Candid Photography Focal Lengths/Technique

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by ManhattanPrjct, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

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    Oct 6, 2008
    #1
    To all candid street photography shooters:

    This is a major deficiency of mine - namely I think because I would like to be as discreet as possible, and sometimes that's not possible due to the kind of equipment you have.

    I'm curious what techniques people use, and especially, what focal lengths work best for them.

    I already feel like I have the ideal lens for this, which is the Tokina 50-135 f2.8. Unfortunately, in casual use, it's like attaching a brick to the front of your camera. So I am thinking about getting a prime for something like this. I would use a D90 for this, so I am thinking that a 50mm, 60mm, 85mm, or 105mm FL would work best for it, but I'm just trying to keep as small a rig as possible. I'm also not interested in accumulating any more DX glass. I'd be okay with MF as well.

    Any tips?

    PS: I really liked MSUSpartan's NYC shots, but 1. I am not ready to invest $9000 in a Leica M system and 2. some people here scared him off! :D
     
  2. toxic macrumors 68000

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    Nov 9, 2008
    #2
    I use primes, and I prefer smaller ones. I use a Canon 28mm f/1.8 and a 50/1.2, someone else I know just uses a 50/1.8 (all on FX). you can get by with slower lenses, too, since street is often done stopped down so you don't have to worry much about focusing.

    if you're still nervous about being close to people, go wider (like 16-24mm). you have to get closer, but your lens won't be pointing at them, unless you like putting your subject in the middle of the frame... that was my experience, anyway.
     
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Sendai, Japan
    #3
    There is no way of telling which is right for you. If you use an app like Aperture or Lightroom, you can search for focal lengths. Just have a look which one is the most popular focal length for portraits. Personally, I like 50~70 mm a lot for casual portraits (head and shoulder portraits). With longer focal lengths, I often have trouble taking pictures indoors.

    The nifty fifty is quite cheap, so I'd say getting this lens is a good option. You could also get Tamron's 60 mm f/2 macro. With this lens, you could also delve into macro photography.

    I also like my 30 mm f/1.4 Sigma -- which is a little wider, but very good if you want to take pictures of a group of people.
     
  4. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #4
    Sorry, Oreo, but I'm not talking about portrait photography. I am talking about candid street photography, like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davecsparty
     
  5. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    Arizona
    #5
    Do you interact with your subjects or not? I do, or at least I do when I do street stuff, which is uncommon for me now.

    I've gotten some of my best images with each of my four lenses:

    180/2.8
    85/1.4
    50/1.8
    24/2.8

    All four do well on the street.
     
  6. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    Not really - I more of an observer from afar, instead of striking up a conversation.
     
  7. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #7

    I've done that, and don't feel okay doing it anymore. My favorite photo was one I made after interacting with a couple that let me photograph them. If you haven't tried interacting on a regular basis, try it sometime.
     
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Sendai, Japan
    #8
    Well, I assumed by the focal length you have indicated that you're interested in portraits (in the street photography context). Your photos look more like you need the distance to stalk up on your pray ;)

    Regardless, I'd check which focal lengths you use most and then pick primes close to those focal length.

    BTW, you have very nice photos on your flickr account :)
     
  9. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #9
    Thanks - too bad they are not mine!
     
  10. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #10
    I think the important thing to notice on the sample photos is not what focal length was used, but where the camera was held. It looks to me that Dave (?) was shooting either with the camera hung on strap around his neck, or perhaps held in his hand at his side.

    The key to do things this way is either a really good auto-focus, set to a single point so you can point the camera - focus predictably without looking into the viewfinder - and then hold the focus while you recompose (without peering into the viewfinder of course!). Or pre-focussing manually to a set distance and then just putting yourself that distance away from the subject.

    The key is that if you don't have the camera up to your face many people will not notice it. Especially if you have a long lense. (Without really paying attention to Dave's photos, but I would guess he had about a 90mm or so). Of course this type of sneaky shooting is given away if your camera blinks bright red light when focussing, and then sounds like a cart of glasses falling when it takes the picture. You need a quiet camera for this kind of shooting. This is actually where a rangefinder camera works best since there is no mirror slapping around.

