Mastering 50mm Street Photography

50mm Street Photography

50mm for Street Photography

With the increasing popularity of 50mm street photography in social media, many photographers worldwide have discovered the benefits of using this lens to capture the essence of urban life.

In this article, we will delve into the world of 50mm street photography, exploring its rich history, innovative techniques, and practical tips for capturing striking images that stand out from the rest. But first of all, I would like to answer the next questions as many are always wondering about this.

Is a 50mm lens good for street photography?

The 50mm lens offers a versatile option as it strikes a balance between being too close or too far away, which is particularly useful for new street photographers.

Besides, if you’re apprehensive about capturing street photos, the 50mm lens is an excellent option since it enables you to focus on your primary subject without getting too distracted by other details.

Here is a small table explaining why 50mm focal length is good for street photography:

Reason Explanation
Perspective 50mm on a full-frame camera gives a perspective close to natural human vision, making images look more natural and immersive.
Background separation At f/1.8-f/2.8, 50mm gives some separation between subject and background compared to wider angles, helping the subject stand out.
Compact size 50mm lenses are typically very compact and lightweight, making them ideal for walking around and being discreet.
Good in low light The wide aperture of f/1.8-f/2.8 gathers a lot of light, allowing for photography even in dim conditions.
Forces you to move 50mm lacks the extremely wide or telephoto perspectives, forcing you to move yourself to frame shots, interacting more with your environment.

The History of the 50mm lens for Street Photography, The best lens.

The 50mm lens has been a staple in history since the days of film cameras. It was originally designed for use on full-frame cameras and became the go-to lens for street photographers in the 1950s and 1960s. The 50mm lens is small, light, and relatively cheap, making it an ideal tool to shoot streets giving many photo opportunities.

Street photographers have used the 50mm lens to document the world around them, capturing timeless moments that reflect the culture, fashion, and spirit of the times. From iconic images of New York City by masters like Bruce Gilden and Garry Winogrand to the vibrant street scenes of India by Raghubir Singh, the 50mm lens has played a vital role in shaping the genre. Also, the 35mm lens is really popular but we will talk about this in another post.

Advantages of Using a 50mm Lens for Street Photography: Bokeh and Aperture

Using a 50mm lens for street photography offers several advantages. One of the main advantages is that it is a versatile lens that allows you to capture both wide-angle and portrait-style shots. Additionally, 50mm lenses are known for their ability to produce sharp images with beautiful bokeh, making them perfect for capturing street portraits.

50mm lenses are generally smaller and lighter than other lenses, which makes them easier to carry around for extended periods. This makes them ideal for photographers who want to remain inconspicuous while taking pictures. Additionally, the small size of the lens allows you to get up close and personal with your subject without drawing too much attention to yourself.

As a passionate street photographer, I find the 50mm lens to be the ideal choice for capturing the energy and essence of the city streets. With its versatility and practicality, this lens can help you tell powerful visual stories about the world around you.

When using the 50mm lens, you can capture candid moments with ease. The lens allows you to get close to people while still maintaining a comfortable distance, making it ideal for capturing intimate portraits or timeless moments on the street.

Usually, images with a 50mm lens are very sharp images with a shallow depth of field. By using a wider aperture, you can separate your subject from the background and create a powerful visual impact that draws the viewer’s attention.

Overall, the 50mm lens is an excellent choice for street photographers who want to capture the energy and essence of the city streets. With its versatility and practicality, it can help you tell powerful visual stories that connect with your audience.

50mm Street Photography

Tips for Shooting with a 50mm lens street photography

1. Get Close to Your Subject

One of the most effective ways to capture compelling street photographs is to get close to your subjects. A 50mm lens allows you to get close to your subject while still maintaining a comfortable distance. This proximity allows you to capture intimate moments and details that would be impossible to capture with a longer lens.

2. Play with Depth of Field

The 50mm prime lens is known for its ability to produce beautiful bokeh. By playing with the aperture, you can create images with a shallow depth of field, which isolates your subject and blurs the background, creating a dreamy effect. You can also achieve this with a telephoto lens but they are big and bulky so is not ideal for the streets although you can be close enough to people if you shoot with them.

3. Shoot in Black and White

Street photography is often associated with black and white imagery. Shooting in black and white can help you to focus on the light, shadows, and textures of the scene, creating dramatic and timeless images. Street photography with 50mm and monochrome is one of my favourite combinations.

4. Look for Interesting Light

Light is a critical element in photography, and street photography is no exception. By looking for interesting light, such as shadows, reflections, and patterns, you can create images that are visually striking and memorable. This focal length is really good to shoot in low light.

5. Be Patient

Street photography requires patience and persistence. It takes time to capture the perfect shot, and sometimes you may have to wait for the right moment to present itself. Be patient and stay focused on your goal, and you will be rewarded with stunning images that capture the essence of the streets.

How to compose your shots

Composition is key for great, balanced images. Street photography has specific techniques to make interesting photographs. Look for lines to lead the eye in. Doorways, windows, trees and pathways can form strong lines. Put an interesting subject in the foreground and avoid distractions in the background. Remember that less can be more. If an element doesn’t add to the image, it should be removed. These are all challenges we always encounter when we are using the 50mm focal length so it is really important to compose your shots.

50mm Street Photography

Using a Prime Lens for Street Photography vs Zoom lens

One of the advantages of using a prime lens, like the 50mm is its simplicity. Unlike zoom lenses, prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which forces you to be more intentional and creative with your shots.

The 50mm lens is an excellent choice because it allows you to capture the world around you in a natural and authentic way. With its field of view that’s similar to the human eye, it can help you create images that feel more personal and intimate.

Another advantage of using a prime lens to shoot street photography is its faster maximum aperture, which allows you to shoot in low-light situations.

Overall, using a prime lens like the 50mm is an excellent choice for photographers who want to simplify their gear and focus on their creativity. That’s why they are so popular. Many famous photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson were often using this focal length because they can fill the frame nicely and close to what your eye sees.

Focal length for Street Photography: 50mm vs. Wider or Narrower Lenses

50mm lens street photography is often considered the “Goldilocks” lens because it’s neither too wide nor too narrow. However, there are times when a wider or narrower lens may be more appropriate and useful.

28mm focal length, 35mm lens, choose one Focal length for Street Photography

Wider lenses, like 35mm or 28mm, can help you capture more of the street scene and tell a larger story about the world around you. On the other hand, narrower lenses, like 85mm or 100mm, can help you capture more intimate portraits or details on the street.

It’s important to choose the right lens for the situation and the story you want to tell. However, the 50mm lens remains an excellent choice for photographers who want a versatile and practical lens that can handle a wide range of situations.

Finding Inspiration as Street Photographer

Inspiration is the key to 50mm street photography. Observe your surroundings and spot great shots. Look for elements in the environment that can be used. These can help come up with creative ideas. Do street photography with 50mm lens in creative ways. This will take your street photography to the next level.

Here are some ways to find inspiration for street photography with 50mm:

  • Look for interesting people, places, and stories.
  • Look for unique perspectives and angles.
  • Look for patterns and shapes.
  • Look for light and shadows.
  • Look for texture and color.

Where to find inspiration

Photography can be a great way to capture everyday life – but it’s also an art form! To unleash creativity in street photography, you need inspiration. Here are some ideas whether you’re new or experienced:

  • Explore social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Look at other people’s images – it might spark creative energy.
  • Practice street portraiture. Direct contact with people gives insight into their personality and culture. It’s a great opportunity for storytelling.
  • Visit local galleries. Check out the works of celebrated photographers. They often have strong themes and tones – which can be visually inspiring.
  • Get out on the streets. Nothing beats firsthand experience when it comes to capturing moments authentically.
  • Take creative walks with other photographers. Connect with others and inspire each other.
  • Experiment. Try different angles and locations. Explore black-and-white photography. Mistakes can create ideas – where none could be seen before!

How to observe your surroundings

To be a street photographer, you need to observe and recognize photo opps quickly. Mastering the skill of seeing lighting, relationships, and contrast in a way that works for you takes time.

Start by looking at angles, depths of field, and juxtopositions. Look for light, shapes, forms, patterns, textures, and colours. Change your view by getting low or standing high for a fresh perspective. Try props too – like cars or toys – to make scenes more dynamic.

Enjoy taking photos with this perfect focal length! There’s no one way to do it. But these tips can help you find inspiration and make it fun:

  • Look for light, shapes, forms, patterns, textures, and colours.
  • Change your view by getting low or standing high for a fresh perspective.
  • Try props like cars or toys to make scenes more dynamic.

50mm Street Photography

Using a 50mm lens to create a unique image

Street photography is about capturing special moments and turning them into a unique image. To do this, three elements should be considered when creating an engaging composition.

  • Vantage point matters. Step back and view the scene from different angles. Shift your position to get creative. The rule of thirds helps create visual impact.
  • Timing is key. In the street scenes happen in seconds, so be ready to snap away at any moment. Observe how people interact to capture stories that evoke emotion.
  • Light & shadow are important. Learn how light behaves in different situations. Move accordingly when outdoors. Shadows can be just as important as highlights.

By mastering these elements, images can be created without relying on post processing manipulation.

50mm street photography settings

In terms of settings, I usually opt for aperture priority mode to have control over the depth of field. By selecting a wide aperture like f/1.8 or f/2.8, I can isolate my subject from the background, creating a beautiful bokeh effect. To freeze the motion and ensure sharp images, I set my shutter speed to around 1/250th of a second or faster, especially when photographing people in busy streets. In low-light situations, I’m not afraid to increase the ISO to 800 or 1600 to maintain a proper exposure and minimize the chances of camera shake. Overall, these settings, combined with the 50mm focal length, allow me to capture captivating street images with exceptional quality and a unique cinematic feel.

Famous 50mm photographers

There have been many famous photographers who have utilized the 50mm focal length in their work, creating iconic and influential images. Here are a few notable photographers known for their work with a 50mm lens in street photography:

1. Henri Cartier-Bresson: Considered the father of modern photojournalism, Cartier-Bresson extensively used a 50mm lens to capture decisive moments on the streets. His candid and poetic images became synonymous with street photography, and his mastery of the 50mm lens is evident in his compositions.

2. Robert Capa: Known for his iconic war photography, Capa also used a 50mm lens for his street work. His images often conveyed a raw and immersive perspective, capturing the human element amidst chaos and conflict.

3. Garry Winogrand focal length: A renowned street photographer, Winogrand had a distinctive style of capturing spontaneous and often humorous moments. He frequently relied on a 50mm lens to document the essence of American life and street scenes.

4. Joel meyerowitz focal length: Meyerowitz is known for his vibrant and dynamic street photography. He used a 50mm lens extensively, capturing the energy and spirit of New York City in the 1960s and 1970s.

5. Daido Moriyama: A celebrated Japanese street photographer, Moriyama is known for his gritty and high-contrast black and white images. He often used a 50mm lens to capture the essence of Tokyo and its vibrant street culture.

These photographers, among others, have demonstrated the versatility and power of the 50mm focal length in street photography, leaving a lasting impact on the genre with their unique visions and visual storytelling.

50mm photography techniques

Photography with a 50mm lens is popular due to its versatility and relatively natural field of view that closely resembles human vision. Whether you’re using a 50mm prime lens or a 50mm equivalent focal length on a crop-sensor camera, here are some techniques to enhance your photography:

  1. Portraits: The 50mm lens is great for portraits, offering a flattering perspective without much distortion. Shoot wide open (low f-stop like f/1.8 or f/1.4) to create a shallow depth of field, isolating your subject from the background. This creates a pleasing bokeh effect while keeping the subject sharp.
  2. Street Photography: The 50mm lens is compact and unobtrusive, making it ideal for candid street photography. Its normal field of view captures scenes as you see them, resulting in authentic and relatable images. Zone focusing can be useful for quickly capturing moving subjects.
  3. Low Light and Night Photography: Due to its wide aperture capabilities, a 50mm lens is great for low light conditions. It can capture more light, allowing you to shoot without using a flash. Experiment with manual settings to control exposure, ISO, and aperture to capture the mood of the scene.
  4. Environmental Portraits: Use the 50mm lens to capture subjects within their surroundings, telling a story about their environment. This technique works well for documenting people in their workspaces, homes, or other meaningful locations.
  5. Product Photography: For small-scale product photography, a 50mm lens can deliver sharp and detailed images. Use controlled lighting to highlight textures and details while keeping the background pleasantly blurred.
  6. Composition and Framing: A 50mm lens encourages you to focus on composition. Experiment with framing, leading lines, and rule of thirds to create visually engaging photos. The lack of extreme distortion can help maintain a balanced composition.
  7. Depth and Perspective: While not as wide as a wide-angle lens or as compressed as a telephoto lens, the 50mm lens offers a middle-ground perspective that can still emphasize depth in your shots. Use foreground elements to enhance this effect.
  8. Bokeh: Experiment with different apertures to control the quality of bokeh (background blur) in your images. Wide apertures will create more pronounced and creamy bokeh, which can help your subject stand out.
  9. Panning: Capture dynamic shots of moving subjects like cars or cyclists by using a slower shutter speed and panning with the movement. The 50mm lens can help maintain a good balance between subject and background.
  10. Multiple Perspectives: Challenge yourself to shoot the same subject from different angles and distances using the 50mm lens. This will help you understand how framing affects the mood and storytelling of an image.

Remember, the 50mm lens encourages creativity and forces you to think about composition and perspective. Experiment with different techniques and settings to discover your personal style and preferences.

50mm for Portraits / 50mm Fashion Photography

The 50mm focal length is considered ideal for portrait photography. On a full frame camera, it provides a perspective very close to natural human vision, avoiding distortion of facial features. Photos with 50mm lens allows for artistic background blur, isolating the subject. This also makes the 50mm lens a favorite for fashion photography, providing flattering perspective and the ability to focus attention on the model against a soft, blurred background. When shooting portraits with a 50mm lens, an appropriate distance from the subject is about 5-10 feet to properly frame faces.

Here is a small table with 50mm lens settings for portraits photography:

Aperture Shutter Speed ISO Notes
f/1.8 1/125s 100 Shallow depth of field, good for headshots
f/2.8 1/250s 200 Slightly more depth of field, good for half body shots
f/4 1/500s 400 Increased depth of field, good for full body shots
f/5.6 1/1000s 800 Deep depth of field, good for environmental portraits

50mm Photography for Documentary, Street, and Everyday life

With its classic field of view similar to human vision, shooting with a 50mm lens is appreciated by photographers for documentary, street, and everyday subjects. It provides a useful balance between wide angles and telephotos. A 50mm lens allows you to easily adjust your distance from subjects without introducing significant distortion. And with a wide maximum aperture, a 50mm lens performs admirably in low light conditions. Photographers rely on the 50mm perspective to capture impactful, natural-looking images of various subjects and scenes.

Creative Techniques for 50mm Lens Photography

The 50mm focal length lends itself to creative techniques to take more compelling photographs. Use the wide maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8 for shallow depth of field, drawing attention to subjects by blurring backgrounds. Capture shots from a low angle for an interesting point of view. Frame subjects off-center using rule of thirds. Move yourself around actively to achieve good composition. Leverage the lens’ speed by shooting in low light and using settings like ISO 1600-3200 and wide apertures. Take advantage of the versatile 50mm perspective for portraits, still life, product, food, and more.

Popular 50mm low light settings

When shooting in low light conditions with a 50mm lens, it’s important to adjust your camera settings to ensure proper exposure and minimize noise. Here are some recommended settings to consider:

  1. Aperture (f-stop): Use a wide aperture to allow more light into the camera. Set your lens to its widest aperture, such as f/1.8 or f/1.4. This will help you achieve a shallow depth of field and create a pleasing background blur.
  2. Shutter Speed: Since you’re shooting in low light, you’ll need a slower shutter speed to capture enough light. However, keep in mind that slower shutter speeds can lead to motion blur if you’re handholding the camera. A general guideline is to keep the shutter speed above the reciprocal of the focal length. For a 50mm lens, try to stay above 1/50th of a second. If you’re using image stabilization (IS/VR), you might be able to go a bit slower.
  3. ISO: Increase your ISO setting to compensate for the lack of light. Start with a moderate ISO value, such as 800 or 1600, and adjust as needed. Higher ISO settings will introduce more noise, so find a balance between noise and proper exposure.
  4. White Balance: Set your white balance according to the lighting conditions. In most cases, using the “Auto” white balance setting should work fine. You can also experiment with different white balance settings to achieve desired color tones.
  5. Focus: In low light, autofocus can struggle to lock onto subjects. Consider using manual focus or using a focus assist light if available. If you’re shooting portraits, focus on the subject’s eyes for sharp results.
  6. Image Stabilization: If your lens has image stabilization (IS/VR), turn it on. This can help stabilize your shots when using slower shutter speeds, reducing the likelihood of camera shake.
  7. Shoot in RAW: Shooting in RAW format gives you more flexibility in post-processing, especially when dealing with exposure and noise issues in low light.
  8. Use a Tripod: If the scene is static and you’re dealing with extremely low light, using a tripod will allow you to use longer shutter speeds without introducing camera shake.
  9. Noise Reduction: Use in-camera noise reduction or apply noise reduction in post-processing to manage noise that might be introduced at higher ISO settings.
  10. Bracketing: If you’re unsure about the exposure, consider using exposure bracketing to capture multiple shots at different exposures. This can help ensure that you have a well-exposed shot to work with later.

Remember that every shooting situation is unique, so don’t hesitate to experiment with these settings and adjust them based on the specific lighting conditions and your creative intent. Regular practice and experimentation will help you become more confident in handling low light photography with a 50mm lens.

Exploring Other Focal Lengths for street photography

The 50mm lens is a staple for street photography, allowing you to capture scenes similar to human vision. However, photographers should experiment with other focal lengths too for creative perspectives. An ultra-wide 35mm lens enables immersive, close-up street photography and intimate street portraits. A short telephoto like an 85mm lens lets you discreetly photograph subjects from a distance. There’s no universally agreed upon best street photography focal length as it depends on personal style. Henri Cartier-Bresson famously used 50mm for iconic street images. Trying lenses like the affordable Canon RF 28mm f/2.8 STM on both full frame and APS-C cameras can help find your ideal street photography perspective. Don’t overlook telephoto lenses like the manual focus TTArtisan 100mm f/2.8 2x macro which provide unique compression.

Gear and Techniques for 50mm Street Photography

The versatile 50mm prime lens provides a solid foundation for great street photography. Pair it with a camera like the Sony a7IV with excellent autofocus for catching moments. Adding a small flash dramatically lights street portraits – learn proper flash techniques. Master 50mm lens settings like focusing on the eyes and using optimal apertures. Create bokeh in Lightroom for artistic background blur when desired. Use the 50mm creatively for urban landscape photography with leading lines. Apply 50mm photography tips like shooting from the hip, panning, and moving fluidly. With practice, you can excel at candid 50mm street photography and capture inspiring life on the streets.

For more details about the Sony A7IV I recommend you to read this article Sony a7iv street photography settings.


50mm street photography is a timeless focal length that continues to captivate photographers around the world. By understanding the history of 50mm street photography, the advantages of shooting with a 50mm equivalent, and the tips for capturing stunning street photography, you can take your photography to the next level and capture images that stand out from the crowd. Remember mastering street photography in general takes time and practice, so continue improving your skills and experiment with different focal lengths. There is no right or wrong street photography focal length, you need to use whatever makes you more comfortable shooting.

I’m really into close-up street photography, and I do it with a 50mm lens to capture personal moments. As I walk along, I pay special attention to smiles, hands, and those moments of deep thought. With my camera, I bring you up close to these stories that unfold on the streets. Each picture I take shares a bit of the city’s magic and the stories of its people – it’s like you’re right here with us, experiencing it all!

The 50mm field of view is a popular choice especially for street because it allows you to capture the scene in a natural way, similar to what the human see without the distortion that can come with wider lenses or telephoto. By being mindful of your composition, using a suitable aperture, and paying attention to the light, you can create stunning street photos that capture the essence of the city and its people. So, grab your camera and hit the streets – you never know what amazing shots you might capture!

50mm Street Photography

35mm and 50mm lenses are ideal? Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is 50mm good for street photography

A: Yes, the 50mm focal length is generally considered a good choice for street photography. It offers a natural perspective that closely resembles what the human eye sees, making it ideal for capturing candid moments in urban environments.

Q: What is the best way to use a 50mm lens?

A: To get the best results with a 50mm lens, use an aperture of f/8 or higher. This will give allow you to capture more of the scene. Additionally, try to get as close as possible to your subject to create an intimate and engaging composition.

Q: How can I create interesting street photography compositions?

A: To create interesting compositions, look for elements in the scene that will help draw the viewer’s eye. This could be an interesting subject, a leading line, or a unique perspective. You can also use the rule of thirds to create a more balanced composition. Mastering street photography and composition takes times, practice and patience.

Q: What is the best time of day for street photography?

A: The best time is usually just before sunrise or just after sunset. This is known as the ‘golden hour’ because the light is less harsh and more flattering. This will also give you more interesting shadows and colors in your photos.

Q: Can a 50mm lens be used for other types of photography besides street photography?

A: Yes, a 50mm lens can be used for many different types of photography, including portraiture, landscape photography, and even some forms of action photography. The key is to understand the strengths and limitations of the lens and how to use it to your advantage.

Here is a short FAQ using the requested keywords:

Q: How can I master street photography?

A: Mastering street photography takes time and practice, using a 50mm lens and moving yourself around actively to frame interesting perspectives and compositions can speed up the process. Shoot in aperture priority mode at wide apertures to blur backgrounds. Use fast shutter speeds to freeze motion. Try different angles like shooting from the hip or from low positions. Edit your photos afterwards to crop, enhance lighting, and convert to black and white for dramatic effect.

Q: What are some tips for using a Street Photography 50mm lens for portraits?

A: Some tips include using an aperture of f/1.8-f/2.8 for nice background blur. Position yourself 5-10 feet from the subject for flattering perspective. Focus on the eyes. Use shutter priority mode to control motion blur. Shoot candid expressions and poses. Go outdoors and use natural lighting for enhancing portraits.

Q: How can I best use a 50mm lens for landscape photography?

A: A 50mm lens can capture unique perspectives of landscapes by getting closer and focusing on details vs wide vistas. Use a narrow aperture like f/8-f/16 for sharpness throughout the image. Use a tripod for stability, especially in low light. Try framing landscape elements in an unconventional or striking way with the 50mm perspective. Convert to black and white for dramatic effect.

Q: What is shutter priority mode?

A: Shutter priority mode is a shooting mode where you manually set the shutter speed and the camera automatically chooses the aperture to properly expose the image. This mode is useful when you want full control over motion blur, like using fast shutter speeds to freeze action or long exposures for artistic effect.

Related Articles

50mm vs 85mm street photography
Best lens for street photography
Best zoom lens for street photography
50mm lens photography ideas
Street photography lightroom
How to take street photos
Vivian Maier camera focal length
35mm vs 50mm street photography
canon rf 28mm f2.8 stm review

I hope you find useful my article about Street photography 50mm, I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

Juan Solis

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Article: Mastering 50mm Street Photography

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