How Does a Telephoto Lens Work? [Defined, Tips, and Examples]

A telephoto lens can change everything in photography. It can improve your photos by allowing you to take photographs of a subject that is further away. It also magnifies the subject in your frame. When people think of telephoto lenses, they often think that they are the same thing as a zoom lens. However, they are not the same. A telephoto lens is a lens that has a focal length of 60 mm or more.

What Is a Telephoto Lens?

A telephoto lens is not the same thing as a zoom lens. They come in different focal lengths, but are usually more than 60 mm. You can find a medium telephoto lens that is 70 to 200 mm, or there is a super telephoto lens that is greater than 300 mm. They can be zoom lenses, but they can also be prime lenses. The key is that they are based on the length of the lens rather than whether or not it can zoom.

What Is a Telephoto Lens

Uses of Telephoto Lenses

There are different reasons that a photographer might use a telephoto lens. Take a look at some of the most common ones.

Uses of Telephoto Lenses

1. They Help Shoot Subjects That Are Further Away

One of the most common reasons that photographers use a telephoto lens is to take pictures of subjects that are off in the distance. This works well when you need to take photos of something that you can’t get close to. You might use a telephoto lens when you are shooting a wild animal that could be dangerous, or you could use it to shoot a game from the stands.

Sometimes you might want distance between you and the subject because the telephoto lens will make the subject appear closer than they are. This can help you show the relationship between your subject and the environment around it.

2. You Can Emphasize a Blurred Background

Sometimes photographers want to focus on a subject by blurring the background. They can use a telephoto lens with the widest aperture on the camera to create this effect. This is a common technique in portrait photography, where you see a subject in focus with a blurred background behind it.

This effect is easier to achieve when you use a longer telephoto lens with a wide aperture. The telephoto lens makes your subject look smaller in the foreground, but it keeps the background the same size. This allows you to blur the background when you take these photos.

3. They Create More Flattering Photos of People

Another reason that photographers use telephoto lenses for portrait photography is that they create more flattering photos of people. The subject will be smaller in the frame, which can have the effect of making facial features more proportional in the photograph. In addition, the blurred background makes the subject stand out.

What Are the Most Common Focal Lengths for Telephoto Lenses?

A telephoto lens is a lens with a focal length of 60 mm or more. There are a variety of choices, and each one is best suited for certain types of photography. Take a look at some common focal lengths and what they are most commonly used for.

1. 70 to 200 mm Telephoto Lens

This is one of the most popular focal lengths for a telephoto lens. These lenses are versatile and produce great photos in a variety of situations. When you set it to 70 mm, you won’t be too far from your subject, but you can shoot subjects that are moving because you have the range. This lens is often used for portrait photography and weddings, as well as sports and wildlife.

2. 85 mm Telephoto Lens

The 85 mm telephoto lens is a prime lens, and it is very popular for portraits and weddings. You will get a flattering photo of your subject with a blurred background. Your subject is far off, but it is still somewhat close to you. The main reason that photographers choose this lens over the 70 to 200 mm lens is that it is a prime lens, and you can use a wider aperture. This works well if you are shooting in low light, and the lens is lighter than the longer zoom lenses.

3. 100 to 400 mm Telephoto Lens

This telephoto lens allows you to shoot photos that are even further away, and it is popular for wildlife and sports photography. They work well in situations where your subject is far away and you aren’t able to get close to them. When you shoot wildlife, you might want to take photos of a dangerous animal that you can’t get close to, or you might be photographing birds or other animals that you can’t reach. You won’t be able to use a wide aperture, so you will want to stick to an environment that has good lighting. In addition, this lens is going to be heavier and larger than other lenses.

4. 135 mm Prime Telephoto Lens

The 135 mm prime telephoto lens is another popular lens for weddings and portraits. You can shoot subjects that are further away than you can with the 85 mm lens, but you still get great bokeh, or background blur. This lens can also make two subjects in the distance appear closer to each other.

5. 600 mm Prime Telephoto Lens

These telephoto lenses are 600 mm or greater, and they are excellent for wildlife or sports photography. You can get clear photos of subjects that are very far away, and you can use a wide aperture. The biggest problem with this type of lens is that it is very large, and it is also very expensive.

Tips on Using a Telephoto Lens

There are several considerations when you are using a telephoto lens. First, camera shake can be a problem. Although these lenses often have image stabilization built in, it can be difficult to hold the camera steady because the lens is long and heavy. You may need to use a tripod, especially if you are shooting subjects that are stationary.

You need to be familiar with the aperture when you use a telephoto lens. The aperture will have a number, such as f/1.8. If it has a smaller number, it means that the lens will open wider. When it opens wider, it will allow more light to enter. This is useful if you are taking photos in low light. It also allows your shutter speed to be faster, which improves your ability to capture the shot you want.

Finally, you can take photos with a shallow depth of field when you use a telephoto lens. If you use a wide aperture and have space between yourself and your subject, you can blur the background and create some stunning shots.

Final Words

Using a telephoto lens allows you to take some amazing photos. Many people think that a telephoto lens is a zoom lens, but this isn’t always the case. Some telephoto lenses are also zoom lenses, while others are prime lenses.

Telephoto lenses come in different focal lengths, so you need to decide what your goals are when you choose one. They allow you to take flattering photos of your subjects with a blurred background. You can make far away subjects appear closer than they are, and they are great for weddings, portraits, wildlife, and sporting events.

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