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Street Photography with 35mm: Mastering the Art of Candid Photography

written by: CLARKE SCOTT 
Girl play flute in a Marching band

Street photography with a 35mm lens provides a unique blend of versatility and intimacy, making it a beloved practice among photographers around the world.

The 35mm lens, often considered the classic choice for this genre, offers a field of view that is close to that of the human eye, helping to create images that feel natural and engaging. Its wide-enough angle allows for the inclusion of sufficient context within urban environments, yet it retains a natural perspective without the distortion commonly found in wider lenses.

Choosing to shoot with a 35mm lens means I am well-equipped to capture life as it unfolds on the streets. This focal length is not too intrusive, which is crucial for maintaining the candid nature of street photography. I find that it allows me to shoot scenes with enough breathing room around the subjects, adding layers and telling a fuller story within each frame. Furthermore, the typically faster shutter speeds available with 35mm lenses aid in freezing those fleeting moments that are so iconic in street photography.

Key Takeaways

  • A 35mm lens closely mirrors the human field of view, adding a realistic perspective to street photographs.
  • The non-intrusive nature of a 35mm lens is ideal for capturing candid moments in urban settings.
  • Fast shutter speeds and natural framing make 35mm lenses suited for the dynamic environment of the streets.
  • It is possible to do street photography with a 28mm lens and crop. I do this often.
  • And if you are just starting out check out my article on street photography for beginners.

The Essentials of Street Photography

In street photography, understanding the genre, selecting appropriate gear, and mastering technical skills are paramount to capturing the essence of the streets. Let’s dive into these core components.

Understanding Street Photography

Street photography for me is all about capturing candid moments and the human condition in public spaces. Utilizing a 35mm focal length allows me to interact closely with the scene, where I aim to remain unobtrusive while observing life’s unfolding narratives.

Choosing the Right Equipment

My choice in equipment leans towards a camera system that’s lightweight and unassuming. A prime lens with a 35mm focal length is ideal; it’s versatile enough to frame scenes without switching lenses. The prime lens also tends to have a wider aperture, letting me shoot in various lighting conditions. When selecting a camera, I consider a sensor size that ensures high image quality—full-frame sensors are a standard for me, although crop sensors can also be effective. Having an intuitive viewfinder is crucial to anticipate and frame shots quickly.

Mastering the Technical Aspects

To ensure my photographs are sharp, I’ve become proficient in manual focus techniques, with zone focusing being a particular favorite for street photography. This technique lets me pre-set the focus range, enabling faster shooting without relying on autofocus. Understanding my camera’s settings and the basics of exposure—aperture, ISO, and shutter speed—is critical. I strive to balance a fast enough shutter to freeze movement without pushing the ISO so high that it introduces unwanted noise.

The Art of Composition and Framing

In street photography, my use of a 35mm lens is pivotal to creating dynamic compositions and framing subjects effectively. When I approach a scene, I consider perspective, depth of field, and the interaction of layers and background to capture the essence of the moment.

Composing the Scene

When I compose a scene, the 35mm lens allows me to include enough of the environment to give context while maintaining a natural perspective. My aim is to create a balance within the frame, considering the rule of thirds for placing elements where the eye naturally falls. I look for leading lines that guide the viewer’s gaze and seek out patterns or symmetry for visual appeal. Layers play a crucial role; I aim to have a foreground, middle ground, and background that add depth to the photograph.

Framing Your Subject

In framing my subject, I pay close attention to the edges of the frame, ensuring that nothing is cut off in an awkward manner. My 35mm lens offers a wide-angle view without significant distortion, facilitating tight framing that feels intimate and engaging. I often use the environment to create natural frames and isolate my subject, which gives a sense of place while directing focus.

Capturing the Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the “decisive moment” is always in the back of my mind as I anticipate action within the frame. I am particularly attentive to the depth of field provided by the 35mm lens, which can be quite shallow at larger apertures, or more inclusive when stopped down, bringing clarity to the entire scene. Timing is everything, and I often wait patiently for that split second when all compositional elements align—when my subject’s gesture, expression, and placement within the environment tell the story I want to convey.

Post-Processing and Presentation

Before diving into the techniques and platforms, it’s essential to understand that the art of post-processing can elevate the storytelling of your street photography and that presentation on platforms like Instagram requires an eye for detail and awareness of the platform’s visual language.

Editing Techniques for Street Photography

When editing my street photography images, I prioritize maintaining the authenticity of the moment while enhancing certain elements to convey my vision. I start by adjusting contrast to add depth and dimension to the scenes. This involves selectively darkening shadows and brightening highlights to make the subjects stand out. Adjusting the sharpness is also crucial, as a 35mm lens often provides a wide depth of field that I want to utilize to guide the viewer’s eye to the areas of interest within the frame.

Fine-tuning the bokeh generated by the lens specifically when using wide apertures like f/1.4 is another step that can make a great difference. Detailed areas remain sharp while backgrounds fall off into smooth blurs, emphasizing the subject.

Here’s a quick checklist I follow when editing:

  • Contrast: Increase to add punch or decrease for a softer look.
  • Sharpness: Enhance around the subject to draw attention.
  • Color: Correct white balance and adjust saturation for mood.
  • Crop: Reframe if necessary to improve composition.

Sharing Your Work

Once satisfied with the image quality and aesthetic of my photos, I’m ready to share them. Instagram is a powerful platform for displaying street photography, and I take full advantage of its squared format and high-resolution capabilities.

To ensure the best presentation on Instagram, I:

  1. Resize images to fit Instagram’s dimensions without losing quality.
  2. Utilize the platform’s filters sparingly – they can sometimes detract from the originality of the photo.
  3. Engage with the community by using relevant hashtags and interacting with followers.

My images are my voice in the realm of street photography, and each edited photo that I share is a testament to my interpretation of the world around me.

Further Reading