Street Photography with a Tele Lens

Started May 27, 2012 | Discussions thread
xtoph
Veteran MemberPosts: 8,138Gear list
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you've posed a false choice.
In reply to meczup, May 27, 2012

meczup wrote:

How many of you think it's ok to take people's pictures with a tele lens without them noticing it? Or do you prefer them posing for you?

this isn't an 'either-or' proposition. i use wide to normal focal lengths for all my street photography, the vast majority of which is unposed. in fact, if your goal is to get 'natural' scenes which do not show the intrusion of the camera, then you really can't use a long telephoto lens, since it produces a distinctive visual effect of compression, flatness, and vague p.o.v. which does not exist in our direct experience.

if you want your street photos to be real, it is a reasonable idea to use a lens which shows a real perspective. anything from around 28--50mm equivalent fl is generally a good choice.

of course, if you want to use a telephoto, that's up to you. i am not telling you what to use. but don't make the choice based on the fallacy you've posed, that only a telephoto can give you 'natural' candids.

I don't like approaching people and asking for permission to take pictures. Do you think a 70-200mm or even a 70-300mm lens would be good for street photography?

you may find that even if you are far enough away from your main subject that they don't notice you--but they might, a telephoto lens pointed at you generally draws people's attention--people in your immediate vicinity may react to you 'spying' on other people with a long lens. this can be a lot more awkward than asking permission beforehand.

but again, you don't necessarily need to ask permission from everyone. usually, if you make it clear (non-verbally) that you are a photographer taking photos, then people basically ignore you, especially if they see you taking a lot of photos, and especially if those photos cover a variety of subjects. you can even let your subjects approach you --i routinely get requests from strangers in the street to take their photograph. a telephoto can actually make it harder to gain a clear vantage point on your subject in a crowded street--it is more likely that people will be in between you and them the farther away you stand.

here are just a few recent examples.

none of these people posed for the camera. all were made with a wide angle lens.

i think you will find that most of street photography is a matter of attitude, rather than specialized equipment. and practice definitely helps. so whatever lens you decide on, do enjoy yourself. and we hope you share the results back on the forum.

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