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Telephoto Lenses

Lesson 22 from: Fundamentals of Photography 2016

John Greengo

Telephoto Lenses

Lesson 22 from: Fundamentals of Photography 2016

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

22. Telephoto Lenses

Next Lesson: Angle of View Q&A


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Welcome to Photography


Camera Types Overview


Viewing Systems


Viewing Systems Q&A


Lens Systems


Shutter Systems


Shutter Speeds


Choosing a Shutter Speed


Shutter Speeds for Handholding


Shutter Speed Pop Quiz


Camera Settings


General Camera Q&A


Sensor Sizes: The Basics


Sensor Sizes: Compared






Sensor Q&A


Focal Length: Overview


Focal Length: Angle of View


Wide Angle Lenses


Telephoto Lenses


Angle of View Q&A


Fish Eye Lenses


Tilt & Shift Lenses


Subject Zone


Lens Speed


Aperture Basics


Depth of Field


Aperture Pop Quiz


Lens Quality


Photo Equipment Life Cycle


Light Meter Basics




Histogram Pop Quiz and Q&A


Dynamic Range


Exposure Modes


Manual Exposure


Sunny 16 Rule


Exposure Bracketing


Exposure Values


Exposure Pop Quiz


Focus Overview


Focusing Systems


Autofocus Controls


Focus Points


Autofocusing on Subjects


Manual Focus


Digital Focusing Assistance


Focus Options: DSLR and Mirrorless


Shutter Speeds for Sharpness and DoF


Depth of Field Pop Quiz


Depth of Field Camera Features


Lens Sharpness


Camera Movement


Handheld and Tripod Focusing


Advanced Techniques


Hyperfocal Distance


Hyperfocal Quiz and Focusing Formula


Micro adjust and AF Fine Tune


Focus Stacking and Post Sharpening


Focus Problem Pop Quiz


The Gadget Bag: Camera Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Lens Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Neutral Density Filter


The Gadget Bag: Lens Hood and Teleconverters


The Gadget Bag: Lens Adapters


The Gadget Bag: Lens Cleaning Supplies


The Gadget Bag: Macro Lenses and Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Flash and Lighting


The Gadget Bag: Tripods and Accessories


The Gadget Bag: Custom Cases


10 Thoughts on Being a Photographer


Direct Sunlight


Indirect Sunlight


Sunrise and Sunset


Cloud Light


Golden Hour


Light Pop Quiz


Light Management


Artificial Light




Off-Camera Flash


Advanced Flash Techniques


Editing Overview


Editing Set-up


Importing Images


Best Use of Files and Folders




Develop: Fixing in Lightroom


Develop: Treating Your Images


Develop: Optimizing in Lightroom


Art of Editing Q&A


Composition Overview


Photographic Intrusions


Mystery and Working the Scene


Point of View


Better Backgrounds


Unique Perspective


Angle of View


Subject Placement


Subject Placement Q&A




Multishot Techniques




Human Vision vs The Camera


Visual Perception


Visual Balance Test


Visual Drama


Elements of Design


The Photographic Process


Working the Shot


The Moment


One Hour Photo - Colby Brown


One Hour Photo - John Keatley


One Hour Photo - Art Wolfe


One Hour Photo - Rocco Ancora


One Hour Photo - Mike Hagen


One Hour Photo - Lisa Carney


One Hour Photo - Ian Shive


One Hour Photo - Sandra Coan


One Hour Photo - Daniel Gregory


One Hour Photo - Scott Robert Lim


Lesson Info

Telephoto Lenses

So let's jump in on the other side of the 50-millimeter lens. Let's go up to the telephoto lens. 100 millimeters, and when I say 100, I'm also talking about the 85s, the 90s, the 105s, even the 135s I throw into this short telephoto category. And so these are really good when you're not allowed to get any closer. When I was in Athens and I wanted to shoot the guards crossing here, there's a line. There's a physical line that you are not to cross, and so you can't get any closer, perfect for a short telephoto lens. Great for details. You don't wanna get too close and bump into the classic cars. So you're gonna stand back a little bit and get this little detailed area. And this is a really really valuable type of lens because, as I said before in the wide angle, it's very rare that I find myself in an environment where everything in front of me looks really nice. What's far more common is I see an area that's really got something nice to it, and this telephoto lens is perfect for those a...

