How to get a clear telephoto image?

Would you like to know what is the most common cause of disappointment among photographers? The photographer had just returned from a particular trip — a safari park, a wildlife adventure, bird-watching, maybe even whale-watching — with 762 blurry telephoto shots. In this case, we talk to someone at least once a week. They brought a great telephoto lens, paid a lot of money, and they ended up with bad photos.

The reason is simple: people who are good at normal range photography think those skills translate well to taking telephoto images. So they just think, “How long do I need to shoot?” and don’t realize that longer focal lengths require a whole new set of photography techniques to get a clear image. Learning a little telephoto will allow you to use the same equipment to get the right image.

A telephoto lens captures a bee gathering nectar

A telephoto lens is a photographic lens with a longer focal length than a standard lens. Its angle of view is less than 20 degrees and the focal length can reach hundreds of millimeters. Telephoto lenses can also be used in panoramic photography to get more wonderful works. But it’s not always easy to take a sharp picture with a telephoto lens. Do you know the essential tips for taking a sharp telephone photo?

1. Telephoto lens issues

(1) The fuzzy degree of a given vibration is proportional to the focal length of the lens

Suppose that when I hold the camera, there is a little movement in the front of my lens, perhaps moving the camera 0.1 degrees of an arc during the shutter exposure. If I shoot a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, my image has a field of view of 39 degrees, so I will blur the image by about 0.1/39, or 0.02% — a very small amount.

If I blurred the image by the same amount (0.1-degree radian) with a 500mm lens (field of view is 4 degrees), I would blur the image by 2.5%. Thus, for the same amount of motion in hand holding, a 500mm image is more than 10 times as blurry as a 50mm lens.

(2) Telephoto lenses are big and heavy

Since 500mm lenses are larger and heavier than 50mm lenses, the vibration/movement problem is more complicated. I couldn’t hold it like I could hold a 50mm lens, so I got more blur when shooting telephoto lenses than when using a standard size lens.

Bird shot with telephoto lens

(3) Telephoto lenses have a narrower aperture

A wide aperture lens is larger and heavier than a small aperture lens. The situation increases exponentially when you use telephoto lenses. The lens doubles in size if its aperture becomes longer or wider after 300mm. The 300mm F/4 lens is typically about 4 inches in diameter and weighs a little more than 2 pounds.

The 300mm F/2.8 lens is typically about 8 inches in diameter and weighs about 7 or 8 pounds. The 400mm F/2.8 lens is typically about 10 inches in diameter and weighs 10 pounds. To make telephoto lenses small enough to be handheld, the aperture at the telephoto end is usually F/5.6 or F/6.3 for telephoto zoom in lengths from 400 mm to 500 mm. A narrow aperture means a longer exposure time, leading to more vibration and movement during shooting.

(4) Extender lens narrower aperture, and soft image

Adding an extender reduces the aperture by one or two steps. It may soften the image, so you need to turn off the aperture for the extra aperture to restore sharpness. Soon you’re shooting as F/11, which leads to an additional set of problems.

Bird shot with telephoto lens

2. How to take clear telephoto image?

(1) Use a higher shutter speed

Telephoto lens imaging magnification is large, the subject movement or holding the camera is unstable, the image displacement is correspondingly increased, if not using a higher shutter speed “solidification” subject, the image on the negative will be blurred, the picture is not clear.

(2) Increase exposure appropriately

The long focal length, length, and a number of lenses of telephoto lenses reduce the intensity of light reaching the film, and the exposure must be increased to compensate for the loss of light. Typically, lenses with focal lengths between 200 and 400mm require a 1/3 level increase in exposure. Ultra-telephoto lenses with focal lengths above 400mm require an additional half step of exposure.

Insects photographed with a telephoto lens

(3) Add a filter

Telephoto lens in the shooting perspective, due to the interference of ultraviolet light, dust, fog, and air media reflection and other factors, shooting the scenery is not clear and bright, low contrast, poor definition. So when using telephoto, you usually choose a polarizer, ultraviolet filter lens, to improve the contrast and clarity of photos.

(4) Use a tripod

When shooting with a telephoto lens, it is best to use a stable tripod. First, it can prevent the camera from shaking and ensure clarity; Second, it is conducive to the use of slow shutter speed and a small aperture to overcome the adverse factors of small depth of field of a telephoto lens. The depth of the field of a telephoto lens is very small, especially when shooting at close range, the depth of the field is often only a few millimeters. In a very short moment, it is not easy to take the view composition and focus but also hold the camera. It is not easy to use a tripod to focus and view more accurately.

3. Conclusion

If you’re shooting telephotos for the first time, plan to practice for at least a few days before heading out. It is well worth practicing a few days before you leave. Once you’ve mastered these techniques, you’ll also be able to take great panoramic photos. Of course, there are many factors to take clear telephoto photos, which need to be summed up and learned by constant practice.

A snail with a telephoto lens


Why are my telephoto pictures blurry?

A fast shutter speed takes the picture so quickly that the vibration and blur that camera-lens movement causes is “frozen.” The shutter opens and closes before the camera movement or vibration that’s occurring can blur the image.

How do I get my telephoto lens to focus?

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 can you shoot with a telephoto lens?

As a telephoto lens closes the distance between you and whatever you’re photographing, it’s an ideal lens for photographing wildlife. With a telephoto lens, you’ll be able to take shots that look like you were just a few steps away from your subject when you were some distance away.

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