Hand-held shooting techniques using telephoto lenses

Using telephoto lenses in hand can be very challenging, and without a tripod, it may not be easy to take sharp pictures. They are also bulky and unwieldy, making them difficult to hold even for long periods of time. But even if you don’t want to use a tripod, there are ways to make your life easier and make photos sharper.

It is worth noting that telephoto lenses are usually well balanced, meaning there is no excessive front-end or back-end weight. This alone will help stabilize the lens while holding it in your hand, but you still need some practice and a few tricks to keep your photos sharp. This short article offers some tips for improving your handheld telephoto lens shooting.

1. Hand-held shooting techniques with telephoto lenses

(1) Turn the left side of your body towards the subject

If you stand in a position facing your subject and “align” with it, you may find it difficult to keep the lens stable. Take a half-step forward with your left foot and keep the right side of your body away from the subject. The actual angle that works best for you will be a personal decision, in order to know which position is the most comfortable and can produce the best quality image, so try different angles while taking some test shots.

The beauty of the telephoto lens

(2) Form a stable supporting triangle

Think of your elbows and eyebrows as a triangular dot. To provide firm support for your lens, place your elbow close to your chest and press the camera’s viewfinder firmly over your eyebrow.

(3) Adjust the angle of arm extension

The angle of the support arm is like a shelf holder. Depending on the weight of the lens, you’ll need to adjust how far you hold the telephoto lens from your body and how you rest your elbows against your chest.

If heavier lenses are used, you may need to move your left elbow further to the right side of your chest and change the angle of your wrist to provide additional support.

(4) Control your breathing

Take short, shallow breaths as you compose and focus on your subject and press the shutter. Deep breathing causes your chest to bulge and your lens to move. Holding your breath while filming can cause some tremors and camera shaking, which can accelerate the longer you hold your breath, so avoid this. Many people may not even realize they are holding their breath before pressing the camera shutter.

The beauty of the telephoto lens

(5) Wait for image stability

Before taking an image, gently half-press the shutter to stabilize the image of the lens or camera body. If you shoot in a hurry, you run the risk of blurring the image, or not composing exactly as you would like if the VC/VR has not been stabilized.

(6) Adjust the angle of the tripod collar

By changing the angle of the tripod shaft ring by 90 degrees to the right, you will find that you can hook one or two fingers of the shutter hand to the fastening knob of the shaft ring. This will help you attach the lens to the lens holder of the camera body and allow you to hold the lens hood and use it as a bellows, allowing you to change focus more quickly through the zoom.

(7) Support your body

When shooting at a slow shutter speed, lean as much as possible against trees, large rocks, walls, or other types of structures to support your body. This will create extra stability for your shot.

(8) Practice finding objects quickly in the viewfinder

Take some time to practice quickly bringing the camera close to your eye and finding your image object in the viewfinder. This creates some “muscle memory” and can help you capture more usable images. It also helps to practice your panning skills.

The beauty of the telephoto lens

2. Matters needing attention when using a telephoto lens

When using telephoto lenses, we can consider the following features and considerations:

(1) Pull the distant scene closer

The easiest thing to understand about telephoto lenses is that they allow you to shoot farther, but is longer telephoto better? In fact, there is one factor to consider when choosing a telephoto lens: the distance of the subject. If the camera is not too far away, and some telephoto lenses only have a wide-angle of 70mm, then we need to change lenses frequently, which is very inconvenient. While shooting the action, the subject may be moving around, and some shots that are too long may deprive you of a good picture.

(2) Enlarge the effect of landscape

Telephoto lenses can make objects appear larger in the background than wide-angle ones.

(3) The “compression” nature of the scene

Telephoto lenses can make the distance between the subject and the background look smaller, even if the background is far away from the subject, using telephoto lenses can still make the background and the subject look close together.

(4) Higher safety shutter requirements

The safe shutter speed is defined as the shutter speed required to keep the image sharp when taking a hand-held photo. The calculation is simple: the safe shutter speed = (1/focal length) seconds

The beauty of the telephoto lens

Therefore, the longer the focal length, the higher the safety shutter requirements, such as using 200mm focal length, the safety shutter is 1/200 seconds!

(5) Shallower depth of field

Focal length is an important factor when shooting a shallow depth of field. The longer the focal length, the stronger the shallow depth of field effect. If you are using a telephoto lens and want the whole picture to be within the depth of the field, you will need to use a very small aperture, which may cause underexposure.

(6) The main body movement has greater influence.

When using telephotos, the slight movement of the subject is easy to see in photographs. The downside of this effect is that the shutter speed is faster to get a sharper picture. The upside is that when shooting a car or star orbits we can get along the track in less time, so be careful.

3. Conclusion

A wide-aperture telephoto lens may be expensive for beginners, but I think it’s worth it. The color and quality of the wide-aperture telephoto lens are very high, and the range of applications is very wide. A good wide-aperture lens will hold its value and last 10 years, so if your budget allows it, get a wide-aperture telephoto lens. Apexel’s telephoto lens is quite good, you can consider buying it.

The beauty of the telephoto lens


Can you handhold a telephoto lens?

While you can hold a telephoto lens, if your camera produces noisy images at high ISO settings, a tripod will be essential if you want the best image quality.

How do you shoot with a zoom lens?

Set your camera aperture on f/8 or lower, zoom the lens out to its longest focal length, and get as close to the subject as possible while still being able to focus. You also need to ensure as much distance as possible between the subject and any background elements.

What is one disadvantage of shooting with a telephoto lens?

Because telephoto lenses have such long focal lengths, often 200 mm or longer, the depth of field you can achieve with them is drastically lower than with a standard or wide-angle lens. This means that only the subject will appear in focus, while most of the foreground and background will be blurry.

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