How to use a telephoto lens for landscape photography?

While one of the hallmarks of landscape photography is the use of wide-angle lenses to capture vast stretches of nature and create a sense of depth, sometimes opting for a longer focal length can increase your creativity and produce better photos.

Telephoto lenses definitely have a place in the landscape photography world. These efficient and versatile lenses can have a major impact on your work, enabling you to improve your photography by looking at the world in a different way — resulting in a more diverse and unique mix of images.

use a telephoto lens for landscape photography

Let’s take a look at what a telephoto lens really is and how to use a telephoto lens for landscape photography?

1. What is a telephoto lens?

In general, telephoto lenses are considered to be any lens with a focal length greater than 50mm.

This lens is designed to zoom in on medium to distant objects so that you can always photograph objects farther out in the landscape.

2. Is a telephoto lens suitable for landscape photography?

Telephoto zoom is one of the best lenses in your camera suite for landscape photography. This is because such lenses allow you to isolate objects and other details in the landscape, with a narrower depth of field. You can enlarge the lines, layers, textures, and even outlines to get a more abstract image, or when you’re faced with scenes that lack foreground interest.

In contrast to wide-angle lenses, which can exaggerate the dominant lines and emphasize the significance of extraordinary subjects with depth, telephoto lenses are well suited for more intimate scenes, in which the focus is on shape and form rather than large, far-reaching foregrounds.

Almost every camera manufacturer has at least one telephoto lens in their product line, so it’s not hard to find the right telephoto lens for your particular type of camera.

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3. When should I use a telephoto lens?

Telephoto lenses can be used to make distant objects appear closer in the frame and fill the frame in a meaningful way. They’re great for wildlife photography, isolating details when outdoors, capturing motion when you can’t use a telescope, and taking lunar and deep space astrophotography.

Telephoto lenses also give you room to experiment, especially when the foreground in the scene is cluttered or lacks interesting foreground. Instead of capturing cluttered wide-angle views, you’ll be able to isolate certain elements to create interest in different ways.

4. 8 Tips for using a telephoto lens for landscape photography

On our photography trips, we sometimes hear photographers say they can’t use telephoto lenses simply because they can’t capture enough of the surrounding landscape. Some photographers find it difficult to compose with telephoto lenses, while others don’t know how to use them effectively or even where to start.

Landscape photography with telephoto lenses can be a bit difficult at first, as it requires a completely different approach to using wide-angle lenses. So to help you get the most out of this device, here are our eight important tips on how to do landscape photography with telephoto lenses.

(1) Use a tripod

The problem with telephoto lenses is that most of the time, they’re big. Often, they can also be very heavy. Therefore, it goes without saying that the weight of the lens will make your camera shake easily when shooting telephoto images live. This can affect image quality, so the best way to ensure the best resolution is to mount the camera on a tripod.

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If your telephoto lens has a tripod mounting ring, it is best to use it instead of installing the camera on the tripod as usual. The tripod mounting ring helps balance the lens, which means less pressure on the tripod head. When unbalanced, a heavy lens may cause your tripod head to fall or move when you are in line to shoot. The result can be very annoying, especially when you lose the perfect composition framework.

While it is possible to hold a telephoto lens while photographing landscapes, you may need to use a higher ISO than if you have the camera on a tripod. This increases the likelihood of introducing more noise into the image, so use a tripod whenever possible when shooting with a longer focal length.

(2) improve the ISO

This brings us to the next point, which is that when shooting with a telephoto lens, even on a tripod, you will benefit greatly from improving ISO.

Due to their weight and general size, telephoto lenses are easy to move — your body if you’re shooting with your hand, or the wind if you’re using a tripod. Either way, you will undoubtedly experience some degree of camera shake, including the moment you release the shutter when the electronics move inside the camera.

Any movement or shake will and will affect the overall quality of the image, so you should improve the ISO sensitivity of the camera whenever possible. By shooting at a higher ISO, you will be able to capture sharper images with telephoto lenses, resulting in better landscape photography results.

(3) Use a live view to focus

Given that telephoto landscape photography is all about detail, zooming in to such a long focal length means your viewer will be able to see every aspect of your shot, from trivial components all the way to absolute detail points. This will give you little margin for error in focusing. In fact, even if your subject is only slightly out of focus, it will be very noticeable.

To ensure clear focus when shooting with a telephoto lens, try using the live display on the back of your camera’s LCD screen for focus. Most digital cameras now have this feature, and some even have LCD displays that can be tilted in different directions to make focusing easier.

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Basically, a live view gives you the option to use the camera’s LCD display instead of a small viewfinder, giving you a larger reproduction of the scene than you can see with the naked eye.

