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  • Writer's pictureCourt Richards

Street Photography with my Trusty 30mm

If you have swiped, clicked or scrolled through any of my photos I can guarantee, you have already seen numerous shots taken with my favorite lens, the Sigma 30mm f1.4, Prime lens. Its gotten to the point that every time I'm heading out and strapping my camera bag to my back I wonder to myself "Why do I bother?".

ISO 640 1/5000 f9

Lenses are essential to exploring your photography style and capturing sharp images. If you are into landscape photography you might want a wider angle lens, when photographing insects you will need a macro lens and if you fancy yourself a wildlife photographer you’ll need a good telephoto lens. For me, I like to capture the streets, whether it's up close and personal with the people around me or exploring scale, shadows and urban landscapes. I can do all of these things (And more) with one simple, light and affordable lens. The Sigma 30mm f1.4 weighs about 265 grams but still feels well built. It is sharp and quick to focus and most importantly can be picked up new for less than 300 pounds.

ISO500 1/640s F10
ISO1000 1/1250s f8

I needed the comfort that came with knowing I could quickly zoom in and re-frame a shot without having to get too close to someone or run across a street. With experience comes confidence, and as I became more skilled as a photographer I began to anticipate my shot long before I even brought the camera to my eye. This new found trust in my ability to create the shot I wanted opened up more possibilities with the type of equipment I used, in particular prime lenses.

The prices of these can often run into the thousands which is simply unobtainable for most people, especially after you’ve already poured so much of your hard earned money into a good rig. So what are we to do then? Give up before we start? No, of course not, there are of course always cheaper alternatives. Some of them good and some of them not so much. One of the "Good" examples and my "Go To" lens is the Sigma 30mm f1.4 prime lens and maybe more surprisingly you can pick up a new one on Amazon for less than 300 pounds (Yes this is still a considerable amount of money but much cheaper than the alternatives.).

If you've never shot with the 30mm focal length I can't recommend it enough. The 30mm is wide enough to explore the urban landscape and architectural elements but even better when you're up close and personal capturing the faces and moments on the streets around you. I often shoot from the hip (I'm still a little shy on the street) but the focus is incredibly sharp and quick, allowing me to capture clear photos of moving people even from the low angle.

I know it's frowned on in some circles but remember you can always crop your image later and explore the "Shots within the Shot" when you get home. With modern sensors and newer cameras you can crop an image considerably without sacrificing image quality (Especially if your goal is to share it as a small square on a three inch screen). I saw an exhibition of the famous black and white photographer "Man Ray" and he explored cropping to create new and more interesting narratives in his photographs. Do what you want and don't let other peoples ideas of what is "Pure" in the world of photography guide you.

ISO640 1/4000s f5.6

I won't bore you with technical specifications and to be honest I didn't give them much more than a cursory glance myself. Amazon has extensive information on its listings and even gives good comparisons to similar products. I just wanted to highlight the importance of this one small and relatively inexpensive lens in shaping my own photography style.

Based on my own experiences here are a few small tips if you find yourself wielding one of these beasts in the near future;

1. Think about what your subject or focus is for the shot. If it is a person try to get closer, shoot from the hip if you are afraid to raise the camera. It will take a few tries to dial this in but the 30mm is wide enough you’ll almost always get a good amount of the person in frame.

2. If it is a building or façade think about lines and scale. Do you want to show some details in the building design itself (Walk Closer) or do you want to show the scale of the building against the surroundings (Consider moving back)?

3. Use the viewfinder grid. I am terrible for getting home to develop my photos and realizing that I have not lined up the horizon or horizontals properly. You can usually fix this quite easily in Lightroom or Photoshop however when you straighten the image you will lose a certain amount of the image as it crops to adjust. If you have someone right on the corner, you may lose some important details. Now a skewed photo can be effective too and you might not correct it but I guess what I’m saying is that you need to try and imagine what the shot will look like before you edit it.

Have you ever used a 30mm or 35mm lens? What’s your favorite thing about this focal length? Share some of your experiences and shots with me or over on Instagram @courtrichardsphotography but most importantly have fun be safe and always keep your camera handy.

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