10 Tips for Using Long Telephoto Lenses
- By: Luis Argerich
Long telephoto lenses are typically used for wildlife and bird photography but they can also be used for macro shots and landscapes, here are a few tips to improve your long focal length shots.
1. Use a fast Shutter Speed
With a long lens freezing the subject motion is critical and even when the subject is not moving you have to avoid vibrations and camera-shake. This means you have to use fast shooter speeds even with static subjects. Try to keep the speed at 1/500 or faster increasing the ISO if needed.
2. Lens Wide Open is Better
With shorter focal lengths using the lens “sweet spot” is a good idea to get sharper photos, that’s usually 1 or 2 stops past the lens maximum aperture, mostly around F8. With a long lens it’s better to use it wide open to get a faster shutter speed. Sharpness with long lenses is all about motion blur, the fastest you can shoot the better.
3. Use a Tripod
A long lens needs support for two big reasons. One is that they are easier to use if you have a support to rest the lens and camera weight. The second reason is to dump vibrations faster. A tripod or monopod is strongly recomended when you use a long lens.
4. Try Macro Shots
A long lens can be used as an excellent macro lens adding an extension tube, you can get really good magnification and excellent distance from your subject.
5. Stack the Focus
When you use a long lens you will have a very thin depth of field. If you need everything in focus in your shot you have to take several shots and then stack the focus. This is a very common process in macrophotography and it can also be used for landscapes. To stack the focus you can do it manually or using specific software such as CombineZP (free).
6. Shoot the Moon
The moon is always a great subject with a long lens.
See this article for some good tips about shooting the moon:
7. Juxtapose Elements
When you use a long lens you can create a sense of depth by having something in front of your subject. Look for a branch, grass, clouds or something that will not cover the subject completely.
8. Decide what to Blur
If you have a thin depth of field you will have a blurred foreground or a blurred background. The “normal” thing is to have a sharp foreground and a blurred background but sometimes your main subject is the background and the opposite thing works.
9. Shoot Bursts
Always shoot in burst modes, due to camera shake, subject movement and other factors you will find that the shots in the middle of your bursts are usually sharper than the first and last shots.
10. Pre-Focus Manually
When you use auto-focus for moving subjects do a quick manual pre-focus at the distance your subject will be, then the AF will work faster and you will get more time for the right shot.