A telephoto lens for Street Photography?

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I’ve been shooting all my street photos and street portraits of strangers with my 50mm lens. I thought of trying street photography with my new lens: Tamron 70-200 f2.8. I’ve been asked several times, which is the best lens for street photography?

This post shall help you understand why a telephoto lens can be a good option for street photography, while you’re mostly recommended to use wide-angle lenses or prime lenses.

Before jumping on to the benefits of telephoto lenses for streets, let’s discuss why wide-angle and prime lenses are good.

Saigon Street Photography
Shot at 18mm.

Why is wide angle lens good for street photography?

The wide-angle lens helps you cover more horizon even if you’re standing in a close proximity. It helps you shoot urban landscapes and buildings, if that’s integral to your narrative.

Secondly, if you’re close to the subject and want to include them in your composition, you don’t need to step back too much. You can add the person in frame even if you’re standing very close to him or her.

Saigon Street Photography
Shot on wide-angle lens.

What are the limitations of a wide-angle lens in street photography?

Shooting close portraits become difficult without getting noticed by the people. While close proximity provides good opportunity to engage, and I personally like that, it’s difficult to get candid shots. 

Why do I mostly use 50mm prime lenses for street photography?

In love engaging with people. At times, I even interview them for their experience and local life or culture. I end up shooting a portrait of people and catalogue then in my “Portrait of Humans” project.

A 50mm lens provides me ability to shoot in low light: evening, morning or nights. It also creates soft background in portraits to get rid of noisy background in the busy streets.

Telephoto lens for street photography

Alright, if I already had a wide-angle lens and a 50mm prime lens, why did I procure a telephoto 70-200, f2.8 lens for streets?

1. You can get close to the subjects without disturbing them and you get a flattering candid portrait.

2. The Tamron lens is not so heavy – you can easily shoot pictures hand held.

3. The background becomes softer on the full zoom of 200mm, helping you get rid of busy and distracting background.

4. The low light performance is good at f2.8. Meaning, you can enjoy photography in the late evening or low light areas.

5. Most importantly, I’ve seen people me taking seriously, like a professional photographer or a photojournalist, when I walk in the street with relatively bigger lens mounted on my camera. You’ll definitely stand out from the crowd, people will notice you — use all these to your benefits.

Telephoto lens for street photography

Why you should not use the telephoto lens in streets?

If you’re a shy photographer and feel that you can shoot people from a distance through the 200mm lens; abstain from such thoughts.

Become an integral part of the street life. Let people notice you. Engage with them. Let your photography come out when you’re shooting. You’ll be a successful street shooter only if you become part of the story while you’re shooting. Leaving you there with these thoughts… Let me know whether you like the idea of using a telephoto lens for street photography.

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