Tag Archives: Henri Cartier-Bresson

Choosing the Right Street & Fashion Photography Lens: (35mm)

The 35mm is very much an underrated focal length. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because when you type “35mm” into the search bars, all kinds of 35mm film cameras pop up. Maybe it’s because its longer brother, the 50mm, has been stealing its thunder ever since Henri Cartier-Bresson mentioned how much he preferred the mighty 50. Maybe people are superstitious about odd numbered focal lengths? Who knows? But what I do know, is that some of history’s best street and fashion photographers have relied on the 35mm lens as their main lens of choice. And here is why.

A Flexible Working Distance

terry richardson emily ratajkowski
Terry Richardson using a 35mm Nikkor lens with the gorgeous Emily Ratajkowski.

When shooting in confined alleys or with a live model, working distance is a very important but not often talked about concept. Working distance is basically the distance between you (your camera) and the subject.

Fashion and portrait photographers don’t regularly shoot 200mm telephotos because standing 50 feet away would make connecting with the model difficult. Not to mention, most urban studios are hardly big enough even for a 135mm.

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Favorite Lenses of Famous Photographers

As much as photographers distance themselves from their cameras, saying that it is merely a tool, photography as a whole is much more intertwined with technology than traditional art. Our cameras and our lenses set the boundaries of our perspectives. This is why, we’d thought it’d be interesting to look at some famous photographer’s favorite lenses.

We’ve compiled a list of 7 famous photographers. We wanted to see if there is a trend. Are 85mm lenses really the preferred portrait focal length or is it more marketing? Is the 24-70mm  zoom really the industry workhorse? We wanted to see if there is reason behind the madness.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (50mm)

Genre: Street and Photojournalism

One of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s most famous photographs, a man jumping over a puddle taken at the right moment.

The father of photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson is a master of candid street photography and an early adopter of the 35mm format. He helped develop street photography back in the 1940s and 50s with  his Leica rangefinder and a 50mm prime.


In an interview with the NY Times, he said:

“[The 50] corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see.”

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