18 Feb 2008

How to use a telephoto lens

Here is another simple example of using a small telephoto lens - in the case a 135mm equivalent - to capture candid pictures of people. I've had some photographers take me to task for daring to use a telephoto for 'street' photography. These purists believe it is only possible to take real 'street' pictures if a lens of 35-50mm is used. They are talking twaddle.
Perhaps they are secretly obsessed by the notion that they are following the example of Henri Cartier-Bresson who, they believe, was able to make himself invisible, get in close to all his subjects without being seen, and capture them all on a Leica with just a 35mm lens.
The story goes that the 'great' Cartier-Bresson tried this method while covering Winston Churchill's funeral for The Sunday Times. Apparently he did not produce a single photograph worth printing.
A small telephoto can actually add a lot to the 'feel' of a candid photograph by throwing the background slightly out of focus and isolating the most important elements of the picture. This frees the viewer's eye to concentrate on what really matters in the picture.
Of course it also gives the photographer the added advantage of remaining just that little bit less obvious.

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