As with any genre, among the main technical considerations to street photography is what focal length to use. Ultimately, however, “best” is subjective. Each focal length has a distinct look, and comes with its own pros and cons for capturing street scenes. Today, let’s take a look at what it’s like to use a 28mm lens for street photography. What makes it a great focal length for this purpose?
In the video above, Josh Edgoose of Framelines talks about 28mm as his “general, go-to focal length” for street photography. It’s great that he also talked about how this focal length is often associated with Gary Winogrand. The iconic street photographer is known for documenting the “social landscape.” His subjects — pedestrians, demonstrations, zoo animals and dance — often call for going wide. Hence, the choice to shoot with a pre-focused 28mm lens with his Leica M4.
With a wide-angle lens, you’re free to include a lot detail within your composition, and Winogrand did so masterfully. Greatly influenced by this, Edgoose got his introduction to the 28mm with a Ricoh GR II and found the extra field of view useful.
So, if you’re more drawn to wide compositions that show more of the scene for greater context, this is definitely more for you. Likewise, if you’re a 35mm photographer looking to switch things up, it would be a great alternative. It’s wide enough to create “big picture” street snaps without distracting distortion of ultra wide lenses. However, you’d have to get close to your subjects a lot. So, best prepare for that as well!
So, do you think 28mm is the ideal focal length for the street photography you want to do? If you do decide to go for it, we’d love to see your results! Share them with us in the comments below, or in our group discussions if you’re already part of the Photofocus Community!