View Full Version : Telephoto Is For Cowards

02-01-2005, 04:42 PM
I am not going to insult anybody here with the title, it is not mine...
I have just read a very interesting article about street photography and using telephoto lenses - <a href="">Telephoto Is For Cowards</a>... It starts with a sentence by Frank Capa - "If your photographs aren't good enough, you aren't close enough". There are some nice hints how to take pictures of strangers on the street and why not to use telephoto lenses on the street.

read and think it over...

02-01-2005, 05:12 PM
Yeah...I'm with you Maciek!

Throw your telephoto to the bin (or send it to me if it's a Canon L lens, I'll throw it in a bin for you) it's time to get your 21mm out, people!

I especially like page #5 (If I remember correctly) about moments of life and not shooting someone freezing int the frame : reading that carefully and applying it consciously could make anyone improve a lot his own photography.


02-01-2005, 06:05 PM
very nice link maciej :)
the 4th page reminds me of luko keeps saying hehe

02-01-2005, 06:17 PM
Darren, Maciek is calling your name :D.

02-01-2005, 06:40 PM

I have read this before. Peterri posts at dpreview.com in the Canon lens forum quite often. He is a good writer and often says things to stir the pot. I don't necessarily disagree with what he says. His forum posts at dprview are great, both on photography and on politics.

If you notice, I have been using shorter lenses much more often as of late. ;)

02-01-2005, 06:52 PM
Cheers for the link Maciej!

02-01-2005, 08:50 PM
Great Maciek. Besides, Petteri is a great writer and has very good advise on several topics about photography. Check one of his last "lessons" about "how to add grain in digital images"....(it works GREAT!).

02-03-2005, 04:20 PM
This reminds me of that time we were shooting together in Delhi's Paharganj area and you kept telling me to get closer to the subject. :) Will agree a telephoto is not for true street photography. Thanks for the link.

02-05-2005, 09:42 PM
I did enjoy a lot reading it
seems I have TOO MUCH to learn
Finally I realize it,
thanks for the link

it is really useful


02-06-2005, 01:05 PM
A short telephoto/long prime (85-105mm) <a href="http://www.paw2003.fsnet.co.uk/week26.htm" target="blank">has its place on the street</a> but overall I concur with the line in the argument, though I do find 'portraits' of completely anonymous people interesting and hardly irrelevant for two reasons: 1) you can capture and study a whole world of human expressions and emotions and 2), when they realise what you're doing, you get to study your own impact on people.

That little bit of compression can so wonderfully connect two elements within a scene when physical distance would otherwise make their relationship obscure. But as a substitute for actually being close enough, it just doesn't work. At the very least, I need to say this to justify my imminent purchase of a 180mm prime (though I don't intend for it to be used on the street-- more for stage/concert work and as a nice piece of man-jewelry.)

02-13-2005, 02:04 AM
in general I agree, wide lenses has "soul", but on the other - in some countries, esp. muslim, you cannot really throw away telephoto - I had such situation when photographing esp. women that they agreed for a photo as long as you didn't come too close.
In Asia 'safe personal distance' (you know, the distance that you start to feel uneasy when somebody enters) is much shorter than in Europe, but in muslim countries - esp. when considering people of different sexes - it's even longer.
I don't meen walking with 500mm telephotos and taking pictures hiding, I mean - 200 mm max, with this lense you still need to be quite close to your subject, but you allow him/her to feel more comfortable.

02-18-2005, 07:54 PM
totally agree with that.
I use my telephoto lens for one purpose only... Flat landscape.. I don't like perspective in a landscape so that's when i use it.. Otherwise you are loosing time shooting portraits or other images with a telephoto, they are just stolen images without any feeling of the person shot.. sometime they even are "pleasant " to look ta but nothing more.

02-27-2005, 03:59 AM
The title goes without saying, obviously you should only photograph <a href="http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/North_America/Canada/photo7459.htm">these guys</a> with a 17mm ;)

That said, I do agree with the article in general... I also know that this style of photography isn't for me though.

02-27-2005, 05:30 PM
I DON'T THINK SO! I believe telephoto helps in being an undisturbing spectator...it all depends upon what you are capturing...if you want to capture the person going closer is the best thing to do... if you want to capture the moment or the routine then Telephoto is the best.

03-06-2005, 09:15 PM
very interesting reading,
i've been doing this type of photography without knowing there was a whole theory of why is it better... in my case i just never had the courage to invest in a good telephoto... :) and now i got used to getting closer and enjoy the interaction with my targets... it is true i've spent whole afternoons shooting in a park/square, after a while people don't pay attention, i have become invisible... :)


03-08-2005, 10:32 PM
I would like to add that one thing he didn't mention is that as photographers, we tend to get lazier when we pick up a telephoto lens. I for one am guilty of this. For my most recent S.America trip, I shot almost exclusively with my telephoto and 50mm (80mm effective) lens. At the time the photos all came out sharp, nice, and full of color. However, upon my return and after looking at them for a period of time, the only shots that I really liked were the one I took with the wide-angle lens. All the telephoto portraits I took at fun to look at but they don't tell a story unless I added a comment and they certainly don't have action/life in them that you would commonly see with a wide-angle lens. So now I am thinking I should even keep my 70-200mm f/4 lens or try to trade it for a 17-40mm f/4 L lens.

Since I have shot so much with the telephoto lens, I have become shy around people and crowds, limiting me to what I want to shoot the most. Starting now, I will put away the telephoto except for the studio. Thanks for the post!

03-08-2005, 10:34 PM
Haha, with you on this one Darren. I too have been guilty of using the 70-200mm way too much.

05-22-2005, 06:31 PM
Ok. Przeczytalem. Jako szczeniak moge sie mylic. Ale na ten temat mam swoje zdanie: nie lubie skrajnosci. Autor artykulu, choc dopuszcza uzywanie teleobiektywu w pewnych sytuacjach (np sport - no jakze sobie wyobrazic goscia fotoreportera ganiajacego z aparatem po boisku miedzy zawodnikami bo nie mozna uzywac teleobiktywu - nawet zabawne) to jednak prezentuje skrajny poglad.... wyrazenie, ze "I get angry about people shooting candids with tele lenses: this type of "candid photographer" pollutes the waters for all of us" to typowy przejaw flustracji... tylko czym spowodowanej??? Dobra nie bede marudzil. Facet ma racje jak mowi o naturalnosci zdjecia, a formula kontaktu fotograf - fotografowany nawet do mnie przemawia bardzo. Przyklady podawane przez niego typu paparazzi - to nie argumenty. Kazdy ma zdanie na ten temat - i chyba mamy wszyscy takie samo zdanie o tym. Wniosek dla mnie oczywisty. Ja bede staral sie robic zdjecia mozliwie bez zooma ale nie neguje tego typu sprzetu. A juz na pewno nie zrezygnuje z zuma po argumentach tego pana. P.S. Dlaczego zagorzali przeciwnica zuma uzywaja aparatow wypozazoncy wlasnie w calkiem duzy zum??? (tongapup)???