Street shot with a telephoto lens

Street photography is the photography of street life, whether it is people, animals, architecture, nature, or public space, they all come together. Street photography is based on candid photography, which is defined as a subject not posing and often unaware of the camera’s existence.

The fast pace of street photography can sometimes lead to Dutch corners, slightly blurred photos, and poor exposure. While not acceptable in studio situations, these elements add to the frankness of street photography’s charm. Let’s learn how to street shot with a telephoto lens.

1. Street shooting skills with a telephoto lens

Telephoto lenses allow the photographer to keep enough distance from the subject that the compression effect makes the distance appear closer and larger than it really is. Master the following points, can easily handle telephoto lens street shooting.

Street photography of the store with a telephoto lens

(1) High point shooting

Because the telephoto lens can bring a sense of space compression, it is very conducive to a high position, long-distance shooting things, expressing emotional details. Telephoto lenses will form the shallow depth of field, which is easy to appear blurred effect.

Therefore, the time circle of telephoto lenses should not be too large, so as to avoid the shallow depth of field. Generally, the aperture can be set to F7.1 or so. If you want to freeze the figure, you can choose a safe shutter speed of more than 1/500 seconds to avoid the figure. At the same time, we should be good at using the lens language to truly show the various forms of street things, and create an attractive picture from the composition to guide the audience to resonate.

Pedestrian streets, exhibition halls, platforms, shopping malls, beaches, buses, intersections, rail transit, and other public places are good places for a telephoto lens to take street shots. The concrete people or objects on the street should be regarded as form, line, texture, light and shade, color, etc, which can emphasize the structural relationship between the visual elements of the picture.

(2) Interesting things

It is necessary to use a telephoto lens to depict a certain part of street things with the advantage of large images of the subject and small perspective change, emphasize the subject with shallow depth of field, and get a more distinct subject picture in a small field of view, so that the composition of the picture is simpler.

In the complicated streets with telephoto lens shooting, you should choose the right subject, arrange the right companion, grasp the key elements, shoot the work that can be representative. Because the shooting distance is too far, when pressing the shutter, it is necessary to check whether there is any other interference in the picture to avoid unwanted elements in the lens.

Street photography of crowds with telephoto lenses

(3) Visual center

The interesting point is the visual center that needs to be expressed. It can be a person or an object, which can make the finishing point in the picture. When people look at pictures, their eyes will naturally rest on interesting things. This point that guides the vision to the subject through photographic language is the center of interest. When shooting, adjust different angles, look for different camera positions, find interesting points and arrange them in the key points of the picture.

Generally speaking, an interesting point can be arranged near the golden section of the center of the picture. Actual combat shooting, through the reasonable arrangement of the picture of the main body and the proportion of the accompanying body, to achieve the effect of highlighting the focus. Still, you can pass the clever frame type composition of a picture, light to apply, the appropriate processing of shadow tone, the gout element in match picture nimbly.

(4) Long-term accumulation

For street photography, there are many conflicts and hot spots to explore. How do choose a topic? Where to start? The key is to find a good point of entry, to have a prediction of things. You can start from some small things to find the shooting perspective of the whole topic, while shooting, thinking, and summarizing. After accumulating a lot of practical shooting, you will gradually train a pair of eyes that are good at finding.

Photographers can choose their own frequently available subjects for continuous shooting, through a long period of shooting, to explain the theme of a photography project, with time span to interpret the integrity of the work.

Street photography of tour cars with telephoto lenses

2. Advantages of using a telephoto lens for street photography

(1) You can take pictures without being noticed.

Many people often wear colorful clothes when they go shopping. So the street became a good place for photographers to shoot.

Kids love taking pictures of themselves and when they see my camera they often come over and ask me to take pictures of them, but it’s harder to take pictures of adults. By using a telephoto lens and taking pictures from a distance, I was able to take pictures of anyone on the street without being noticed.

(2) Compressed perspective

Telephoto lenses force you to stand farther away from your subject and have a shorter focal length. This changes the perspective and brings the background closer to the subject. You can use it to create effects, and it’s a great way to add variety to a group of photos.

(3) You can film in narrow places.

For example, in the Cadiz carnival, there are many street performers and singers. Street performers performed satires and comedies. But sometimes there are so many people around them that I can’t get close enough to take a picture with a shorter focus. In this case, a telephoto lens may be the only way you can take a picture.

(4) The details

Telephoto lenses are great for the type of detail that can tell you as much as a person’s face about their subject’s lifestyle or personality.

Street photography of a father and son with a telephoto lens

3. Disadvantages of using telephoto lenses for street photography

(1) Size and weight

Telephoto lenses are heavy. Compared to smaller lenses, they require more energy to carry throughout the day and are more difficult to hold steady when shooting in hand.

(2) Faster shutter speeds are required

When using a longer focal length, you also need a faster shutter speed to avoid camera jitter. In turn, this means that you need to increase the ISO or open an aperture larger than a short focal length. This disadvantage may be offset if the lens has image stabilization, or if you use a monopod to support it.

(3) It’s harder to blend into the background with a telephoto lens

Your subjects may not notice you, but you will certainly stand out with your telephoto lens to those nearby.

(4) You don’t participate in your topic

If you take a photo with a telephoto lens, there is a sense of detachment from the subject in the image. This is not a complete disadvantage, you can use it wisely to create cinematic effects, and the shorter focal length brings you closer to the subject.

Street photography of grandma with telephoto lens

4. Conclusion

It doesn’t matter what type of lens you use, what matters is that you try to connect consciously and emotionally with your subject. If you can afford it, give yourself some time to analyze the scene and use it to try to anticipate and communicate that defining moment effectively. You may find you can do this more flexibly with telephoto lenses, as long as you are aware of the need to use their unique features to your advantage.

Fear of being found shouldn’t stop you from getting close, but again, not every photo has to be close to portraying an intimate photo. Street photography is not just about capturing random moments, it’s about communicating them through your own expression. Whether this means transparently presenting the world as you see it, or adding your own interpretation to the world, the key to strong street photography is just talking.


Can you film with a telephoto lens?

If you use a long lens, make sure the scene you’re shooting has a lot of detail. Very few people get to shoot on a set like Scott’s Blade Runner. But, with the right camera movements and eye for the right interior and exterior locations, you too can create a cinematic scene with a telephoto lens.

What is a telephoto lens shot?

A telephoto lens increases focal length. It’s most commonly used to show far-away objects with accurate perspective and with a level of precise detail that was once only possible with close-range photography.

What are some exposure drawbacks of telephoto lenses?

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.

In which circumstances would you choose to shoot with a telephoto lens?

A telephoto lens is one designed for photographing distant subjects like wildlife and sports events. They are also used in portrait photography. A telephoto lens is a type of camera lens designed for taking photographs of subjects at moderate to far distances.

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