Buy Wide Maximum Aperture Lenses
There are many examples where manufacturers have two or more lenses with the same focal length range but one is much more expensive. This is usually because the maximum aperture is wider. There are several advantages to wider maximum apertures. First, the ability to shoot handheld in lower light levels without raising the ISO (so enabling better quality images, or shots you couldn’t otherwise take). Second, the ability to create very shallow depth of field for creative effect. And third, the fact that you’ll get a brighter viewfinder (which also often results in faster AF). So in short, if you can afford a wider maximum aperture, go for it.
Use Primes For Best Quality
Zoom lenses are deservedly popular for their convenience, but prime lenses, which offer only a single focal length, have many advantages. First, the optical quality is usually superior, because it has been optimised to be master of a single focal length, rather than a jack of many. Second, prime lenses are smaller and lighter than zooms. Even though two or three primes may be heavier than one zoom that covers all their ranges, you’ve only got one on your camera at a time. Third, the maximum apertures are usually wider. Finally, prime lenses can often be inexpensive, especially the 50mm standard lens.
Tips For Telephotos
Shoot sports and wildlife
Telephotos are ideal for some wildlife and sports situations where it is either dangerous or impractical to get close enough otherwise – motor racing, for example. With wildlife many subjects are either shy and would flee if they saw you – or in the case of dangerous predators it’s you who would need to run away!
Make distant subjects seem closer
Telephotos make far-away subjects appear closer to you. The longer the telephoto the closer they will make subjects appear, but the bigger and heavier the lens is likely to be.
Fill the frame
Telephoto lenses are ideal for filling the frame with your subject. They’re ideal when you want a really tight crop without having to move closer. Short telephotos are popular for head and shoulder portraits, where moving closer to them may intimidate the subject and produce an unflattering perspective.
Shoot candids without being seen
Telephotos can be useful for candid portraits in street and travel photography. They enable you to capture the natural activity of a situation as opposed to the contrived look of a posed shot. Children in particular often play up for the camera. Shoot quickly to avoid being seen. One strategy is to pan the camera and shoot as your subject comes into view – this can confuse subjects as to what you’re photographing.
Beware of camera shake
As well as magnifying the scene, telephoto lenses also magnify any shaking in your hand – as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to hold a pair of binoculars steady. This means you’ll need to use faster shutter speeds than you would with shorter lenses if you want to avoid camera shake. A rule of thumb is to not shoot at shutter speeds lower than the focal length you’re shooting at, so stay above 1/300th sec if using a 300mm lens. When shopping for a telephoto or tele-zoom it’s well worth investing in one with optical imagestabilisation built in, if you’re a Canon or Nikon user – though if you use Pentax, Sony or Olympus this feature is built into the camera.
Isolate the subject
A telephoto lens at a wide aperture can produce a shallow depth of field which is great for isolating a subject within a scene. It could be a face in a crowd, a wildlife subject against distracting foliage or a flower within a field of them. This helps keep the viewers’ attention on the subject by blurring distracting backgrounds.
Tips for Wideangles
Get more in
Wideangles let you get more in shot without having to step back. They’re great for group shots in confined spaces, or large buildings without having to walk such a long way back.
Increase the sense of distance
Wideangles increase the perception of relative distance between objects within the scene, making distant objects seem much further away, and much further from elements closer to the lens. So they’re ideal for ‘elongating’ a scene.
Wideangles can be unflattering for portraits because they have the effect of elongating noses and chins, and making heads disproportionately larger than the body (if shooting from above), although from low down they can make a model’s legs look longer, which can flatter. With care and the right subject though, wideangles can be used to create dynamic images with a contemporary fashion style look.
Wideangles can distort straight lines
When a camera fitted with a wideangle is tilted so that it isn’t parallel with the subject some perspective distortion can occur, and the more wideangle the lens the more pronounced this will be. It is most obvious where there are straight lines in a shot, such as, say, a building. Tilting the camera up to get the top in makes the sides of the building lean inwards. This can be used creatively, but if you don’t want the effect then keep the camera level.
Wideangles make elements close to the camera seem disproportionately large compared with those further away, thus emphasising their importance. This makes them great for landscapes (where you can draw attention to rocks or a fallen tree stump in the foreground) and for environmental portraits, when you want your subject to dominate the foreground but you also want to show their surroundings.