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How to photograph back streets

By October 19, 2017 Photography No Comments

This is a back street in Kaysersberg, a small town in the Alsace region of France.

back street

It’s one of a group of well-preserved medieval towns and villages in the area with their distinctive painted half-timber houses. While it’s hard to resist taking photos of the River Weiss from a 16th-century fortified bridge in the middle of town, there’s a huge draw to the quieter streets nearby, too.

When faced with a row of buildings like this, it’s best to shoot with a short telephoto lens for a number of reasons. First, the perspective is better. If you shot this with a wider lens, the nearest building would be dominant in the frame, while those at the end would be tiny. Shooting with a telephoto keeps the relative sizes of the buildings closer, allowing you to enjoy the details on all of them.

Second, it lets you minimise the amount of sky and road in the corners, which with a wide lens would have been large, featureless areas in the frame.

Third, it gives you more control over what’s in the frame and what’s excluded. With a wide lens you will find it hard to eliminate parked cars on the road, for example. With a telephoto, you can more easily crop them out of the composition when framing.

This was shot using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 fitted with an XF 56mm lens for an 84mm equivalent field of view, from a position to not only avoid any evidence of modern cars, but also to include a handy streetlamp in the otherwise overcast triangle of sky in the corner. The colours of the buildings are terrific, but if you don’t want them to look too vibrant turn down the saturation.


As the lens focal length increases, the depth of field (or the amount of the picture that’s in focus near and far) shrinks. This is one reason telephoto lenses are preferred for portraits as they facilitate making the subjects sharp and blurring everything in front of and behind them. However, they make shots like this one more difficult if you want everything sharp from near to far. Here, a lens aperture of ƒ/11 was required to achieve a sufficient depth of field. Focus was at a point roughly one third of the way between the nearest and farthest subject to extend it in both directions.

EXIF data

  • Fuji lm X-Pro2
  • Fujinon XF 56mm ƒ/1.2
  • 56mm (84mm equivalent)
  • ƒ/11
  • 1/60 second
  • 0 EV
  • ISO 400
  • Classic Chrome

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