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Why Use A Telephoto Lens For Wildlife Photography?

Here are 4 reasons for using a telephoto lens for wildlife and a few tips on how & what to capture.

|  Animals / Wildlife
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Big Cat

Photo by Joshua Waller


If you're thinking of trying nature or wildlife photography, as well as a camera it's worth investing in a telephoto lens. Why? Well, this is something we'll move on to shortly but first, you need to decide which telephoto lens will work best for you. 

A medium telephoto can be useful for shots taken in and around zoos and wildlife parks but if you're capturing smaller subjects such as birds, even if it's in your own garden, you'll need a telephoto that has much more reach (300mm +). 
For shots of swans and ducks in the park, a shorter telephoto lens will be fine. 


Why A Telephoto? 


Reason 1: Bring The Subject Closer

Apart from the odd swan at the park who is used to people feeding it bread, most wildlife is wary of humans and they will move away, sometimes never returning when people get too close. For this reason, a telephoto lens is needed to bring your subject to you. With a telephoto lens, you'll be able to take shots that look like you were just a few steps away from your subject when really there was quite a bit of distance between you and them. It also means you won't have to waste energy chasing your subject around all day. Instead, set up in a hide, wait patiently and use the pull of your longer focal length to create frame-filling wildlife shots. 



Photo by Joshua Waller

Reason 2: Safety

Having the ability to capture images from further away makes it safer for the photographer when capturing images of what could be considered as a dangerous animal or when your subject's behaviour, such as male deer fighting during mating season, would put you in danger up close. The distance also means the animal is less likely to be startled which will stop them bolting away quickly which could cause them or other animals that are around them injury if they begin to panic. 




Reason 3: Pleasing Perspective

When shooting with telephotos it can be easier to produce shots where the subject is separated from the background as the zone of sharpness is more restricted.

Bird of Prey


Reason 4: Shoot 'Through' Fences

Wildlife parks and zoos make it easier for photographers to get closer to wildlife, but mesh fences can be a particular annoyance and can ruin a great shot. However, if you're using a lens with a longer focal range, it can be quite easy to eliminate fences from shots. Similar results can be produced on lenses with wider apertures on offer, meaning users with lenses that have smaller focal lengths can still produce mesh-free images. Basically, you need to set a wide aperture, place the lens over one of the gaps and once there's some distance between your subject and the fence, click the shutter button. 




Points To Remember When Using A Telephoto


Point 1: Shake

Telephotos have a habit of magnifying the slightest bit of camera shake so either use a support such as a tripod or monopod or stick to higher shutter speeds. Switching up the ISO will help you achieve quicker shutter speeds or you could invest in a faster lens. 


Point 2: Focus 

When working with a subject in the distance, the autofocus system can get easily confused by blades of grass etc. that may be positioned closer to your lens and it'll focus on these rather than the bird etc. in the distance. This is why it's often worth switching to manual focus so you can have full control over what's your main focal point. 

Rock Hopper

Photo by Joshua Waller

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Dukatum 9 5 United Kingdom
6 Sep 2016 7:15AM
Another shallow article with no depth no research no show off knowledge by actually explaining.
2 Feb 2020 6:38PM
There are always times when railings etc. prevent you from getting close to the fence/mesh, so you can't lose the wire, in that case if you can't lose it, use it.....

deant 11 3.8k United Kingdom
6 Sep 2020 10:39AM

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