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How to Shoot Street Photography with a 24mm Lens

Kyoto, 2018. 24mm lens on Lumix LX 100
Kyoto, 2018. 24mm lens on Lumix LX 100

Dear friend,

Ever since my RICOH GR II died (28mm lens), I’ve been shooting with Cindy’s Lumix LX 100 with the 24mm on the streets of Kyoto and been having a ton of fun. I want to share with you some practical tips I’ve learned shooting with a 24mm lens in street photography:

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1. Shoot head-on with cutoff technique

Shooting with a 24mm lens (full frame equivalent) in street photography is extremely difficult and challenging. I’m pretty comfortable shooting close to my subjects in street photography, but shooting with the 24mm is a whole different beast.

First of all, because the 24mm lens is so wide, you must shoot head-on in order to get a good composition, that is dynamic and not too skewed with “oblique angles” (shooting too much from the side). The wide-angle lens exaggerates the perspective of the photos, therefore you must shoot very head-on to make a good street photograph.

A good way to get good head-on street photographs with a 24mm lens is to use the “cutoff technique“, to get directly in front of someone (while they’re walking) in order to get a more intense, head-on street photo. The basic concept is when you’re walking on the streets (preferably a narrow sidewalk), you walk to the side of a person, and right when you are about a step away from them, you walk diagonally across their walking path and shoot a photograph the moment they are about to collide with you. Of course you must keep moving, and not collide with them.

2. Shooting head-on via walking around them (3D scanning technique)

Another technique, I’ll call the “3D scanning technique”, is to find someone who is stationary at a crosswalk or a traffic light, and to walk directly around them (like you were going to do a 3D scan of their body with your camera), and keep clicking photos while walking around them. Preferably you would time your photos to shoot head-on as you’re walking around them.

3. How not to draw attention to yourself when shooting with a 24mm lens (and getting very close, when shooting candidly)

The hidden benefit of shooting with such a wide-angle lens (24mm) is that when you’re getting so close to your subjects, they almost assume you’re not photographing them (because who in their right mind would shoot so close to a stranger?) The funny thing is this: you’re actually more stealth and less creepy shooting candid street photos of a stranger when you’re really close to them, instead of shooting from very far away with a telephoto/zoom lens.

Anyways, a good way to also not draw attention to yourself when shooting so close with a 24mm is to not make eye contact with your subject. Instead, pretend like you’re shooting something behind them, by keeping your eyes fixed on a building or a wall behind them as you’re shooting close to them.

4. “Excuse me!”

When you’re super close to your subjects with a 24mm lens, you can also pretend you’re shooting something behind them, and as you’re doing so, you can tell your subjects, “Sorry!” or “Excuse me!” which will further convince them that you’re photographing something behind them (not them).

5. Shoot with your LCD screen

Kyoto, 2018. Lumix LX100, 24mm
Kyoto, 2018. Lumix LX100, 24mm

If you’re going to shoot with a 24mm lens in street photography, realize that in order to get a good composition/fill the frame, you must get very close. Much closer than you probably think. I’d say around .5 meters, or closer than 1 arm length.

Getting this close to people (and not accidentally hitting them with your lens) can be difficult if you’re using a viewfinder. I suggest shooting with your LCD screen (if your camera has one).

Why use an lcd screen? Well, if you use your lcd screen, you can stick out your arm closer to your subject, which looks less intimidating than if you put your camera up to your eye (viewfinder) and have to put your face really close to their face.

In other words, shooting with an lcd screen allows you to put your camera/lens closer to the face of your subject (than if you shot with a viewfinder).

Good cameras when shooting with a 24mm lens is using the 12mm Olympus lens on a micro 4-3rds body (like on an Olympus Pen F, Olympus OM-D, Panasonic Micro 4-3rds, etc). Or you can use the very capable Fujifilm 16mm f1.4 lens on a XT-series camera.

6. Fill the frame by filling the edges / background of the frame

To know whether you’re “close enough” in street photography is to look at the edges of your frame when you’re shooting. Make sure the edges of the frame are clean and filled with your background of interest. Avoid having messy distractions on the edges of your frame.

7. Walk and shoot

This is a general street photography technique and principle: you can walk and shoot at the same time. Don’t feel like you must always stop before taking a shot.

8. Study compositions shot with a 24mm/28mm lens

AMERICA - ERIC KIM16 eric kim woman popsicle
Eric Kim. Downtown LA, 2011. Shot from below the curb, looking up. Making her look more powerful. Shot with a Canon 5D and 24mm lens.

24mm is surprisingly even wider than a 28mm lens, but to study what a good street photography composition would look like, I recommend studying:
– “Gypsies” by Josef Koudelka (shot with a film SLR and 25mm lens)
Garry Winogrand (28mm lens shooter on film Leica)
– Charlie Kirk shooting with 28mm lens (see his documentary, or read his 102 Street Photography Tips)
Bruce Gilden 28mm/24mm lens
Jason Eskenazi (28mm lens)

Conclusion

eric kim hollywood pink red bull
Eric Kim. Hollywood, 2011. Canon 5D, flash, 24mm lens. Crouching down very low. Note the two Red Bull cans.

I’ve found shooting with different lenses is good for street photography. Generally if your camera has an lcd screen, I recommend 28mm for most photographers. But shooting with a 24mm lens has been fun and challenging. If you’re up for the challenge, try it out for yourself!

I generally think if you’re using a viewfinder in street photography, 35mm is ideal.

But of course, always experiment for yourself in street photography to discover the equipment which works best for you.

BE BOLD,
ERIC

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