Small primes are inconspicuous: While Pushkar Fair sees plenty of photographers shooting photographs with multiple bodies and large lenses and locals and visitors get used to them, a fast prime lens mounted on a DSLR/Mirrorless body is a lot less conspicuous than a zoom lens and allows you to get closer to your subject, without disturbing them. Take the photog in the right photograph for instance; he went from shooting one individual to another, without even uttering a single word or paying anyone. And almost no one objected to being photographed, rather many actually posed for him willingly! Try doing the same with a large lens, and chances are, people wouldn’t be this cooperative!
Primes let you shoot faster: With no way to zoom in or out of a frame, you start visualizing your shot beforehand and learn to shoot from a distance, which will get you the desired composition. This means you will not be fiddling with a zoom ring and reframing the shot, once that camera gets to your eye level. This in turn allows you to shoot faster and results in fewer missed shots due to someone walking in the way or expressions of your subject changing.
Primes are great for low light photography: Action at Pushkar rarely stops at sundown and unless you are planning to piss people off or pay them to pose, there is no way you can use a flash. A fast prime lens would let you shoot at half the available light than fast and expensive zoom lenses (barring the fantastic Sigma 18-35 1.8) and still get tack sharp results.
Bokeh: While environmental portraits are great, there are times when you don’t want busy background to steal attention away from your subject. So when it comes to defocussing the background and putting emphasis on your subject, nothing comes close to fast primes lenses. So irrespective of whether you are shooting street candid or portrait of a friend, if background isn’t going to add substance to your photograph, then a prime lens is your best friend.
Primes are easy on the pocket: Let’s face it, unless you are a professional photographer with a media house or rich enough to buy whatever equipment you want, it is extremely difficult to buy good quality fast lenses. And a Canon 50mm f1.8 II or Nikon AF-S 50mm 1.8G is a lot more affordable than something like Tamron 17-50 f2.8, which is still way cheaper than other fast zoom lenses!
At the end of the day, photography is all about producing the images you want and having fun, and primes let you do that, without going neck deep in debt. And even though I am looking forward to shooting with my Tamron 17-50 f2.8 and Tokina 11-16 f2.8 II at this year’s Pushkar Camel Fair, I would likely end up using my Canon 50mm f1.8 II lens for half the photographs, like last year :).