For a photographer who is hesitant or shy about approaching people on the street, starting out with a telephoto lens can be a good start. Many photographers experience lack of confidence, uncertainty, and fear when shooting street photography and using a telephoto lens can help capture up-close images. Sometimes, the better way to get an up-close shot of a person is by asking their permission. There are both benefits and drawbacks to using a telephoto lens for street photography, and it’s up to the individual to decide what works best for their situation.
Benefits of Using Telephoto Lens for Street Photography
Photographing With Limited Exposure
One of the biggest potential benefits of shooting with a telephoto lens is that you can photograph people from a distance, usually without them noticing you. This is especially useful for photographing people who feel uncomfortable having their picture taken, such as when you’re visiting a foreign country to experience a different culture without disturbing it.
Shooting with a telephoto lens requires that you put some distance between you and your subject and this compressed perspective brings the background closer to the subject matter. Using the creative effect from a telephoto lens adds a unique aspect to your images.
Close Shot Among Crowds
In some situations such as photographing street performers, the crowds can make it impossible to get a close shot with a lens with a shorter focal length. A telephoto lens enables you to take a close-up shot from a fair distance away from the crowds.
Improve Framing and Details
Using a telephoto zoom lens makes it easier to frame your subjects when you can’t get close to them physically. You can also capture details of your subject that help tell their story while maintaining your distance, so they act naturally.
Drawbacks of Using Telephoto Lens for Street Photography
Heavy and Large
Telephoto lenses are large and heavy, which makes them hard to hold steady without a tripod. They’re also very conspicuous for street photography and steadying them with a tripod makes you even more noticeable.
Require Faster Shutter Speeds
The longer focal length of a telephoto lens means using a faster shutter speed to prevent camera shake and lens blur. You also need to open the aperture wider or increase the ISO. If the camera or lens has image stabilization or you’re using a monopod to support the lens, you can counteract this drawback. Another drawback of the longer focal length of a telephoto lens is that you can’t take photos in as low light as possible with shorter focal length lenses.
Difficult to Blend in
Carrying around a large, long lens is less than inconspicuous, and this means you’ll stand out in a crowd. This can be counterproductive if you’re trying to seem unobtrusive.
Minimal Subject Engagement
This can be a benefit or a drawback, depending on how you feel about engaging with your subject matter. Shooting from a distance with your telephoto lens can capture details, but it conveys the feeling that you’re not engaged with your subject and that you’re not participating in the scene.
Ultimately, using a telephoto lens for street photography is entirely your choice and often depends on your comfort level and the particular situation. Capturing the right images takes practice but once you have some great shots, bring them to Baboo Photography to enjoy the benefits of high-quality digital prints.