These Are The Best Focal Lengths For Capturing Candid Moments

Different focal lengths lend unique perspectives to your images. Give these a try the next time you’re photographing candid moments.

Candid moments are happening all around us, and photography affords us the unique ability to distill and immortalize them into a single frame. Situational awareness is key. Most candid moments tend to reveal themselves as long as you’re paying attention to your surroundings. While there are no hard and fast rules that you must adhere to when it comes to capturing these “Kodak Moments,” some focal lengths certainly work better than others. Be sure to give these different focal lengths a go the next time you’re planning on capturing candid moments.


Lenses covering the 35mm focal length have a field of view that is very similar to how the human eye sees the world. It’s an ideal focal length for capturing spontaneous, candid moments as they happen because what you see is basically what you get. You can get up close and into the middle of the action for more detail, or take a few steps back to capture the entire scene. 35mm prime lenses are favored by many photographers whose work centers around documentary photography, event photography, street photography, or wedding photography.


Shooting with a 50mm lens gives you a bit more reach when compared to 35mm lenses. This extra distance allows you to capture candid moments without having to be get up close and potentially disturb your subject(s). For this reason, some photographers actually prefer 50mm prime lenses over the wider 35mm options.


While the 85mm focal length is most commonly associated with portrait photography, it can also be used to capture candid moments in the hands of a skilled photographer. Obviously, there’ll need to be some distance between you and your subject(s) if you’re trying to capture candid moments with an 85mm prime lens. As long as you’re not working within a tiny space, this can actually work to your advantage. Since you’ll be shooting from even further away than with 35mm or 50mm options, you’ll have to work the scene and pay close attention to everything that’s happening. However, this also means that you’re even less likely to disturb your subject(s) when shooting with an 85mm lens.


Whether you prefer prime lenses or zooms is a matter of personal preference, but many photographers swear by 24-70mm zoom lenses thanks to their versatility. Covering a wide to mid-telephoto zoom range, 24-70mm lenses allow you to cover a lot of ground without actually haven’t to move around and “zoom with your feet.” Both the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths are covered by 24-70mm zooms. A lot of documentary, event, and wedding photographers practically have a 24-70mm lens welded onto their camera bodies at all times. The only drawback is that most zooms are dimmer than primes You’ll want to pair them with cameras that have good low light performance if you frequently shoot indoors or during the evenings.


If you prefer to be a fly on the wall while photographing candid moments, then you’ll want to consider shooting with a 70-200mm zoom lens. This puts you squarely within telephoto territory, allowing you to stay incognito while shooting from a significant distance away. You’ll be so far away that most people won’t even notice you’re there. Just don’t be a creep and abuse this focal range.