A practical tip in street photography: to make better photos, get closer to your subjects, by using your “foot zoom”!
Why am I anti-zoom lenses?
To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with telephoto or zoom lenses. However I think if you desire to make more intimate and dynamic photos, I recommend using a wide angle lens (24, 28, 35mm lens), and using your feet (foot zoom) to get close to your subjects!
What would a Spartan mother say?
A funny story from Plutarch’s account on Spartan woman, he tells a story of a Spartan youth who complained to his mom that his sword was too short, to which his mom responded:
“Add a step to it.”
“Don’t complain that your sword is too short, because you’re afraid to die in close combat. To increase the length and efficacy of attacking in war, simply add a step to get closer to your opponent.”
In street photography, I encourage you to get closer. Why? With physical proximity comes emotional proximity.
You want your subjects to feel something when they look at your photos. And how can you expect your viewers to feel something when looking at your photos when you yourself don’t feel anything when looking at your own photos?
Why no telephoto?
When we use telephoto or zoom lenses in street photography, this is generally the problem:
We shoot from too far away, which doesn’t give us the opportunity to interact and engage with our subjects.
It is my opinion that street photography shouldn’t just be capturing candid photos of people (like photographing wild animals in a safari)– I think the purpose of street photography is for us to open up our hearts to others, and make more intimate photos — photos which encourage you to live more boldly in life, and to use street photography as an opportunity to build your confidence to get closer to people (physically and emotionally).
In praise of foot zoom
Also, the reason why it is good to use ‘foot zoom’ in street photography is this:
We often blame our equipment from preventing us from reaching our potential as photographers– whereas in reality, there are other hidden options (like foot zoom) which can actually help us make better photos!
This is the important point:
It ain’t about whether using wide-angle lenses and getting close (vs) using a telephoto/zoom lens is better or worse. Rather, it is about knowing you have other options that you might not know exist!
For example, NOT zooming with a lens is an option! It is an option to use your feet to “zoom” to get physically closer to your subjects!
Of course I (ERIC KIM) have my own opinion and perspective in street photography. But this is just my opinion; you must have your own opinion!
But it is my personal duty to inform you of the different options you have in street photography; especially options you might not know exist.
And zooming with your feet is a fantastic option to add to your ‘street photography toolkit’ or a better image-analogy:
Add more tools to your street photography Batman utility belt.
Rules of foot
To conclude, some suggestions:
- If you want your photos to feel more intimate and personal, get closer to the action. Use your ‘foot zoom’ to get physically closer to your subjects! And recognize it is okay to interact and engage with your subjects!
- When you’re shooting on the streets, try NOT to zoom with your lens (if you have an option). Instead, use your wide-angle lens and be more creative with your compositions! Use your lack of a zoom to spark your own inner-creative mind; having this ‘creative constraint‘ of NOT zooming will actually help you innovate more in your compositions!
- Use street photography as an opportunity to open up your hearts to others!
Master composition for yourself:
Photography Composition Tips
- Shape, Arrangement, Position (S.A.P.) and Contour, Inter-Contact, Position (C.I.A.) in Photography
- 10 Tips How to Fill the Frame in Photography
- Look Up! 16 Photography Composition Perspective Tips
- 5 Simple Street Photography Composition Tips
- Depth Perception
- Golden Angle Composition in Street Photography
- Photographer as an “Arranging Artist”
- Dynamic Off-Center Street Photography Compositions
- 5 Essential Composition Tips in Photography
- Red and Green Composition Color Theory For Photographers
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Color Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Theory For Photographers
- Color Manual
- How to Shoot Color Street Photography
Learn From the Masters of Composition
- 10 Lessons Matisse Can Teach You About Art and Life
- Henri Cartier-Bresson Composition
- 10 Timeless Lessons Edward Weston Can Teach You About Photography
- 10 Inspirational Sergio Larrain Compositions
- 5 Henri Cartier-Bresson Photography Composition Lessons
Dynamic Photography Composition 101
- Introduction to Dynamic Photography Composition
- How to Visually Analyze Your Photography Compositions
- Dynamic Tension: Opponent Based Theory For Photography
- Opponent Process Color Theory For Photographers
- Dynamic Photography Composition 101: Figure to Ground
Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- 7 Simple Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make Aggressive Photography Compositions
- 10 Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make More Dynamic Picture Compositions
- Unorthodox Photography Composition Techniques
- Deconstructed: Saigon Eric Kim Photos
Take your composition to the next level:
- Gestalt Theory
- Center Eye
- Dutch Angle
- Deep Depth
- Leading Lines
- Figure to Ground
- Fibonacci Spiral
- Composition by Eric Kim
Street Photography Composition 101
For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”
Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- Composition Lesson #4: Leading Lines
- Composition Lesson #5: Depth
- Composition Lesson #6: Framing
- Composition Lesson #7: Perspective
- Composition Lesson #8: Curves
- Composition Lesson #9: Self-Portraits
- Composition Lesson #10: Urban Landscapes
- Composition Lesson #11: “Spot the not”
- Composition Lesson #12: Color Theory
- Composition Lesson #13: Multiple-Subjects
- Composition Lesson #14: Square Format
Learn compositional theory:
- Why is Composition Important?
- Don’t Think About Composition When You’re Shooting Street Photography
- How to Use Negative Space
- Street Photography Composition 101
- The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson