In street photography we hear the advice, “get up close” often enough to make us think about why getting up close is a better idea than standing back on the corner.
Firstly, 35 mm and 50 mm lenses are the best choices for your street photography. No doubt about it.
Which lens you use for street photography determines a lot about how close you need to be when doing street photography.
How do you know if the lens you choose is good enough to get the best shots in street photography?
Is a 35 mm or a 50 mm better for getting those really close up, full of texture, street shots that are full of emotion and action?
Well, I’d definitely be happy to use either one, and here’s the reason why.
If I’m out and about, taking urban street shots with my 50 mm lens, I need to get in close to capture details. If I’m sure of picking up details, which allows me a better dynamic range of textures, then I know that I’m adding to the value of the shot.
Dynamic range, or great contrast, is mostly due to a good sensor that can pick up on a lot of information that your camera lens is looking at – that’s the techie view of things.
But, everything is connected. A great sensor with a cheap lens is fine, but it’ll leave a lot to be desired when you examine what your lens is doing, and not doing for you.
Surely, improvement in everything street photography is a part of upping your game to the best you can be?
I remember when I used a 50 mm Nifty-Fifty Canon lens for my first foray into street photography. I realised that I’d successfully managed to transcribe all of my old school painting ideas into urban street photography, but after a while, the lens bothered me.
What use is great camera and composition, framing, black and white tones, or popping colours, when the lens lets you down?
I bought the Sigma 50 mm Art Lens. Attached it, took a couple of shots around my home and was blown away by how sharp it was. Not only sharpness, but the contrast came through like I’d never seen before.
It was my first great lens.
And it’s still my go-to lens for street photography, still life, and portrait photography.
Standing back from your street shots will give you a “flat” photo finish. With that, I mean there won’t be a bow in the image that pulls at the perspective.
I like a lens that allows me to get all artistic and create a slight “pulling” of perspective when I want it. It can cause the viewer to experience an unexplained emotion when they don’t understand quiet what’s happening in the photo.
Street photography lenses are a personal choice, but there’s a lot to think about if you look at what the masters chose to do.
Henri Cartier-Bresson used a 35 mm lens all of the time. I wouldn’t say that’s because he discovered the secret sauce to street photography, I’d imagine more that he felt comfortable with it, it gave him the compositional frame that he wanted, and his thought processes developed in a way that he could visualise in 35 mm.
Think of that. If you use a 50 mm lens all of time, and it’s a well-built, first class piece of glass, then you’ll develop a visualisation process based on your 50 mm lens.
Harry Gruyaert uses a 50 mm lens most of the time.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to stick with that lens all of the time. Don’t forget, street photography and which camera lens is better for street photography is a matter of choice based on varying factors. One of them could be the weather, another could be that you’ve finally plucked up enough courage to get up real close and try your hand at cheeky close up shots of people on the street.
But the main choice boils down to the quality that you want to achieve. If you’ve made steps forwards with your street photography skills, then you want to upgrade your lenses. Get the best, and be happy.
If I use a 35 mm lens, I know two things. One is that it’ll make me step inside the picture, I’ll naturally start to edge forwards when I’m composing a photo frame. That’s a good feeling.
The most important reason for choosing a 35 mm camera lens is that you want to create wider compositions that are more complex than the generic street photography shots these days.
A 35 mm camera lens can offer a lot of flexibility for a street photographer. You can get in close, and have your cake of a wide shot while doing so.
A 50 mm camera lens will force you to move close when composing a shot. If you want to get the best street shot out of it, you need to use its capabilities to pick up fine details, and give you tight frame or composition. 50 mm lenses aren’t for long shots, it’ll pick everything up, some details look good, but it isn’t a lens that’ll give you good long distance shots.
A good 35 mm lens will allow you to bokeh the backgrounds when your subject is the most important element in the photo.
It’s a good lens to take candid street portraits, if you live somewhere that allows you to do that.
It’s a better choice is you are developing your artistic skills of composing, and working with colour compositions, you have more space in the frame to set things up, you have your feet to move in and close down the edges of your frame.
Making the decision to buy a 35 mm camera lens, or a 50mm lens for street photography will allow you to increase the quality of your urban street photography – that’s a fact.
A good quality lens changes everything, especially after using a basic camera lens that just about does the job. It’s a great feeling to finally have invested in the most important part of the camera – it feels like a camera upgrade.
Glass is important. Your choices of lenses are based on personal needs, do you like close up, street portraits, or large compositions, or will a 50 mm street photography lens be your companion on most excursions?
The 50 mm Sigma lens makes for a great companion, It’s the best choice for street photographers.
The 35 mm Sigma is also the first choice lens when you want quality framing, composition that is clean and the ability to get up close and not lose too much space. F-stops up to 1.4
Sigma lenses cover most makes of camera, so when you buy the Sigma lens, be sure to check compatibility, or click on the correct button to choose your brand match.
I’ve included links in this article, some of which are affiliate links to the products, this allows me a small commission on any purchases made – it doesn’t affect the end price.