photo by welcomia via iStock
While tips for using a long lens aren’t all necessarily different from other, more general photography tips, there are some specifics you need to know.
Camera settings for a telephoto lens are different than your camera settings on a wide-angle lens, but making the switch for the first time can be difficult.
Here are our basic rules for shutter speed, image stabilization and more.
Focus on Shutter Speed
The video above by Improve Photography walks you through how to select a shutter speed for your telephoto lens, and it also walks you through everyone’s favorite shutter speed rule: using the 1/focal length rule.
The 1/focal length rule means that you are choosing a shutter speed denominator that is the same as your focal length.
As an example, if you’re zooming into 200mm on your lens then you should choose a shutter speed of 1/200 or faster to get the sharpest image without any effects from camera shake.
photo by coldsnowstorm via iStock
However, like any good rule, the 1/focal length rule exists to be broken, especially when you are shooting with super long lenses.
A lot of photographers actually believe the cut off with this rule exists somewhere around the 200-300mm range mark. That is, if you’re using a 600mm lens, you don’t have to shoot at 1/600 seconds to avoid camera shake and can instead get away with 1/200 or 1/300 seconds.
The important thing is to take a lot of shots and experiment, that way you know where the cutoff is for you and your lens.
Don’t Forget About Image Stabilization
photo by IUshakovsky via iStock
More and more long lenses are offering image stabilization nowadays, and a lot of old guard photographers either forget about it or are too proud to use it.
Photography gear changes with the wind and oftentimes new lenses are being created for brand new photographers.
Telephoto lenses offer one of two image stabilization modes: one for general photography and one for panning. Both are incredibly easy to use.
If you’re a wildlife photographer it would be worth double checking your lens to see if you have mode 2 available to you so that you can capture sprinting or flying wildlife in panning mode. All you have to do is set it and forget it, that way when your subject moves, you’ll be ready for the shot.
Get more details about image stabilization in the video above by Dusty 'Moose' Winans.
Use the Focus Limiter
The focus limiter is great when you know where your subject is going to be.
Basically, a focus limiter ensures that your camera doesn’t need to exert as much energy trying to adjust its focus. It does this by ignoring part of the zoom range so the lens needs to search less to find focus.
Focus limiters help you as the photographer because you get a faster focusing speed and it only takes a moment to set. Why not take that moment to improve your chances of getting a nicely-focused image of a moving subject?!
Get more details on using custom focus limiters in the video above by DPReview.
Tripods are a Must
My favorite item in my photography bag is my long lens tripod, despite the fact that I only use it about half of the time.
As noted earlier, as long as your shutter speed is sufficiently fast, you don’t have to worry about camera shake causing your photos to be blurry.
However, if you need to slow the shutter down, a tripod is a must, as Steve Perry explains in the video above.
photo by xalanx via iStock
Besides, using a tripod has many other benefits, like taking the load of supporting your gear off your arms and shoulders and slowing you down a little bit to consider the composition of the shot.
Sure, tripods aren’t as sexy as other gear, like a brand-new camera or a big, beautiful lens, but they’re nonetheless a critical component of getting the best images with a long lens.
Get more details on the value of using a tripod with a long lens in the video above by Steve Perry.
Zoom With Your Feet
To get the sharpest images with your telephoto lens, avoid shooting “racked out,” or at its longest focal length.
That is, if you have a 100-400mm lens, it will be much sharper at 300mm than at 400mm.
If you need to get closer to the subject, zoom with your feet instead of your lens. Dial the lens back to 300mm, physically move closer to the subject (if it’s safe, anyway), and you’ll get better results.
Get more details on zooming with your feet in the video above by Scott Davenport.
Where to Get a Discounted Long Lens
photo by NicolasMcComber via iStock
It should be no secret that long lenses are expensive, particularly pro-level lenses. You can easily spend several thousand dollars on a long lens!
Of course, not everyone can afford to drop $3,000 on a telephoto lens, so finding great deals on used lenses becomes a very important task.
There are many different websites that deal in used lenses, but in my experience, MPB is one of the best.
MPB has an extensive grading system that gives you specific details about the lens in terms of its condition, that way you know exactly what to expect when you get the lens in the mail.
Additionally, MPB offers a six-month warranty on your purchase to give you peace of mind.
What’s not to like about that?!
Visit MPB to explore their vast collection of telephoto lenses and other gear.
Not familiar with MPB yet? Get a complete insider’s look in my MPB review.