What’s a telephoto lens?

A telephoto lens is a long-focus lens that makes subjects appear closer than they actually are. Today, we refer to lenses with a focal length of 60mm or longer as a telephoto lens.

This is the ideal lens for photographers and cinematographers who can’t or don’t want to get close to their subject. It’s often used for sports, weddings, and wildlife shots.

A telephoto lens can be either a prime or a zoom lens. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, such as 88mm or 135mm. Zoom lenses can slide through a range of focal lengths, so a 70-200mm lens could operate in the whole range it covers.

Effect of a telephoto lens

A telephoto lens shows far away objects in great detail and from an accurate perspective. A properly used telephoto lens causes no distortion, so it can show all components of the photo in their actual size. The images appear similar to how humans perceive the relationship between background and foreground in real life.

A telephoto lens can also create an out-of-focus, blurry background, also known as the bokeh effect. Shooting with a long telephoto lens at a wide aperture will help isolate your subject and add a dreamlike quality to your shots.

Shorter telephoto lenses are amazing at creating flattering portraits that look natural and have no distortion.

How to use a telephoto lens

Camera shake is the biggest enemy of great shots with a telephoto lens. Practice and improve your technique or use a stabilization system to make sure your photos are in focus. Many telephoto lenses have built-in stabilization, but with the help of a tripod, you can make sure you capture your subjects with excellent sharpness.

Consider the ideal aperture for the circumstances. The wider your lens opens the more light will be let in, allowing you to take awesome shots at night. A wider aperture will also produce a more shallow depth of field, separating the subject from the background and creating bokeh.

Ready to experiment?

Check out this guide on the best telephoto lens in 2023 on digitalcameraworld.com or rent the lens on Wedio.

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About the instructors

Mazdak Luyeh

Mazdak Luyeh

Creative Philosopher

Copenhagen, Denmark

OUTFOX, founded by Mazdak Luyeh, is a bold Danish PR and communication agency that gathers clever ideas and tell amazing stories with visual expressions that focus on quality.

Gustav Sloth

Gustav Sloth


Aarhus, Denmark

Gustav Idun Sloth is a filmmaker and a co-founder of Movimentum together with Marcus Hasselgaard. They are two creative minds who are passionate about making movies and telling stories.

Kristian Kettner

Kristian Kettner

Film Creator

Risskov, Denmark

Kristian Kettner is a colorist, workflow specialist, and film creator. He started with wedding videography to being the lead colorist on a feature film.

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