrella, that dog doing its business on the stranger’s leg, and so on.
When equipment is a primary thought, you’re so much more likely to miss all of these things happening.
Give it a try
I would love to end this article by challenging you all to head out into the world and try limiting your creativity in an attempt to be more creative. Pick up your favourite camera, your favourite lens, charge a battery and go for a walk. Focus totally on what you see in front of you. Ignore your equipment and capture those moments. I’m confident that your images will improve, and hopefully you’ll have more fun too.