Using telephoto lenses handheld can be quite challenging and it may not be easy to get a sharp photo without a tripod. They’re also bulky and heavy, so it can be difficult to even hold them for extended periods of time. But there are ways to make your life easier and your photos sharper even if you don’t want to use a tripod. And in this video, Leigh TheSnapChick will share them with you.
It’s worth noting that telephoto lenses are generally well-balanced, meaning there’s no excessive front or end weight. This alone should help you stabilize the lens when handholding it, but you’ll still need some practice and some techniques to make your photos razor-sharp.
First, optical stabilization is very helpful and very good in modern lenses, so switch it on. It can work wonders when paired with in-body image stabilization in-camera, but it’s enough on its own. Keep in mind that it’s better to turn it off when your camera is on a tripod because in this case, OIS is counter-productive.
Then, make sure to use a fast enough shutter speed to avoid blur. The rule of thumb is to use the shutter speed inverse of your focal length. For example, for a 600mm lens, you’ll need a shutter speed of at least 1/600s. This is a rule of thumb, but it’s not set in stone. Stabilization and your own steadiness can help you use a slower shutter speed than this, and it also depends if your subject is steady or moving. It’s best to make a few test shots before you choose the settings.
Keep in mind that telephoto lenses are usually quite heavy. You’ll literally need to build muscle strength and give yourself time to practice so you can handhold it without having your back or shoulders hurt. The more you use your lens, the steadier you’ll become, but Leigh suggests that it’s not a bad idea to also hit the gym.
There are different ways of standing and holding the camera to make it more stable. They’re helpful, but they won’t magically make your images sharper, so Leigh suggests that you still combine them with other things mentioned above.
While shooting, you can always use something to prop up your lens-holding arm. Lean it against something like a tree branch or a car, especially while you’re waiting for the perfect photo opportunity. No matter how strong you are, no need to force it, right?
Finally, it’s not really handholding, but Leigh suggests that you can use a monopod instead of a tripod to support your lens. She shares an extra tip and it’s not about shooting – it’s about carrying the lens. Since it’s heavy, it’s best to use a sturdy backpack to distribute the weight evenly on your back and shoulders.
I don’t own a telephoto lens, so I don’t have any tips of my own to share. I only used my cousin’s once, and damn it was challenging! So, if you have any other tips and tricks to share, feel free to drop them in the comments below for us telephoto noobs.
[Tips for Managing a Large Telephoto Lens Handheld | Leigh TheSnapChick]
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