By using a live view, you will be able to zoom in on your subject to focus on a specific area more precisely. It is especially useful when the subject is far away, such as mountains or trees in the distance.

(4) Use a remote shutter release

Remote shutter control is usually one of the last things a photographer cares about when shopping for an accessory. However, it is a valuable piece of equipment for landscape photography, especially when using heavy telephoto lenses.

Why is that? Well, remote shutter release lets you trigger the camera’s shutter without touching it. This reduces the amount of camera shake caused by body contact when the shutter release button is pressed, which can help you take clearer and better images of the landscape.

The remote shutter cord can be connected to your camera wirelessly, via Bluetooth, or via cable. You can usually stand close to the camera and press a button on your remote control to trigger the camera’s shutter.

The range of remote shutter releases available on the market varies widely from cheap to expensive. You can often find excellent options offered by third-party manufacturers for a fraction of what you would pay for a product made by a major camera brand.

If you don’t have a remote shutter release, or if you’re not keen on investing, consider using the shutter release delay feature on your camera. Most DSLRs allow you to set a 2-second delay, which means there will be a few seconds before the shutter is released after you press the button. This is enough to stabilize your camera from the initial movement caused by body contact, thus reducing camera shake.

(5) Turn on image stabilization

Image stabilization (also known as shock absorption) is a feature on most telephoto lenses that reduces the risk of taking blurry images. Basically, these lenses have a floating lens element that automatically moves to compensate for camera shake when image stabilization is turned on.

This feature is especially useful when shooting hand-held with a telephoto lens. It’s also a good idea to turn it on for landscape photography in windy conditions, as the image stabilization feature in the telephoto lens cancels out the vibration and movement of the wind on the tripod.

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(6) Choose a medium aperture

Usually, in landscape photography with wide-angle lenses, the goal is to bring everything in focus from the foreground to the rear. This usually means shooting with a smaller aperture – depending on your workflow and scene, this can range from F/8 to F/16, and usually involves shooting multiple images for focus stacking.

Shooting with a telephoto lens is not all that different. You still want to shoot within the best aperture of the lens to ensure that you end up with the sharpest image. In landscape photography, this is known as the lens’ sweet spot, and for most telephoto lenses it will be somewhere between F/8 and F/11.

Not only can you take sharper images with telephoto lenses between these apertures, but you can also ensure adequate depth of field.

(7) Compression scenarios

One of the benefits of using a telephoto lens is the ability to compress the view of the scene. What on earth does that mean? Well, in short, when you shoot parts of the landscape farther from the camera with a telephoto lens, the result is that they look larger and closer to the foreground than they really are.

One such application of this technique is lunar photography. By using a telephoto lens, you can make the moon in the background look very large compared to the subject in the foreground, such as a mountain, simply by pulling it out. If you shoot the same scene at the same distance with a telephoto lens, both the moon and the mountains will appear very small.

Compressing a scene with a telephoto lens has many uses. You can use it for fascinating forest photography, capturing fog and mist in the landscape, and photographing lightning. The possibilities are endless!

(8) The frame should not be too tight.

When taking landscape photography with a telephoto lens, it is important not to frame the picture too tightly. While telephoto lenses are great for removing unnecessary elements or distractions from a composition, a compact frame can reduce the impact of an image and make objects look as if they have been cut off at the edges.

When shooting in the wild, be sure to check the edges of the frame and provide enough breathing room for each element to get a thoughtful and balanced image.

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By the end of this article, you’ll have learned something, and hopefully, you can take some amazing photos soon.

FAQ:

Is a telephoto lens good for landscape?

A telephoto zoom is one of the best lenses that you can have in your camera kit for landscape photography. That’s because such a lens will allow you to isolate objects and other details within the landscape, with a much more narrow depth of field. Telephoto lenses are great for abstract images focusing on details.

What lens should you use for landscape photography?

The ideal combination of lenses for landscape photography is usually a wide-angle lens, standard zoom lens, and telephoto lens. These will usually cover focal lengths all the way from 16mm to 200mm.

What is the difference between telephoto and wide-angle lenses?

A wide-angle lens increases your horizontal scope, while a telephoto lens allows you to focus on a subject from far away. Wide-angle lenses generally have a longer depth of field, which means that they are not the right fit for a situation like a portrait photography, where you only want the subject in sharp focus.

Why do telephoto lenses compress?

Lens compression does occur when you take a picture with a telephoto lens, but it is not because of the lens or its focal length. It is because we tend to stand farther away from our subjects when we use a long lens. The opposite effect occurs when you use a wide-angle lens.

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