    Have you contacted Dave to ask how he took the photos? I would also expect that Dave has taken hundreds and hundreds of images in order to winnow it down to few good ones he is showing.

    Good Luck.
     
  11. Grey Beard macrumors 65816

    Grey Beard

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    #11
    Looking at the EXIF - Dave was using a Leica M9.

    KGB
     
  12. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #12
    Most of those photos are not particularly good, so far as I can see.
     
  13. xkRoWx macrumors regular

    xkRoWx

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    Canada
    #13
    I find 50mm equivalents work very, very well.

    Depends on your style, I've heard someone actually lugs a 200/2 for street photography and apparently he gets great results.

    Technique-wise, make sure you have a lens that can focus at infinity. Prefocus and just snap away (shoot from the hip if you have to, but this will mean you have to know your angle of view very well), if you're not too close to your subjects then most of your shots will be acceptably sharp.

    Street photography doesn't always have to be all about stealth.
     
  14. HBOC macrumors 68020

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    #14
    Hey, here is a GREAT thread here. Scroll twords the bottom, and "OneAnt" goes into detail how he shoots candids!
     
  15. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #15
    A more constructive post would be one where you post some of your own favorite candid street shots and talk about how you accomplished them, then contrast them with why you don't find the ones I linked to "particularly good" and what could have been done to improve them.

    Interesting post, thanks for the link.
     
  16. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #16
    They're just bland subjects that I've seen a zillion variations on. Not all of them, but certainly most. As a photographer I know said of a photo I took and showed her, "I've seen it before."

    I've seen his work before. If you're shooting something that is done a lot, you'd better make it great.

    [​IMG]

    The cut off name on the right is distracting, and this photo can't decide what it's about. Or I can't decide, at least. I would have shot it from a different vantage point, and probably made the shot all about him, rather than anything around him.
     
  17. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #17
    That is very fair criticism. I'd still like to see some from "luminosity's greatest hits" album and some feedback on how you sized up the scene, which of your primes you had handy, and whether your subjects were aware/consenting (which it sounds like they probably were).

    Not being condescending, just curious.
     
  18. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #18
    Here are three images, none of which I am super-enthralled which and all of which I have problems, but are decent:

    N80+85/1.4

    [​IMG]

    N80+85/1.4

    [​IMG]

    N80+85/1.4:

    [​IMG]

    It should be noted that I generally focus on one subject at a time and get in rather close. Photos that meander or are uncertain in their subject matter don't interest me much.
     
  19. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #19
    Nice film shots.

    I'm not really looking for the #1 look, but I'd say #2 is right on the money for my style.
     
  20. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #20
    Thank you :).

    These are a bit more recent:


    N80+50/1.8

    [​IMG]

    D700+50/1.8

    [​IMG]

    D700+180/2.8

    [​IMG]
     
  21. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #21
    Alright - time to shoot. I'll think I'll find a 50mm and an S90 and see which works best. Call it a social/technical experiment. Thanks to all respondents.
     
  22. HBOC macrumors 68020

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    SLC
    #22
    TBH (and I am sure you know this) you will no get the crazy bokeh and sharpness, nor the stealth you are hoping from the S90. People notice cameras, regardless if they are a SLR or a P&S.

    Now I am no expert on the art of candids, but i think if you read that thread I linked, he gave great info. Just be patient. Have your camera ready and what peoples' behaviors. People are oblivious to their surroundings when they are having a good time with friends, or are distracted.

    There is a perfect spot for candids here at Pioneer Square. I may try my hand at it sometime, although my 50mm would get me too close I would think (physically, not optically)...
     
  23. ManhattanPrjct thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #23
    Oh, for sure! But, I just got it a little while ago, and in scenes without a lot of DR challenges, you'd be surprised. Pretty much no bokeh though, so I'll probably do a lot better with the 50mm (which on a crop body should give me good perspective).
     

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