Shooting landscape with a Telephoto

Shooting Landscape with a telephoto lens

Photo Tip Friday February 28, 2014

When you’re shooting landscape images, the temptation is to reach for a wide-angle lens and try to include everything your eye can see. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but for a more intimate view you can add impact to your images by learning how to use a telephoto lens to pick out key features within the bigger picture.

So next time you head out to capture landscape images, consider using your telephoto for a new challenge in your photography life. This article will cover some guidelines and good habits for using telephoto in landscape photography.

By emphasizing the most visually striking elements (such as light, patterns, textures, etc.), you can add real impact to pictures and make them much stronger in terms of composition. When you use a telephoto lens for your landscapes, keep it simple and concentrate on what matters.

There are no solid rules for how to shoot longer focal lengths rather than wide, and you’ll often do both during a shoot. Landscapes that work well with the telephoto approach are those that contain interesting compositional elements.

These could include a line of trees, a single isolated tree branch or building, dry-stone walls, meandering rivers, peaked mountains, interesting field patterns and colour contrasts, or simply a good play of light and shade.


Shooting landscape with a telephoto can be very challenging
Shooting landscape with a telephoto can be very challenging


The thing to look for is a strong feature that will form the focal point or primary visual impact of the picture. You can then use this to make an interesting composition.


Composition is the key in shooting landscape with a telephoto
Composition is the key in shooting landscape with a telephoto


What equipment do you recommend?

A telephoto zoom somewhere in the range of 70-300mm is ideal, but I have shot some amazing photos with 400mm lens.

400mm telephoto can create amazing landscape images
400mm telephoto can create amazing landscape images


You will need a sturdy tripod for good support and a shutter release can be handy, although it isn’t essential. Now all you need is a suitable subject.

One advantage of using a telephoto lens to shoot landscapes is that the simplicity of the images makes it easy to find good subjects in almost any rural environment.

When shooting landscape with a telephoto keep it simple
When shooting landscape with a telephoto keep it simple


A barn in a field or an old rusty car are some examples. If you let your imagination roam freely you will notice subject matter everywhere. Keep this in mind when you’re travelling around locally, and make a note of anything that might work well. Then return when the weather or lighting conditions are at their best.

As with all landscapes, lighting is key to a successful image. However, you can shoot in almost any conditions provided you have the right subject.

The aperture setting you choose to use will determine how much or how little of the scene is in focus (DOF).

Using a telephoto lens reduces the depth of field, so to maximize the area in focus you may need to use f/16 or f/22. On the plus side, though, depth of field increases with distance from the subject, so the two factors will often cancel each other out.

Alternatively, you may wish to isolate an element within the picture using selective focusing.

Composing the perfect telephoto landscape

When using a telephoto lens to shoot landscapes, composition is key so take your time to get it right. There are several things to consider when you use a telephoto lens.

The first and perhaps best known rule is the Rule of Thirds, whereby the scene is divided up by four equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines, with the focal point of the image placed on one of these lines or intersections (learn how to use and break the Rule of Thirds with confidence).

The second rule is to keep the horizon straight. It is very important especially when you use a telephoto. (And yes, we can straighten the horizon in post production – but why not get it right in camera?)

If you are shooting on a tripod and with a slow shutter speed, remember to turn off the image stabilization; this is rule number three.

Rule number four is about Mirror Lock up. If your camera is equipped with mirror lock up and you shoot at slower shutter speed, I highly recommend using this feature to minimize any chance of camera movement blurring your shot.

That is all for this Friday. We are planning some Photo Walks coming up in Spring. Stay tuned and make your telephoto ready for landscape photography.

We do have some fabulous telephoto lenses and tripods in stock for rentals. Contact us to book a lens or tripod for new photography adventures in Landscape photography by using a telephoto.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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