Street Photography: Choosing your Focal Length 85mm, 50mm, 35mm, 28mm Blog Photography Tips


This lens is not as compact as others that fit crop sensor cameras, but this comes down to personal preference and photography style. If you enjoy your street photography wide open, you’ll love the bokeh created by this Pentax lens’s rounded diaphragm. Lenses for street photography can vary greatly, and some will suit you better than others.

If your focus is on picking up an inexpensive prime lens for street photography, then this 50mm lens is worth a look. Henri Cartier-Bresson, THE bona-fide master of street photography used a 50mm prime lens. For Bresson, 50mm was the perfect focal length, as it offered “a certain vision”. He felt wider lenses like 35mm were “extremely difficult to use” in order to achieve meticulous compositions owing to their distortions. He also felt wider lenses made photographers more “aggressive”, as they introduce too many effects into photos, meaning they end up being “used by people who want to shout”.

Prime lenses usually have a wider and faster aperture, allowing you to shoot quality images even in low light. With that in mind, let’s first look at the key reasons to use a 50mm when shooting street photography. Comes with Street Photography Conversations – Interviews with 8 well-known street photographers. And finally, when purchasing a 35mm or 50mm lens, realize that you don’t need the fastest glass.

For example, you could ask, “excuse me, I’m professional photographer working on a photo project documenting New York City. But after just a few days of shooting with a 35mm focal length I’m starting to feel like I’ve come home to the place where I belong. I’ll check back in a year to let you know how the journey goes.

However, I found myself missing the extra bit of scene that a wider lens like a 35mm pulls into the frame. Though 50mm lenses such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM aren’t designed with fast-paced sports in mind, Ejiro has photographed dance and even football for brands at 50mm. Anyway, we tend to look at pictures from a distance near the diagonal length of the picture. So, for a full-frame 36x24mm, the 50mm lens which corresponds more or less to the diagonal of the format, gives a “natural” view. The 50mm lens offers a shallow depth of field, but it becomes very difficult to establish the right hyperfocal distance.

You can always push your ISO setting up or use a slightly slower shutter speed. As with other Canon lenses, the build quality and optics are excellent, but maybe not to the same standard as the faster 50mm lenses. The lens is compact and lighter than a faster zoom lens of the same range would be. This lens boasts five stops of image stabilization shake correction, according to Canon. You will not be disappointed with the image quality this Canon lens produces.

There’s a lot to say about street photography, and you can read our beginner’s guide to street photography and list of the best street photography cameras to learn more. For now, let’s crack straight on and get into what makes for a good street photography lens. For zone focusing, a 35mm lens is more forgiving than a 50mm lens. 28mm is even better, but then you find yourself too close to the subject to avoid influencing what you are photographing. Of course, this goes into the ‘which lens is better for the street’ question, but 35mm is better for zone focus street shooting.

However, the 35mm isn’t too far behind in this regard, and in fact, will offer most shooters more versatility. If you like to use the surrounding areas to give some story to your street portrait, then a 35mm quotes for moving to a new place is ideal. It’s not too wide for your subject to go missing in the frame, and not too tight where you begin to lose context. Be careful not to get too close though, otherwise you’ll start to see distortion.