Gerry van der Walt - Wild Eye - Wildlife Photography

Long Lenses Do Not Limit You

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 10 Comments

“I don’t know why everybody carries on about long lenses.  They limit you and don’t allow as much freedom as my 80-400mm.”

I seriously had to bite my tongue when I overheard this during a recent photo safari.  We were having dinner and another safari group were sitting close by when one of the people at their table made this statement and then kept on motivating and substantiating his statement again and again.  Perhaps the arsenal of large lenses our group had laying around had something to do with this.

My first thought was that this person had some sort of buyers remorse and the only reason that he was so passionate about his statement was that he was trying to validate his own equipment.  I get that not everybody has the means to shoot with large prime lenses but to say that they limit you as a photographer shows that this person has never tried to be creative in their approach to photography and lives in the comfort zone – an area devoid of any unique and creative images – by falling back on the easy option.

Then I realised, and I think this is a big problem for a lot of photographers out there, this person was scared.

He was scared of being challenged photographically and he was scared of trying new ways of shooting.  He was scared to take a risk and to try and create striking images regardless of what gear he has.  He was scared of not getting the shot he had in mind.

We need to all stop being afraid!

A prime lens, which doesn’t offer the ability to zoom in or out, does not limit you but rather makes you think about your composition.  You have to make choices as to what to include or exclude from the frame as you don’t have the ability to just zoom in or out a little.  I believe that this process will make you a better wildlife photographer and, in the long run, help you create better images and a stronger more diverse portfolio.

The moment you blame the gear you have, or don’t have, for the images you create you have lost.  Sure, not all of us can shoot with large zoom lenses but to get stuck on this and not try a variety of other approaches and techniques just seems daft and in the bigger picture the only thing that will suffer is your images.

As photographers, and I believe this completely, we should keep on pushing ourselves creatively and this doesn’t necessarily have to mean using techniques like motion blurs or multiple exposures.  It could be something as simple as limiting yourself to a single focal length for a morning drive and forcing yourself to think differently about how you photograph.

Gerry van der Walt - Wild Eye - Wildlife Photography

To the person I overheard at dinner – and to any of you who feel your equipment is limiting you – long lenses do not limit you.

The way you think about long lenses, or any other gear for that matter, is what will limit you.

Until next time.


About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!

Comments 10

  1. Phil Abraham

    YES!…Well observed. Also many people fear fixed focal lengths as they get ‘subject fixation’ , and forget that they have legs and can ‘zoom’ and move to get the viewpoint the image deserves (park rules or driver permitting if on safari). The main reason that I use zooms when out of the UK is the weight limits imposed by airlines … There is only so much you can get in a cabin bag and pockets 😀

    1. Post
    1. Post
  2. Lindsay

    Jerry, So well put. I shoot with a 600mm lens and would not have it any other way. As much as it can be restrictive on the odd occasion it opens up a whole new world as you said.

    1. Post
  3. Paul

    Great article Gerry.
    Totally agree with what you say. I was also in a very similar situation recently. It’s not the gear you have its how you use it. That is always something you do so well.
    Hope your well anyway.

    1. Post
    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *