Gear & Technique

Because I used the classification of "journalism" to include many different "styles" of photography the gear required will vary. And by now you should realize that the gear chosen for any subject is open to personal preference. 

Because this type of photography is largely dictated by chance, flexibility is my main concern. Where possible I am going to choose a zoom lens with a lot of range. Something like the 18-200mm for a crop body or the 28-300mm for a full frame. Of course, these lenses have their compromises; primarily that they are slow and require good light.

If the light isn't very good I may choose to use a faster zoom such as the 24-70mm f/2.8 or the 70-200mm f/2.8. But these lenses also have their compromises; they are large, heavy, and expensive. 

Or if light is particularly bad, or if I want to go particularly small/light, I may choose a fast prime lens. In selecting a prime lens for this type of work I will generally choose something towards the wider end, maybe a 28mm. But fast primes have their issues as well. They are not as versatile. If it's an older manual focus lens then it will be more prone to chromatic aberrations. And using one wide open in poor light can result in numerous focus issues due to the shallow depth of field. Often, getting enough shutter speed to handhold is still not enough to prevent subject motion blur. Sometimes a flash is a better choice.

Regardless of what lens I choose I am going to try to use it as wide as possible. Using a lens set wide and from up close creates an intimacy with the subject. And "connecting" with the subject is what this type of photography is all about. Using a wide lens also allows you to include more of the setting to give the image some "contextual reference."

For this type of work you can generally forget about tripods and remote releases. Good hand holding technique and shutter speed selection are critical.

Focus is usually continuous single point autofocus or manual focus. When using manual focus I will generally be working with zone focus or hyperfocal settings.
If using manual focus with a wide aperture, then you are generally stuck with having to focus on your subject at the moment of capture. This can be quite problematic when there is very little light or the lens is mounted on a camera other than a DSLR.

When light levels are going to be unknown or poor, a camera body with excellent high ISO capabilities can be a huge benefit. Of course, this generally means a larger camera body such as the D800/D4.

Many think they need to use the smallest kit possible so they can be "discrete" and catch people unaware. Here is a very interesting discussion on "the Grid" with Scot Kelby regarding street photography, asking to take a picture, and being a "creeper."


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