PhotoChat; Long Shots (Telephotography)

PhotoChat is a weekly conversation between Photography Pro’s and Amateurs that takes place on Thursdays at 1PM EST hosted by Prime Social Marketing. To follow the conversation or take part use #Photochat on Twitter.

This blog post covers my longer answers to the questions that are condensed then put into tweets for the Photochat.

Q1: Why or why don’t you shoot from afar? What advantages or drawbacks does longer-distance telephoto photography bring with it?

Using a long lens is great when your subject is far away and you cannot clearly define them in the frame. Using a telephoto in this case would be a distinct advantage. Another advantage is when you actually need distance from your subject, for example when shooting wildlife. You want to have great images of a calf feeding from a mare but you don’t want to get close in case you scare off the child and parent, a long lens helps bridge the distance, letting you get the shot with the animal not disturbed. The same principle can be used for dangerous animals, with the lens giving you and the beast space for your safety.


With using long distance lenses there are some major disadvantages that you need to creatively work around. The first being the speed of the lens, looking at Canon lenses from 500mm and up you are looking at the fastest F/stop being between F4-5.6 you won’t find lenses at F2 when you go to the larger sizes. With a slow lens means longer shutter speeds, meaning a higher ISO and in turn more noise. Another issue would be shallow DOF, so more precise focusing is needed.

Q2: Do you take photos of people from afar? If so, how do you approach the situation or put malevolent misconceptions at ease?

I generally don’t like to shoot portraits from afar unless it is to create a voyeuristic feel to the image, or to have people placed in a larger context. The reason I don’t do it is because using a long lens to cross a distance feels like spying and invading the person privacy even in public. If you have to use a large lens to capture a shot of somebody then in my opinion that person has gone out of their way to have some privacy and you are now invading it.


Some people may have chosen to go to the beach with the intention of sun bathing, in taking a picture beyond the eyesight of the subject without their knowledge I find unethical as a photographer. Why are you taking an image like this when you could go and speak to the person and then get a better image using a better lens suited to portraiture.

Q3: What issues have you encountered when shooting telephoto (technical or otherwise)? How do you remedy the problems?

I don’t shoot a lot of telephoto stuff, but things like camera shake, chromatic aberration, noise and lens flares I could foresee as issues. Noise is something you can’t really work against if you are forced to use a higher ISO, though a good noise reduction software and work flow can work to reduce it. With camera shake using a monopod (when using a large heavy lens) or a tripod to reduce camera shake. I have been known to use my hand as an extension to the camera hood to reduce lens flares on very bright days. Chromatic aberration can be reduced by stopping down your lens by one or two stops from your largest aperture (the smallest numbered F-stop) when shooting a long exposure.

Q4: Tell us about (and share!) a long shot you’re most proud of capturing.


It’s a 300mm shot of a squirrel I saw in my local park. On this day I had seen a few squirrels and the only way to photograph them was to use a long lens as they are skittish creatures not liking people coming to close to them. I had my small telephoto with me and followed the squirrel into a small canopied area full of fur trees. It was quite gloomy with little available light and the light I had I would be shooting towards with the squirrel sat in-between. With no tripod I knew I would need to use a fast aperture  (5.6 on this lens at this focal length). With an ISO of 800 and not wanting to push to high because of the low light conditions I braced myself against a tree with the tree adding extra support to the camera and took pictures in bursts ( against all the rules I say about shooting faster than your focal length) at 1/20 of a second. The outcome was a great image of the squirrel peering down the tree at me.

Q5: If you need to get that long shot but find yourself without the right equipment, what are your options to get the job done?

If are not close enough with your biggest lens you need to use your pedes zoom (your feet).


I would love to know what your opinions to the questions are. Do you agree or disagree with my answers? Either way you can let me know using the comment box below.

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2 thoughts on “PhotoChat; Long Shots (Telephotography)

  1. As a regular user of the 800mm F5.6 IS lens I can tell you technique is critical. As is a tripod. Some folks use a monopod but I’m a tripod man. Shallow DoF is sometimes a challenge – when you put on a 1.4x TC your maximum aperture is F8. They are mighty heavy. You can use a gimbal head and I used to do so a lot but I have reverted to the RRS 55 ballhead. It takes a lot of practice to do BIFs (birds in flight) with an 800mm lens. The field of view is small and sometimes I struggle even to find the bird! But when the bird comes within range the 800 can produce gorgeous results but don’t expect miracles at slow speeds or high ISOs. My min shutter speed is normally 1/1000! My favourite telephoto lens is the 400 F5.6 (or F4 DO) – very versatile indeed. Great travel lens.

    • This sounds like great advice and I thank you for commenting as I do not use really long lens with my images. I like the idea of using a ball head tripod for panning and following your subject.

      Thanks for commenting

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