Note: Focal length for lenses in this blog post is in full frame equivalent. All photos in this blog post taken by 24mm lens’ field of view.
In general, 24mm focal length (full frame equivalent) famous as wide lens that still can be use for all-round purpose too (like 35mm lens).
In street photography, 24mm definitely less favourable compare to 35 mm or 50mm lenses. Perhaps because people think the angle of view is too wide, therefore we need go to (super) close to subject to create a stood out image of a person.
However, for me that’s not always the case. Also, after exclusively (force) myself only use 24mm angle of view for quiet some time, I feel these focal length has its own characteristics and uniqueness that match my artistic feel to create a street photo.
Here are some thoughts about 24mm lens from my perspective:
Dare I say, for snapshot use 24mm field of view easily match the versatility of 35mm lens. I never felt any restriction because a place is too tight, and also I never had problem with minimum focus distance (in my case, Fujinon XF16mm f/1.4 has MFD at 15cm!)
24mm lens shows its versatility really well for shooting in the middle of city, because I can photograph people, buildings, road markings, unique graffiti on narrow street, etc. Also really useful lens when we are traveling to new places, and want to do both street photography and documentary.
Photograph subject’s surrounding
A perfect focal length when surrounding around our main subject is unique and able to add artistic feel into our photograph. The presence of main subject still remain clear, and we can capture “the whole” scene to add more drama or story about subject.
Even though 24mm is wide lens, we do not need to always getting super close to photograph subjects because we do not only focus on their presence, but also need to pay attention about things around them.
Works really well to get creative with road markings photograph (Read here about shoot road markings). Always remember to combine shoot marking with strong gesture from subjects to create a strong image.
Force me to active!
Because wide lens will capture more elements inside our frame, by nature this focal length force me to be extra creative, especially about making composition. I need to make sure there are strong elements like diagonal line, minimise distraction, shoot layers or moving gesture in my frame to create a photo with strong visual impact.
This lens also force me to take action and jump in the middle of scene. There are times when I worried subject will hit my lens with their moving hand or body. That close!
In fact, my previous article about focus more on detail on an object/subject (Read here) was inspired by 24mm lens. Simply because this lens force me to get close to people and start to scan which part of their body or accessories they wear that seems artistic to my mind.
Using 24mm lens is not about being in our comfort zone to photograph people. It is about to start our own action and get “comfortable” being surrounded by stranger (read: potential subjects).
When I feel really on fire to hunt street photography’s scene, 24mm is my first I pick. I think because shot with 24mm makes me feel excited, challenging, and fun! Perhaps due the fact that to create a strong photo with such wide angle of view, I really need to be super close to subject, or I need to think hard about strong composition.
“Shoot layers” means shoot multiple subjects (and objects) that separated one to each other in one frame. The main point to create layer shoot is to make sure there is space between subjects. – Shoot layers in street photography
Easily one of the best advantage of using 24mm lens. The more scene we can capture, the more chance we can create more complex layering in photograph.
One of the best part of shoot layers is: Most of the time our subjects will not realise that we photograph them. Simply because they think we capture the whole scene of an area, not specific of a person. They will think we just a tourist who do casual snapshot.
Because wide lens let us to capture tall building/statue. Therefore, easier for us to create a great scale between those things and (a little) human beside them. Benefit of shoot scale is we do not need to get close to subject. No one will knows when we photograph them, because people think we photograph building or anything beside/behind them.
Simple tips: Fill our frame with objects in enormous size and get a nearby human as scale about how big is the size of the objects. My experience showed me that wide lens like 24mm will give us enough room to photograph tall/big objects even in the middle of city area.
Conclusion: Need to create a STRONG contrast!
To make sure our subjects feels “pop-out”, we need to make sure there is enough “contrast” between subjects and things surround them. Create these kind of “separation” by paying attention to colour match, diagonal line, huge different in scale comparison, and dynamic moving gesture. Also, strong light sources (like Sun or LCD screen for advertising board) are good elements to create strong contrast photograph.
That is all about my thought of shooting street in 24mm angle of view. I really encourage people to experiment with this focal length if they have chance. Personally, it teaches me a lot about new perspective in street photography!
Keep experiment in shooting,