Shooting 35mm for one whole year

Peter Gróf
5 min readJan 9, 2020


Peter Grof, 2020

About a year ago, I posted an article on Shooting Black and White for one whole year and to this date, it is my most frequently read article, here on Medium.

I love making photography simple and I like creative constraints. Since shooting black and white thought me a lot creatively, it has also shown me that one can grow by imposing limits on oneself. Therefore, at the beginning of 2019, I decided to shoot all of my street photography at one focal length only. 35mm. This is the experience.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Do you know the author of this famous quote? Hint: Not a photographer! (you’ll find his name at the end of this article)

Photography is not my daily job. I work in an office. I photograph during my free time. Before work or after, planned or spontaneous. Having a camera on me every day, taking every opportunity I get.

I didn’t want to carry around a heavy photo bag full of lenses, bodies, and tripod anymore. Been there, done that!

To me, having one camera body with one lens is the solution to the problem. I want it small and light — 35mm seemed suitable for both.

Carrying the camera around almost daily gave me the freedom to shoot whenever I fancied. Found a new spot during lunch break? Great light in the afternoon? A snowstorm I wanted to shoot forever? A sudden strike of inspiration? Not a problem, as long as I have my gear.

Peter Grof, 2019

Personal style

I’ve been reading about having a unique voice or a style in photography. Stand out, make yourself visible, have your own voice. I ain’t sure shooting one lens will guarantee all that. But it may help.

It helped me think twice (or more often) about the composition. I could not just shoot wide open and hide whatever in the bokeh. I now have to think about all the aspects of my frame. Foreground, subject, background. Juxtaposition. Creating a story, standing out, finding my voice.

Looking at my work from last year, I find it more consistent, more thought-through, better composed.

Getting closer

OK, here’s another one for you:

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

A photographer this time.

With one focal length, you’d have to use your legs to zoom, some might argue. Although not incorrect, I don’t agree completely! Using a prime lens requires a different approach to thinking about composition and framing.

I need to anticipate. I need to be more caring. I need to nurture my vision and photographic expression. I need to know what I want to capture before it even happens. Or at least to have a notion of what I want. The luxury of composing by zooming in or out is not there anymore.

Photography becomes more mindful, focused, intense. It's just me, the camera and anything in front of it. Purest form. To me.

And if you need to be closer or further away, by all means, do the walking!

Peter Grof, 2019

Creativity knows no limits

Unless you shoot one lens only, right? Not exactly.

Well, I can’t get those crazy wide angles sharp landscape images. I can’t get those great portraits with beautiful bokeh. I can’t shoot sports in large fields nor wildlife in the Serengeti national park.

Though what I can do, is to find a way to photograph the same but from a different perspective.

I can get a nice establishing shot and focus on the details at the same time. I can make environmental portraits showing my subject interact with their surroundings. I can be intimate. I can show context. I can go and document sportsmen while they’re not playing. I can document a tiger interact with a park ranger and capture that on a 35mm lens. If I choose to and the tiger has been fed.

There are better lenses for specific genres. However, if we do not let ourselves believe having an extra lens will enable us to do awesome art, we can find a way to capture what we want, with the gear we have.


Choose a lens, or a lens system, that fulfills your needs. Mine was simple. Everyday carry-on, street/documentary style photography — great with 35mm. If I were a portrait photographer, I’d choose something else. If I were a landscape photographer, Id’ again opt for a different system.

What works for one, might not work you. Find your own way and own it!

Have I missed some shots? Hell, yes! Do I regret it? Hell, no! You see, having the camera with me at all times, ready to shoot, easy to take out, knowing my frame, becoming one with the gear, obstruction-free shooting brought me more opportunities and successes than owning all the lenses in the world.

Here are the promised quotes:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Wayne Gretzky

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
Robert Capa

Thank you for reading!

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Peter Gróf

Finding creative ways to be. Photographer, Writer.