7 Tips for Taking sharper photos with an Ultra-telephoto Lens

One of the most exciting aspects of being a photographer is shooting with an ultra-telephoto lens.

Photography with an ultra-telephoto lens is a skill in itself, as you may not get sharp results when you first pick up the lens. The following tips will help you work better with ultra-telephoto lenses so that you can take sharper pictures.

A landscape shot with an ultra-telephoto lens

1. Choose the right shutter speed

Choosing the shutter speed is one of the most important tasks when photographing anything. As a standard rule, the shutter speed should be equal to or faster than the focal length of the lens.

Shooting at shutter speeds less than 1/500 will cause a camera shake, which affects the sharpness of the image. However, if your lens has image stabilization technology, you can shoot with a shutter that is slower than the focal length. How much slower depends on the technical performance of that particular lens.

If you are using a cropped sensor, you need to multiply the cropped factor by the focal length to determine the appropriate shutter speed. If you’re using a 500mm lens and you have a 1.5x sensor, you need to shoot at 1/750 of a second to get a sharp image. 1/1,000 would be ideal.

A landscape shot with an ultra-telephoto lens

2. Choose the right aperture

In wildlife photography, depth of field plays an important role in helping to make the subject stand out from the background. If you don’t know, shooting with a wider aperture (a smaller aperture value such as F/2.8) can help you get a shallow depth of field. This causes the subject in the photo to be clear and well isolated from the background, while the background itself will be out of focus.

The rule of thumb is to set the aperture to 2-3 stops above the minimum possible aperture for a particular lens.

3. Set the ISO according to your shutter speed and aperture

Most people say you should choose the lowest ISO possible. While this is true in many cases, today’s cameras can shoot at higher ISO and maintain detail without noise.

A landscape shot with an ultra-telephoto lens

ISO should be one of the last settings you use when shooting with telephoto and ultra-telephoto lenses. After determining the shutter speed and ideal aperture, you can adjust the ISO to shoot quickly and stay in focus. Setting ISO based on shutter speed and aperture allows you to expose the image correctly.

4. Use a monopod or tripod

While ultra-telephoto lenses are getting lighter these days, they’re still heavy. Especially after carrying them for hours.

What happens when you carry something heavy? You are easily swayed. Introducing a natural camera shake into your image will destroy the steps you took above to ensure a crisp image.

All ultra-telephoto lenses come with a tripod collar. You should make sure that the lens is mounted on a tripod, not the camera. Attaching the camera to a tripod without lens support can damage the camera and lens.

A landscape shot with an ultra-telephoto lens

5. Choose a good tripod head holder

When you need to pan the camera with wildlife or athletes, you’ll need a tripod head that gives you all the flexibility you need while still keeping the camera stable. For this reason, we like to use our heads.

6. Use image stabilization on the lens

If you need to pan the camera with a moving animal or bird, make sure image stabilization on the lens is turned on. This is helpful when you’re shooting hand-held, and image stabilization reduces the shake caused by shaking or tilting the camera. It’s most useful when you’re shooting hand-held.

If shooting from a tripod, turn off image stabilization. When opened, it creates a very small vibration that spreads to a tripod or monopod.

7. Return to the button focus

If you have not already focused on your subject using the back button focus method, you must half-press the shutter release button to do so. You further introduce a slight camera shake when you use the shutter release button to lock focus.

A landscape shot with an ultra-telephoto lens

By using the back button focus technique, you can dedicate a button on the back of the camera to focus. By doing this, you can balance the weight of the camera when you press the button on the back. Not only does it reduce camera shake, but it also helps you shoot faster than traditional methods.

Shooting with a telephoto lens is fun, but it’s also important to understand the technical aspects of using it for sharp results. Don’t be disappointed if your initial photos aren’t as crisp as you expected.

Make sure you use the correct shutter speed and aperture. These two elements of the exposure triangle contribute the most to the sharpness of your picture. If you can, use a tripod or monopod and mount a telephoto lens on it to avoid any possible camera shake. If you’re shooting hand-held, turn on the image stabilization feature on your lens to further reduce shake when you shake or tilt the camera. Hope you can follow the above tips to use the ultra-telephoto lens to take clear photos.


How do you know if the picture is sharp?

For a sharp image, there can be no camera movement in the image. This means one of two things: either you shoot at a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion or you use a tripod to lock your camera down.

Can images be too sharp?

When you are not sure about your camera setting and use an incorrect camera setting, then also too sharp images may result from it. The use of image editing software may also result in too-sharp photos. While sharpening an image, sharpen the part of the image that you want to make sharp. Do not sharpen the whole image.

Why are my night photos not sharp?

Most night photos fail because the shutter speed is much too slow when the photographer takes the shot. If it’s any longer than about 1/50th of a second and you’re shooting handheld, the image is going to be blurry. it’s just not possible to keep your hands perfectly steady enough.

What is sharpness in a camera?

Sharpness in photography can be defined as how clearly detail is rendered in a photograph. A sharp image looks clear in both focus and contrast.

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