How to Use a Telephoto Lens

Picture of an eagle taken by a telephoto lens

I know, many photographers, will acquiesce that a telephoto lens is a proper gear for enlarging distance objects. Notably, they‘re also potent ammunition for an artistic instrument for affecting the look of your subject. For instance, they will normalize the relative size and distance for near and far objects. Again, it makes the depth of field appear shallower. The best place to use a telephoto lens is landscape photography and wildlife photography.

a photo of a hippopotamus holding a baby
A telephoto lens can capture great photos. photo by Adrian Hirschi

What is a telephoto lens?

If you have a lens with a focal length greater than or about 70mm, then that is a medium telephoto lens. It can be a 70mm or 35mm on a full-frame camera. On the other hand, many photographers consider a lens to be full-frame when its focal length is higher than 135mm. This will gives you an angle of view across the widest dimension that is less than or about 15 degrees. Additionally, telephoto for a compact camera is a 3x-4x or higher zoom lens.

We all agree that a telephoto lens has a longer focal length and a narrower angle of view.  This feature makes it produce the effect of emphasizing a small region in a broader scene. Here, you can magnify and highlight a particular subject you cannot reach, such as wild animals.

Picture of an eagle taken by a telephoto lens
A 320 mm detail shot of an eagle

Telephoto lens perspective

Can a telephoto lens affect perspective?

Let’s find out in the fields.

But, first, you know that it has a narrow-angle of view. Can that affect your image?

What that means is that both the relative size between your subject and the distance is normalized. It is true when comparing near and far objects. As a result, it subjects nearby objects to look the same in size as faraway objects.

In essence, you will notice that the location you are when taking a shot is the one that can influence perspective. Practically, you’ll be far away from your subject when using a it, thus affects perspective.

Relative size

You can achieve a proper sense of scale by getting as far as possible from the nearest subject and zoom in. However, overdoing normalization of relative size gives the scene look uninteresting and flat. The reason for such appearance is because our eyes expect to see closer objects a little larger.


 Usually, using a telephoto lens will make the distance between objects seem compressed. Here, it will help you:

  • Emphasize the numbers of objects.

Enhance the appearance of congestion

Everyday use of a telephoto lens

Bringing the small and distant subject closer

It perfects well when you want to bring small and distant subjects closer. One of the areas you can implement this is wildlife photography. Here, it gives you more favorable conditions to shoot subjects not possible to reach in real life. Your only worry should be distant detail and texture. 

Additionally, as a photographer, you’ll become more selective with what you want within your frame. It is right in the sense that a telephoto lens covers a much narrower angle of view. Moreover, you are capable of making an image appear as if it were shot with a longer focal length. However, this method compromise resolution since it involves cropping your image.

Layering in landscape

Do you know that a telephoto lens can also perform better in landscape photography?

Typically, we are used to the theory that a wide-angle lens is for a landscape shot and not a telephoto lens. Let me tell you today that it compress the field of depth. But, a wide-angle lens, on the other hand, will exaggerate the sense of depth.

All the same, you can get splendid landscapes photos using a telephoto lens. You only need to give it a different approach or technique. In particular, one such method is to improve the sense of depth. Here, you’ll need to compose your scene with the layered subject matter, especially at precise separate distances.  For instance, you can set foreground with trees, the next layer to be a distant hillside, and the furthest to be the sky.

Point of focus

It can capture a scene with a much shallower of depth for a given subject distance. Here, you’ll have much more substantial out of focus subject distant since it enlarges the blur. Notably, it is more critical to achieving pinpoint accuracy more so on your point of focus.

A 300 mm telephoto shot during sunset
A 300 mm sunset shot

How do you use a telephoto lens to achieve sharp images?

You are aware that exposure time is vital when dealing with handheld photographs. In general, longer focal lengths necessitate shorter exposure time to ease blurring induced by shaky hands. The telephoto lens magnifies objects; thus, even a small movement is noticeable.

The best way you can reduce camera shake when using a telephoto is either by:

  • You are achieving a faster shutter speed. Here, you’ll use a larger aperture or increase the ISO speed. However, the giant hole has drawbacks since it decreases the depth of field. Likewise, a higher ISO speed will increase image noise.
  • You are holding your camera steadier. Use your hand to stabilize the lens. If you are not sure about that, use a camera tripod or monopod.

Relationship between a telephoto lens and depth of field

In most cases, you’ll hear photographers saying that wide-angle lenses improve depth of field. Technically, that’s a misconception, which is not valid. Similarly, there’s also a misconception that a telephoto lens decreases the depth of field.

A telephoto lens depth of field is not less. For instance, magnify your subject with the same equivalent amount with another lens. You’ll notice that it delivers the same depth of field, similar to the other lens.

Additionally, telephoto lenses can make out of focus region (bokeh) to enlarge. Usually, this occurs since it expands background relative to the foreground. As a result, it brings the appearance of a shallow depth of field. Thus, it is advisable to monitor how your background will look and adjust when it’s out of focus.


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