Telephoto Lenses: What Are They?
Telephoto lenses are generally thought of as being used to take photos of distant subjects – and of course this is true. Wildlife photographers use long telephotos to make frame filling pictures of tiny birds, or animals that are too shy to get near to.
I used a long telephoto to photograph this Acer leaf (left) which was right at the top of a tree – it would have been impossible to make a frame filling photo with a standard focal length.
But photographing distant subjects is far from being the only use of a long lens.
So first, what is the definition of a telephoto lens? In full frame camera terms, a standard focal length is 50mm, and a medium telephoto may be thought to start at around 70mm.
A medium telephoto lens can be a great lens for portrait photography. A “full” telephoto focal length is probably 135mm and longer.
The longer the lens, the more powerful it is in terms of bringing distant objects closer and enabling a frame-filling image.
Imagine that you’re looking at a wide landscape, with flowers in the foreground, a house in the mid-ground over to the right, a copse of trees on the left, and some mountains in the distance.
If you use a wide-angle lens, you will probably include all of these elements in your photograph.
If you use a long telephoto lens, however, you can be much more selective, and pick out just one or two of the elements.
One of the most interesting characteristics of telephoto lenses is that they compress and flatten the perspective in a scene.
This means that they diminish the appearance of depth, and compress the apparent distance between nearer and further objects.
I used the longest end of my telephoto lens (300mm) to fill the frame with the morning moon (right) hanging over a distant mountain peak.
You can see how this has flattened the perspective and makes the mountain look almost two-dimensional.
Also, in a photograph of the same subject from the same place, a telephoto lens will give you a much shallower depth of field than a wide-angle or standard lens.
This gives you lots of scope for creating lovely out of focus backgrounds behind your subject.
The longer focal lengths also mean that you can frame carefully, and exclude unwanted objects, and perhaps create a more personal interpretation of a scene than you might with a wider focal length.
Telephotos are great – whether you’re using an enormous 600mm prime lens, or the long end of your compact zoom – enjoy!
Now that summer is here we can look forward to some lovely long, hot days with plenty of sunshine. Gorgeous! But although bright sunlight lifts our spirits and feels so good for us in many ways, it can cause its own special problems for photography. […]
95% of the gear I use to create high-end advertising images, videos, and commercials is the highest end stuff you can buy. Tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and production often comes together for much of the commercial work you see. This […]
After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]
Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]
Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.
Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]
I love the texture of old heritage photos, particularly those that have been kicking around for some years and which have managed to accumulate folds and crinkles. While it can take many years for a printed photo to develop this sort of quality, luckily Photoshop […]
Five of the world’s top Olympic sports photographers talk about what it’s like to shoot the biggest sporting event in the world. Getty Images photographer Streeter Lecka puts it best: “The Olympics are unlike anything you will ever shoot in sports,” he says. “For professional […]
Camera makers are trying everything to revive the tanking market of low-end shooters. Their latest gambit? Insanely long zooming cameras that reach across vast swaths of land. But zoom is just another sweet-sounding spec that could leave you with crappier pictures. Way back in the […]