Culture Magazine

Why “NO” To Telephoto

By 50mm_streettog @50mm_Streettog

I have read and heard from too many places that professional street photographers do not use a telephoto lens. It does not show your involvement in the photo, and things become way too easy. There is no presence of the photographer in the moment. The real art is in using a short lens, preferably prime and make yourself as discreet and invisible as possible. And then a hundred other reasons for using a prime lens – its fast, sharp, more depth, etc… etc… Most of those articles are about why you should use a prime lens and not much about why you should not use a telephoto.

All that is fine, and yes, when I shoot, I know the difference when I look at a photograph shot with a telephoto, and that shot with a prime. The prime shot is obviously much better. But when putting things on pen and paper we have to be more solid with our reasons.

Most of my friends have telephoto lenses, starting from 18-270mm, 55-250mm, 70-300mm and also 100-300mm. So I have tried out all these lenses quite a number of times over the past two years. And from my experience, I have build up some solid reasons which will tell you exactly why you SHOULD NOT USE a telephoto lens while doing street photography.

It makes you lazy - A telephoto lens makes you lazy, very lazy. Infact the laziness caused by a telephoto lens is directly proportional to the square of the focal length of the lens. And when I say lazy, I mean it stops you from moving around much. All you want to do is take a stand at one place and keep turning left and right in search of subjects, and you are happy with whatever you get from there. You do not make yourself move much to search for better subjects or better moments. Hence your street photos get limited to whatever comes to you, because you never make an attempt to go anywhere.


Why “NO” To Telephoto


Never get the decisive moment - If you do street photography with a telephoto lens, 99% of your photos aren’t about any decisive moment. They are just regular street shots, nothing special. Sounds strange, right? You must be thinking that when I have a lens using which I’m shooting from a mile distance and obviously nobody is noticing me then why should I have any problem in capturing the decisive moment! The reason is because when you are shooting from a mile away, remember that there is a mile space in-between you and your subject through which people will keep walking as you try and get your shot. There will be a constant presence of unwanted subjects in your frame. And after a long wait, when for a split second your frame is free of all the unwanted stuffs, the moment which you noticed ages back is gone forever. By the way, this point is with reference to shooting in a crowded place, or maybe semi-crowded. I don’t expect you to go do street photography in the middle of a desert. And this is actually one of the greatest demerits of using a telephoto lens for street photography. Oh, and yes, I almost forgot, what I stated here is applicable only if you are lucky enough to spot something interesting through your tiny viewfinder. But if you are shooting with a prime, you don’t search for interesting things through the viewfinder, but instead through your eyes. And obviously the field of view becomes much wider and you see much more.


Why “NO” To Telephoto


Walking is useless - Now, if you are thinking that alright, I won’t be lazy and walk with my telephoto lens, then that too really is useless. Firstly, because your subject will always be at a long distance and the above point will come into play, giving you fruitless results. And secondly, if you say that no, I will shoot subjects that are close to me, then even that won’t work too well, coz your freaking big lens is definitely gonna gain attention and scare the shit out of most people you point it at. Hey, if you are shooting at close range there why the hell can’t you use a prime? Sigh!!!


Why “NO” To Telephoto


Now, I hope these three points were strong enough to influence you not to use a telephoto lens while doing street photography. And also, the three photos which you see above are all shot with a 50mm prime lens.

What I wrote above is from my personal experience. You may have had a totally different experience in your case. And this is a learning platform. So if you have something to share, feel free to comment, or otherwise share.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog