Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Telephoto Lens Photography

A telephoto lens will enable you as a photographer to fill the frame with your subject, without actually being that close to them. This type of lens is therefore often used when photographing wildlife or sporting events, where it is not possible to get close to the subject(s). 

There are many other benefits that telephoto lenses have compared to a standard lens:
  • They increase background blur of an image (they produce a shallow depth of field)
  • They flatten the perspective when photographing portraits
  • Not only can they be used to photograph subjects far away, you can produce some really detailed photographs of subjects like flowers and plants using a telephoto lens; the shallow depth of field created by the lens is very effective when photographing these types of subjects.

In this post I have included some photographs that I took with my new telephoto camera lens which is the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. The `IS` used here means `Image Stabilisation`, this comes in very handy as you are often zooming in onto a subject that can be very far away, `IS` therefore reduces camera shake. The `USM` feature of the lens stands for `UltraSonic Motor` which means the lens has a small motor built into its body, enabling it to auto focus faster than a standard lens. 

All these photographs were taken with my telephoto lens on my Canon EOS 500D camera body.
Click on the images to enlarge them.

A Squirrel Climbing a Tree
This photograph was taken in my local park and features a Squirrel that couldn't have posed any better for this photograph. I began by photographing him on the ground before he ran up the tree, stopping half way to turn around and look at me. He froze in this position for a couple of seconds enabling me to take this photograph. I was stood around five metres away from the squirrel when I took the photograph, this demonstrates just how well a telephoto lens works. The shallow depth of field that a telephoto lens creates in photographs is very evident here, with the grass in the background of the image completely out of focus.    

Catch Me If You Can!
At my local Air Show, I spotted a good opportunity to photograph the two main subjects of the show, the aeroplanes and the seagulls, who flocked to the beach where spectators sat with their picnics. After many photographs later, trying to get a seagull and the two aeroplanes in the shot, I managed to produce this image. I caught the seagull with its wings fully extended, filling out the frame of the photograph as the aeroplanes turned in the background, moving in the direction of the seagull. The fast shutter speed I used here has enabled me to capture this moment with the subjects sharply in focus.

A Pigeon Perched on a Fence
I carried some bread in my bag whilst on my visit to the park, in the hope that this would tempt subjects to come closer to me than usual. This pigeon spotted me as I was just putting away my bread bag, it then perched on the fence about two and a half metres away from me, it was then that I took this photograph. I gave the pigeon some bread when I had finished photographing it to reward its efforts as such a fine subject! Although this pigeon was much closer to me then the squirrel was in my previous photograph included in this post, the telephoto lens I used still created a shallow depth of field within my image.


This photograph depicts one of my cats called `Squeak` and was actually one of the first photographs I took with my new telephoto lens. My telephoto lens worked really well in this photograph as it flattened the perspective of the subject, allowing me to get all of him in focus with the background of the image completely blurred. Although Squeak kept moving his head, looking around in different directions, I managed to capture him just as he looked into the lens, producing a rather striking photograph. The grey-scale effect of this image adds great contrast to the photograph and really allows for Squeak's fur pattern to stand out.

Top Tip:
`When using a telephoto lens, use high shutter speeds and a tripod when possible; this will ensure that the subjects within your image appear sharp and in focus.
By using a telephoto lens, you are magnifying an image, this however means that you are magnifying camera movement as well. Therefore, by using fast shutter speeds and a tripod, you will counteract this camera movement.`

If you are really sure you would like to invest in a telephoto lens, then it would be worthwhile investing in a lens hood as well. A lens hood simply fits onto the end of your lens and reduces flare that bright light sources can create within your images, especially if you are shooting towards the light source itself. For my lens, I have a `Canon ET-65B` lens hood, this works really well and stops excess light from entering my lens, reducing flare.

Next week I will be focusing on `Self Portraiture`, so get your cameras at the ready! 


  1. wow! how could you capture the seagull and the planes?! isn't it very difficult? beautiful picture!

  2. Thank you! It took me quite a few photographs to get the perfect image with both the seagull and the planes in the frame. I think that a bit of luck helped as well!