How to Click Sharp Photos with Telephoto Lens

telephoto lens photos

With the introduction of affordable telephoto lenses such as Sigma Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM and Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD, many photography enthusiasts have started taking interest in wildlife and sports photography.

There might be cases when you are clueless about why you are not able to click sharp images using a telephoto lens, even I have struggled to get sharp results in the beginning. Through this post, I would be sharing all possible tips you can bring into practice which will help you click sharp photos.

Selecting Shutter Speed

One of the most common reasons of not getting sharp images is because of the slight shake that is caused when you click the shutter release button on the camera. Relax, there is an easy solution to this problem.

While shooting with a telephoto lens, make sure you are using a shutter speed which is equal or more than the reciprocal of the focal length. Let’s take an example, suppose you are shooting at 400mm focal length, you should set the shutter speed at least at 1/400 sec or faster (1/500, 1/1000, etc) to minimize the camera shake. This rule would work on a full frame camera only.

On a crop sensor camera (APS-C), you will have to multiply the focal length at which you would be shooting by 1.5x (Nikon) or 1.6x (Canon). While shooting at 400mm on a crop sensor camera, the effective focal length would be 600mm (Nikon) or 640mm (Canon). This means that you will have to choose a shutter speed of 1/600 sec or faster to get sharp photos.

telephoto lens photos

Selecting Aperture

As you must be familiar of the fact that shooting at the widest aperture (smallest F number) results in shallow depth of field, eliminating the background from the subject in focus. The depth of field plays a vital role in wildlife and sports photography, and so does the sharpness of the subject.

I would suggest you to avoid using the smallest f/ number and instead shoot at sweet spot of your lens (usually ranging between f/8-f/11), which will help you capture maximum sharpness in the overall image. In some situations, you might have to shoot at the minimum f/ number because of limited light available, which is absolutely fine.

Selecting ISO

If you are shooting wildlife, you might have to compromise on the ISO sensitivity as you have to prioritize the selection of required shutter speed and aperture value. You need high shutter speed to freeze the moment and aperture value with does make your image soft.

Considering that you would be using high shutter speed and aperture value ranging between f/8-f/11, you will have to boost up your ISO. Well, it is better to get a sharp and freezing moment with some grains in it, than capturing a grain-free image with less sharpness or blurry effect.

telephoto lens photos

Use Tripod/Monopod

The make sure there is no shake at all while shooting from a telephoto lens, mount your lens on a steady tripod or a monopod. The majority of telephoto lenses has a tripod collar which lets you mount the lens on a tripod/monopod. This extra stability gives you the freedom to use slow shutter speed or higher aperture value to capture creative photos.

Shooting handheld could be a pain if you are at a bird sanctuary or a football match which means that you will have to shoot continuously for hours. Using a tripod/monopod can help you carry the weight of the lens and you can concentrate on the framing of the scene.

Image Stabilization

Using image stabilization (Canon) or vibration reduction (Nikon) while shooting handheld using a telephoto lens helps you capture sharp images in situations such as panning along with the moving subject.

NOTE: Always switch off the IS or VR switch when your camera is mounted on a tripod/monopod, as this advanced feature can actually introduce minor shake in the camera.

telephoto lens photos

Use Back Button Focus

If you use your shutter release button both for focusing and shooting, there are chances that you might miss capturing a moment.  By the time your camera focuses on the subject and you press the shutter release button fully, the moment is gone.

You can dedicate a button located on the back side of your camera for focusing, and shoot using the shutter release button. This will comparatively increase the focusing speed of your camera. This technique is known as back button focusing.

Breath Right

Here is a small trick, breath in while you are framing the shot, and once you are almost done with breathing out press the shutter release button. This will minimize the possible movement caused by your body during the breathing process.

Did I miss any important point? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About Author

Kunal Malhotra
Kunal Malhotra, a photography enthusiast whose passion for photography started 6 years back during his college days. Kunal is also a photography blogger, based out of Delhi. He loves sharing his knowledge about photography with fellow aspiring photographers by writing regular posts on his blog: The Photography Blogger. Some of his favourite genres of photography are Product, Street, Fitness and Architecture.