Street photography using wide-angle lenses

Street photography is probably one of the most accessible types of photography because you can do it almost anytime, anywhere. The essence of photojournalism/street photography is the sum of emotion, reality, and story in one image. You can do a good street shot with any lens, but I’m personally a big fan of wide-angle.

The background in street photos or news photography images provides the viewer with a visual reminder of what is going on. Removing the subject entirely from its context may be aesthetically pleasing, but detracts from the visual meaning behind the photo.

Historically, photographers who used wider focal lengths in street and documentary work did so because they showed more background than telephoto lenses, which tended to flatter the background and isolate the subject. These lenses include 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm focal lengths.

A common mistake is to use a wide aperture to blur the background of each image to make it simpler. When I first started taking photography seriously, I was drawn to large-aperture zoom lenses and prime lenses.

Street photography

1. Precautions for street photography with a wide-angle lens

Shooting with a wide-angle lens, there are many challenges to taking good pictures. Here are five things to note when taking street photography with a wide-angle lens:

(1) Background

In my early days of street photography with wide-angle lenses, I often ignored any elements in the frame passing through the background. I often have to crop the image drastically or not use it at all! Getting the right background takes patience and care. You can wait for the background to clear before clicking the shutter, or you can intentionally use it to add photo information.

The nature of wide angles is that more elements appear in the image — therefore, more care and discipline are required when using these elements constructively.

(2) Stretching and main distortion

Under normal conditions, because you’re using a wide-angle lens so close to your subject, you’ll see the photo stretch and twist toward the edge of the frame. If you don’t want your subjects to look like aliens, please consider this! In my experience, anything wider than the 24mm equivalent tends to stretch the subject out of reality, because when you are so close to the subject, the perspective of the photo is very exaggerated. This may not matter if your subject is in the center of the picture or farther away.

(3) Composition, alignment, and lines

Similarly, the alignment of elements in the frame may change when using a wider focal length. Pay attention to any lines in the composition. While wide-angle lenses are difficult to maintain in a straight line in the background, they can be achieved.

Street photography

Although best handled correctly in-camera, using some perspective correction tools can usually save the image, albeit with some clipping or pixel interpolation. Barrel distortion may also be common if zoom lenses are used. Try to find a way to hide it in composition or correct it later at the expense of some clipping in post-processing. When shooting with a wider lens, a simple movement of a few inches can change the image.

(4) Include more elements

The wide-angle effect also allows you to add more elements to your frame. This leads to a greater relationship between the subject and its surroundings.

(5) The depth of the field

The wider the lens, the greater the depth of field and the worse the background blur. For example, at a focal distance of 3-4 feet, almost the entire scene can be clear if shot with a 24mm lens. While this is great for storytelling, isolation is sometimes a problem. If you need some isolation, get closer to your subject and use a wider aperture. Even so, you’ll see more details in the background than with more telephones.

2. Street photography skills

Street photography is one of the most frightening and uncertain types of photography, where it is very little you can control and almost everything depends on luck, persistence, and the ability to see and capture a moment. Many new photographers who enjoy street photography often feel nervous due to its elegant/frank look and feel, as it requires a lot of time and dedication, the ability to interact with strangers, and sometimes even the ability to deal with stress as things happen.

As in any field, if you analyze the problem carefully, you can come up with solutions that will yield the best results and the probability of error is very low. I’m by no means a professional street photographer, but over time I’ve come up with a list of techniques that work for me most of the time.

(1) Look for interesting faces/emotions.

This is by far the easiest step to get interesting photos. Look for older people or children. Their faces are very expressive. In addition, people with unique clothing and emotional states make your photos pop in their unusual settings.

platform bridge

(2) Look for relevant or contrasting backgrounds and prospects.

Street photography is about the complete environment. You should try to lead the audience from the subject to the background. To do this seamlessly, your background should be relevant. Highlight your theme, but also try to put some meaningful and unobtrusive background. Do not try to remove it completely or use a background that is too simple, as it may not complete the story. Sometimes, contrasting backgrounds also create strong visual effects. Play carefully within limits.

(3) Look for some really beautiful geometric compositions.

This is where street photography gets interesting visually. However, mastering such shots is also difficult because you need to be able to see the right angles and learn how to compose them so that they look attractive and engaging to the viewer. If you learn to take advantage of such opportunities, you will get amazing results. Remember that good composition is always the key to a successful image.

(4) Look for time-tested conditions.

Look for beautiful reflections in glass or stagnant water on the street. The contrasting lighting conditions of day and night are also very striking. Symmetry and repetition are also pleasing.

(5) Shoot in color and black and white.

Due to its classic look and ability to suppress a lot of background interference, shooting in black and white is very tempting. But in addition to these reasons, you should also try to learn other aspects of black and white, such as shadows, textures, and contrast. Black and white also tend to make images look sharper. But color also has its advantages. Sometimes color photos are more interesting than black and white because we’re used to seeing the world around us in color.

The old street

(6) Always wait for a decisive moment.

This is by far the most important aspect of street photography. Before you release the shutter, think about whether it’s the right time to shoot. What if you wait a little longer to see if there is a better opportunity to photograph a more interesting subject or a more beautiful light? In street photography, timing is everything — that’s what creates stories.

Here are some other ideas you should keep in mind that might come in handy:

Be polite to your partner at all times. Don’t try to take advantage of them. If they don’t want to be photographed, leave them alone. You will have access to a million other opportunities. Be prepared to say sorry and smile, and never antagonize the locals.

Familiarize yourself with the place. A little planning never hurts. Try to return to the same place later. You will already be familiar with the location and its settings. This will help you plan your shoot ahead of time.

Talk to people after taking pictures. Give them your business card. Ask them if they would like them and then send them as a courtesy. Make them your friends. It would be more fun and less intimidating.

3. Conclusion

When you go out to do street photography, don’t expect every shot to be a masterpiece. Street photography is very difficult, so be patient and try to enjoy the whole process, not just the result. Try to improve while studying. Wide-angle photography can be a fun way to change photojournalism or street photography. If you try it, I think you’ll find it very interesting!

Share this post