photo by Cecilie_Arcurs via iStock
Whether you’re brand new to street photography or you’ve been doing street photography for years, you can always learn a little something.
Today, we want to talk about street photography gear. If you are new to street photography, then you can use these street photography gear tips to help you purchase new equipment. And, if you aren’t new to street photography, then some of these tips may be helpful for you if you’ve fallen into a specific way of doing things. It never hurts to change up your system.
I think the most important thing to remember here, though, is that none of the tips on this list are written in stone. Using different types of gear when you’re shooting street photography can teach you, at the very least, why using that gear isn’t necessarily recommended. You’ll learn something regardless.
There is No “Right” Type of Lens
photo by xijian via iStock
If you know anything about street photography, or street photographers, then you know that the debate surrounding the type of lens you “should” use is huge.
Some people insist you should use a telephoto lens, and nothing else, while others would never use a telephoto lens and instead suggest you use a wide-angle lens. Still other people argue neither of these lenses are appropriate and you should just shoot with your standard lens.
Since none of these photographers are necessarily correct, I’m going to walk you through what benefits shooting with each of these lenses can lend you.
Benefits of Telephoto Lenses
photo by dan_prat via iStock
Telephoto lenses allow you to take shots of someone from a greater distance, which is their biggest benefit. If you’ve been participating in street photography for very long, then you know that sometimes people hate getting their picture taken. I’ve been threatened with lawsuits simply by taking a photo of someone walking down the sidewalk before. It happens to the best of us. Telephoto lenses prevent this confrontation a lot of times.
But, telephoto lenses, as you can tell from the photo above, aren’t necessarily the lightest lenses. They also don’t blend into a crowd like a smaller wide-angle or standard lens does. This can make you more conspicuous and people might be more suspicious of you as you take photos of people from across the street.
Benefits of Wide-Angle Lenses
photo by Drazen_ via iStock
Wide-angle lenses, on the other hand, are best for street photographers looking to capture all of the happenings on the street. They are excellent at capturing entire landscapes, so you never miss out on any details.
Of course, if your main goal of street photography is capturing specific subjects, then a wide-angle lens won’t work for you unless you get quite close to the subject. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily...one of the fun challenges of street photography is approaching people and asking to take their photo.
But wide-angle lenses will distort the subject, so just be careful how wide you shoot and how close you are to the subject, otherwise you could find that the lens distorts some of the subject’s features, like their forehead or nose.
Benefits of Standard Lenses
photo by George Marks via iStock
Standard lenses are great if you are trying to capture your image as closely as you actually see it. It’s why photojournalists use standard lenses. A 35mm lens most closely represents the way the human eye portrays a scene (at least when used on a full frame camera).
Standard lenses bridge the gap between telephotos and wide-angles. You get a little more reach than a wide-angle, but don’t have to worry about the distortion of a wide-angle.
Similarly, a standard lens enables you to get shots of passersby without being right up in their face, but do so without the giant telephoto lens drawing attention to you.
But, There is a “Right” Type of Camera
photo by Pekic via iStock
This heading is definitely controversial, but let me explain.
I’m not suggesting that one certain brand of camera, or even one certain type of camera, is the best for street photography. I am suggesting that there are a few features I look for in any camera I’m trying to use for my street photography.
The Canon EOS R has a flip out LCD screen that makes shooting from the hip much easier.
The first is that it has a flip-out screen. This is because I want to be able to shoot from hip level if I want to. It helps me to be less conspicuous and blend into a crowd so that I don’t disrupt whoever I am hoping to capture.
The second is that it needs to be light. If you’ve ever lugged a heavy DSLR around all day, then you know just how sore you will be at the end of the day. Obviously different photographers want their cameras to be different sizes, but if it doesn’t feel light to you then it probably isn’t a good street photography pick.
photo by twinsterphoto via iStock
There are plenty of lightweight DSLRs out there, and many more mirrorless cameras that fit the bill for being feather light. So this isn’t as much a debate about DSLRs vs mirrorless for street photography as it is about finding a camera that feels good in your hand and won’t weigh you down as you search for the perfect shot.
The third is that it absolutely must have a fast burst mode. There is often a split-second during which the scene is perfect. Having a camera with a fast burst mode gives you a better chance of capturing that moment.
Remember to Make Yourself Comfortable
photo by silverkblack via iStock
If you’re uncomfortable when you’re shooting, this is going to come across in your photography. As odd as this may sound, I’ve noticed it in my own work over and over again. My mood strongly affects the quality of my photographs.
This is why I suggested that you purchase a light camera for street photography earlier. It’s also why I’m suggesting you pick out a street photography camera bag that is of a high quality. While it’s incredibly tempting to pick up a $50 bag that will fall apart in a few weeks just because the price tag is appealing, it’s going to make you uncomfortable in the long run and it will actually cost you more money over time.
It’s why I bought myself a Sightseer Backpack. The Sightseer Backpack is a Holdfast product, which means it comes with a lifetime guarantee, so it’s the last street photography camera bag I’ll ever need to purchase.
The Sightseer Backpack is a modular camera bag made of high-quality leather and waxed canvas. It comes in three classic colors: black, navy, or olive. It’s not one of those frustrating backpacks that only allows you to top-load your gear. You can actually remove the backpack, set it on the ground, and open the entire bag for immediate access to your gear.
This bag is incredible. It’s waterproof. It’s comfortable. It protects your gear. It also comes with a slider built onto the shoulder pads so that you can immediately access your camera at all times. No more digging through all of your equipment the moment you see something you just have to photograph.
Now, I understand that I’m privileged because I was able to purchase a Sightseer Backpack since it does come with a hefty price of $795.
But, if you can’t afford this, then Holdfast does make other gear for you. As an example, the Sightseer Camera and Lens Modular System is a cheaper option at $485.
This bag is a shoulder bag that is large enough to fit your 13” laptop. It is made of the same materials as the Sightseer Backpack, which means it is also waterproof and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
When you first open the Sightseer Camera and Lens Modular System, you’re immediately relaxed by how organized it is. It comes with 3 large interior pockets for your camera and lenses. It comes with 3 small interior pockets for things like your wallet and batteries.
It’s also comfortable. What’s not to love?