Documentary photography is perhaps the highest form of free interpretation of what is today’s society.
The way to achieve moments of real life is always a free choice of the photographer but with experience we understand which lenses are most suitable than others. Although it is interesting to see portraits taken with mid to long lenses inside a project, in my opinion they should not be generally more than 5% of the whole story. The rest of your shooting need to be done with a wideangle lens.
As Robert Capa was used to say “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough“.
But… Which wide angle? Here we enter seriously into the personal taste land. I’ve worked a lot with the 28mm in the past but I am a 35mm man. Today’s trend suggests you to go down until 21mm or even more but I think that, reached certain limits, between distortions and angles of view very different from that of the human eye, the photographer is likely to give the scene a unnaturalness that keep away the beholder from real context.
In the end, what would I suggest is to stay between 24mm and 35mm focal length to contextualize the subject with its surroundings, taking naturally and spontaneously scenes and events that are happening without exceed the scene.
What are advantages of using a wide angle lens in street photography, compared to a telephoto or a fixed “normal” lens?
You have to go close to the subject, entering the scene.
The focus is faster and easier, having much more depth of field at equal aperture.
Lenses are usually small and luminous, lightweight and unobtrusive avoiding to intimidate the subject:
- You can give more drama to the scene with unusual points of view You can play with perspective in a more creative way
- You can easily work with hyperfocal technique
- You can shoot at slower shutter speed without having blurred images
Some example of wide angle (28mm to 35mm) documentary pictures.