Street photographers have shot with normal and telephoto lenses, but wider is just easier.
Physics is a bigger factor in street photography than most consider. And wide-angle lenses are some of the best solutions. It’s one of the reasons why street photographers always use them. (Well, there are several reasons that involve ethics too!) But if you’re serious about street photography, wide angles are the way to go. They’ll give you a different look at life. And your photos will just reflect that.
Zone Focusing in Street Photography
First up is zone focusing. Zone focusing is the idea of focusing out to a distance. Then you stop the lens down. At a given aperture, a whole range of space will be in focus. Try using a 28mm lens first. Then focus around 4 feet away. Stop the lens down to f8, and you’ll see that a lot of the scene will be in focus. This will make street photography easy. All you have to do is walk up to your subject.
If you’re using an autofocus lens, it’s going to be more difficult. Here’s an explanation from this article explaining why:
“Autofocus lenses make zone focusing more difficult to do accurately, as they’re primarily designed for automatic focusing. To that end, these lenses are designed to have a shorter focus throw vs the longer focus throw manual focus lenses have to allow a photographer precision. As a result, the distance scale on an autofocus lens, like Sigma’s 28mm offering, really just has something along the lines of f8 there. It’s best to use this as a guide, set the lens to manual focus, and then focus away to a certain distance by reading what the lens and zone focusing scale tell you to do.”
You Have to Get Close to Your Subject
Getting close up to people can be intimidating. Ethically speaking, it means they know you’re taking a photo. So you’re not really a creep if you do this in public. Of course, your intentions are a different story. Anyway, some of us prefer longer focal lengths to capture a candid scene. Especially in a pandemic, I’d encourage you to look for alternatives. Try the idea of the Photo Wait. Take a look at how photographer Jonathan Higbee did it in the video below.
Some of Them Offer a View Like What You See
The 21mm lens can be enjoyable to work with. 24mm is also popular. But try 28mm. It’s is a wide-angle lens, and it gives you a bit more than what you see. The results will be photos that make you feel like you’re there. Wider angles give a more surreal look, and that’s also very fun!
So You’re Not a Creep
Of course, being a creep is all about intentions. If you’re photographing an attractive person and thinking with your loins, then stop. If you think you see a truly timeless scene, that’s different. Getting close up will help you check yourself. In fact, wide-angle lenses are great tools for masters. But they’re also great for you to get a hold of yourself with.
They’re Low Profile for Street Photography
Wide-angle lenses tend to be lower profile. So if you want to look like someone not shooting seriously, go for it. Wide angles tend to be incredibly small if they’re not super fast aperture lenses. It also depends on what camera mount you’re working with. DSLR lenses are huge, while most mirrorless camera lenses are tiny. We prefer them for that reason. There’s no need to lug around extra weight and size if you don’t need to.