I started my photo tip series on photographing people with a post that briefly mentioned the usage of long (telephoto) lenses. I wanted to make sure that photographers knew how to approach people, getting up close with wide-angle lenses, instead of relying on shooting from afar with telephoto lenses. But now that everyone is up to speed, let’s not forget the benefits of all of the tools in the camera bag.
Creative, not Creepy
If you’re drawn to pull out your long lens to photograph people, just make sure you are using it for creative or practical usages instead of as a crutch out of fear of speaking to a stranger. You don’t want to be the photographer across the street aiming a huge lens at someone and then running away when you’ve been spotted.
Isolate the Subject
Compared to wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses naturally give us less depth of field in our photographs. This helps to isolate our subject and lessens a distracting background. But be aware that this also makes locking focus on your subject even more critical.
Gets You Closer
Long lenses are a godsend when you simply can’t get physically closer to the subject like at performances, events, and parades. They are also helpful when it isn’t practical or polite to intrude on private moments.
Wide or Long?
Why not both? Given my druthers, I’d pack along my 24-70mm any day, but if I’m also toting a long lens, I’ll shoot with both. The more I’ve used long lenses in the last few years for wildlife photography, the more I enjoy also using it for landscapes and people.
The beautiful thing about photography is that it is subjective. I don’t believe there are rules, only guidelines which can be learned and then pushed, allowing for pure creative exploration. I hope that these posts have given you insight into my creative photographic process with photographing people and inspires you to pick up your camera and start shooting.
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