35mm Street Photography Pros and Cons (+ Tips)

35mm Road Photography Pros and Cons (+ Tips)

35mm street photography pros and cons

With a 35mm prime lens on a full-frame digital camera, you’ll capture a field of view a little broader than what you see. This is what makes 35mm street photography so attractive.

Street photography is most impactful if it is realistic – but with a twist. That twist may be the photographer’s creative influence. Instead of relying on tricky post-processing, extra long or wide lens, or any other gear for making an image stand out, a good street photographer will aim to capture life on the highways plus byways as they experience this.

In this article, I’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons associated with 35mm street photography and provide some easy-to-follow tips!

Performers in a street parade 35mm street photography
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/5. 6 | 1/400s | ISO 200
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5 reasons to use a 35mm zoom lens for street photography

Wondering whether a 35mm lens will work for your street shooting? In this area, I share five great love the 35mm focal duration, starting with:

1 ) It’s how we naturally see (almost)

The 35mm lens on a full-frame camera provides a field of view a little wider than the field of view offered by our eyes. So it uses photos with a natural seem.

With broader lenses or longer lens, distortion can creep into your compositions. Wider lenses often distance elements in a composition. Longer lenses have the effect of compressing whatever appears in the frame.

second . A 35mm lens can be wide, but not too broad

For road photography, a 35mm lens is wide, but not too wide. It allows you to back away and capture a broader perspective. Generally, it does not present distortion.

The popular 50mm prime can be too tight for a lot of road photography. It narrows your own field of view, which can make it harder to capture the full scene.

My first camera, a Nikkormat FTN, came with a 50mm f/1. 4 zoom lens. It was a great lens, and I continued using it for 27 years until it would not focus anymore. Then I replaced it with a 35mm f/1. 4 . I loved the f/1. 4 feature on my 50mm, but it never offered me a wide-enough perspective.

Chinese new year parade
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/5. 6 | 1/640s | ISO two hundred
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. 35mm lenses tend to be physically compact

A 35mm prime can be a relatively small, compact lens. My 35mm f/1. 4 is not therefore small, yet it’s also not too big compared to many popular zoom lens lenses.

And using a less obvious camera and lens for street photography can often help. Your people you’re photographing can feel more confident because bigger gear can be intimidating. For instance, you may not feel so confident with a full-frame body and also a 24-70mm f/2. 8 zoom lens .

With mirrorless digital cameras and pancake lenses, you might have an even greater advantage. The gear is really much smaller and less conspicuous!

4. You have to “zoom with your feet”

Photographers who adore their zoom lenses can scoff at the notion of having to zoom with your ft. But being forced to move usually helps me see our subject in more creative ways than if my feet were to remain in one place. This is another positive aspect of using a 35mm prime lens for street photography.

When you have to move, you will see the world from various points of view. This can show you more angles, plus you’ll see how the light performs differently off your subject depending on your position.

Man with a mask at a Chinese new year parade 35mm street photography
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/4 | 1/1600s | ISO 200
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5. You can get gorgeous results at f/1. four

Did I already mention that I adore my 35mm f/1. 4? Using the widest aperture setting for street photography is just not always practical. Focusing much more challenging. But when you want the loveliness of a very shallow depth associated with field , an f/1. 4 lens is perfect.

Many street photographers prefer to work with a narrower aperture setting. I often carry out. But when I want that background blur, I open up the aperture and maybe get in just a little closer.

35mm street photography at night with a tuk
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/1. 4 | 1/60s | ISO 1000
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

5 great avoid a 35mm lens for street photography

While 35mm lens are great, there are some important disadvantages worth considering. For instance:

1 . They’re too standard

As I stated earlier, a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera creates a very natural field of view.

But this may not be to your liking.

A wider zoom lens will capture more of a scene. When you can’t online backup any farther, it becomes necessary to attach a wider lens to your camera. And a longer lens will get you nearer to the action (it may keep you safer, too).

2 . You can’t zoom lens with a prime

Zooming in or out there is often the quickest plus easiest way to recompose a photo. With a prime 35mm zoom lens, recomposing takes longer because you have to physically move.

A contact is sometimes much more convenient because it lets you stay where you are and maintain taking photos.

Tricycle taxi rider and a passing monk for 35mm street photography
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/1. 4 | 1/400s | ISO 100
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3 or more. You can’t always get what you need

With a 35mm prime lens, you can’t usually capture those perfect street photography moments. You may find yourself needing a longer lens to truly get you closer to the action in order to remain inconspicuous.

4. The focal duration is long on an APS-C camera

A 35mm lens on a crop-sensor camera is about 50mm. This is restrictive and not so versatile to work with – it’s usually just too tight designed for street scenes.

5. f/1. 4 is definitely expensive

The 35mm f/1. 4 lens is a serious commitment; it is not cheap.

When I needed to update from my 50mm lens, the price difference between changing it with another 50mm or buying the 35mm has been significant. In the end, though, the 35mm f/1. 4 has been well worth the investment.

Chiang Mai street scene in the evening with a 35mm lens
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/2. 5 | 1/20s | ISO 200
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Tips for using a 35mm lens for street photography

Now that you’re familiar with the pros and cons of 35mm street photography, it’s period for some quick-and-easy street picture taking tips!

1 . Know your lens features well

If you work with a lens long enough, you will get used to its characteristics. You will become intimately familiar with its capabilities.

You will get to know intuitively how much level of field you’ll have within a scene, given your f-stop and distance from the subject. This is a great advantage when capturing images that require a deep depth of field and you need to work rapidly.

Bike at a wet market in Korea
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/2 | 1/320s | ISO 400
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

2 . Get in close

Don’t be shy regarding getting close to your subject when you use a 35mm lens with regard to street photography. With a 35mm lens, street photography could be more personal . Getting in close enables you to produce photos with a greater sense of intimacy.

Here’s a fun small exercise to try:

Photograph the same picture with a 35mm lens and also a 200mm lens. The photos taken with the 35mm lens will have a different, more romantic feel – simply because you are closer to your subject when you hit the shutter button.

Portrait of a woman with a 35mm lens
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/1. 4 | 1/100s | ISO 100
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

3. Make road portraits that connect

A 35mm lens helps you truly connect with your subjects. You can be close good enough to have a natural conversation. In case you are farther back with a long lens on your camera, you will not be conversing from a position that will you’d naturally have a conversation in.

Furthermore, a 35mm lens will be lovely for street portraits and is not so wide that it produces distortion on your subject’s face.

Street portrait with a 35mm lens
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/5. 6 | 1/160s | ISO 400
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

35mm street photography: conclusion

Whatever style of street digital photography you love, if you haven’t however tried a 35mm lens, I highly recommend it.

Even if you often work with a standard zoom, I suggest you go out a few times, set your zoom capability to 35mm, and don’t change it. You may even learn to value this restriction.

35mm street photography might not suit everyone’s style, but I certainly love it.

Now over to you:

What’s your favorite street photography central length? Do you use a 35mm lens for street shooting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and author with more than 30 years of experience that he loves to share with others.

Check out his e-books and his website .

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