reas of detail. This is also where you're gonna find macro lenses. And so if you are interested in details or close ups, it's these short telephotos that you're gonna want to look at really closely. More than anything else, these short telephotos are known as portrait lenses. And so if you like doing people photography, really showing someone's face and doing it so that, you can see a lot of character in it and it's not distorted and it's easy to work with, it's that 85, 100, 105, 135, lot of little variables in there, but it's right in there that most people like shooting with those portrait lenses and part of the reason is we get this shallow depth of field. Look at the background on both of these photos. Very out of focus, just the subject's eyes and face are in focus. It's also a comfortable working distance between your subject. One of the things is it's being too close to your subject is kind of awkward. It doesn't feel comfortable, and so this puts you at a nice comfortable working distance from your subject. The longest lens that you are undoubtedly going to want to have is the 200-millimeter lens. So I think pretty much all photographers should have something that goes roughly between 24 and 200. If you don't have that range, you're probably gonna want that range. 200 is a nice, it's still in the medium telephoto range. We're not into any sort of super telephoto range. But this is great for pulling out those details in subjects that are a little bit further away. We are starting to get a little bit of that compression effect, which can be really nice. Very clearly here, the rower compressed against the city in the background, great for pulling off those details. These were hanging up above my head. I couldn't shoot this with a 50-millimeter lens because they were too high up in the air. One of the things about the is because of the angle of view, the background is becoming reduced in size, and so I can pick out a particular part of the background and frame my subject really up against that background. But once again, also good for portraits. And so it just kinda depends on how far away you want to be from your subject in that 85 to 200-millimeter range, very good portrait range. The biggest lens that most people would ever own is a 400-millimeter lens. This also coincides pretty well with the largest lens that most people can hand hold very easily. And so I know a lot of people who've made that kind of epic trip to Africa to go on safari, and the most common lens that they will usually take with them is a 400-millimeter lens. Kinda everything after that really gets pretty big and unwieldy and very, very costly, but there's a number of good 400-millimeter lenses. And if you have the crop-frame sensor, you only need 250, and there's a lot of 250 or 300-millimeter lenses which are quite small and relatively inexpensive. And so it's not that hard to get to if you have things that are much further away from you that you're trying to get. So compressing the sun and the city all into one frame, that's perfect subject material for a 400-millimeter lens. Shooting really tight details from a very far off distance. Picking out little details in nature or wildlife, and so this is kind of the start of wildlife-type lenses. Here's one of my favorite examples showing compression. This is the very large array down in New Mexico, and these satellite dishes, I think there are seven of them here, it's kind of interesting, just a little side topic here. This antenna system is basically a lens and it is what would be arguably, maybe, I'm not sure, the world's largest zoom lens because what they do is they take the antennas and they move them back and forth, which is why they have the double railroad tracks here. And so what they do is they move the antennas for about three or four months and they do a bunch of readings and scans and so forth and then they move them out or they move them in and they go back and forth. Right now, they are spread out about as far as they can go. From one satellite to the next is a little less than a 1/2 mile from each one, and so from the front one to the back one it's like three and 1/2 miles or something. And so that's a great example of compression with a telephoto lens. All right, so the telephoto lens, some thoughts on this. So magnifies your subject when you can't get closer. So anything that you or just physically can't or not allowed to get closer, perfect for that. It's gonna render a shallow depth of field. Remember a lot of those shots in that series had shallow depth of field. That's what these telephoto lenses tend to do. It's gonna minimize the background areas. So if you didn't have much background to work with, a telephoto lens and some working distance and you can probably get a shot with a very clean background, and that compression effect that we've been talking about, and finally, it does kind of flatten your subject. It doesn't have quite that three-dimensional feel that some of the wider angle lenses do. So I wanted to take all of the lenses out and shoot them in a different way. I showed you before what all the different angles of view look like when I stand in the same spot. And so in this case, I'm going to be moving forwards and backwards, but our subject is gonna be staying exactly the same size in the frame. So this is with the 50-millimeter lens. Let's go in a little closer with the 35. Notice what's happening to the background as we go down to a 16-millimeter lens, and we'll go all the way in to a fisheye lens. Our subject is staying the same size. Now let's zoom out. I'm physically about four feet away from her feet right now, and now I'm about five feet away, and eight feet away, 12 feet away, and I forget the rest of the differences, but notice what's happening to the background as we get into these telephotos. One of the things I said is that it minimizes the background when using telephotos. Look at those stairs as we go to 400 and 800. And so I've chosen a very small area in which to frame her with that telephoto lens. I'll go all the way back down to 15 real quick, come back to it just cause this is kinda fun to see. And so this is, in the movie industry, this is called a dolly zoom or a Hitchcock zoom or any number of another types of zooms. There's a number of movies that will use this effect, but it's kind of fun to try this with still photographs as well. So I am moving back and forth and I am far enough away from her that I have to yell to let her know (chuckles) when I'm actually gonna shoot the photo cause it's so far with an 800-millimeter lens. So you guys ready for a little in-class experiment here? People are often wondering what lens should I use for this, all right, and so everybody put your notes down. You need your hands free for this. And so if you want to know what a 50-millimeter lens looks like, follow along with me. All right, so you need your hands like this. Now you put your thumbs together, now move them apart about six inches or so. Your elbows should be kinda bent. They're not all the way out, they're just kinda bent. And if you wanna close one eye, you can close one eye and kinda just twist around a little bit, and that's about what you're gonna see with a 50-millimeter lens. And so if you ever seen a Grade-B Hollywood director holding their hands up like that, they're trying to figure out what that lens is, so that's your 50. So let's do the 35-millimeter lens. The 35-millimeter lens is about the same and this is were you just have your thumbs a little bit further apart. So this is just a slightly wide-angle lens. Okay, and the 24, a little bit more tricky here. And so kind of put your hands together like this, put your thumbs up and you can close one eye, and what you see between your thumbs, your thumbs are the edge of the frame, that's about a 24-millimeter lens. Now I don't expect you to actually do this out with your hands. It would look kind of weird, but it's kinda just fun to see what it would look like. Okay, so a 16-millimeter lens, if you just close one eye, that's just about everything you're gonna see with one eye. You kinda forget about the stuff way off into the edge, but everything you can see pretty well with one eye. Now you're 100-millimeter lens, this one'ss kinda easy. So put your thumb and your finger out, extend them as far as they can from side to side, and what you see from side to side is about what you're gonna see with a 100-millimeter lens. And so I can tell for a portrait, like if I was gonna shoot a portrait of Kenna and I'm gonna shoot it vertically, I would probably wanna come in and I'm gonna wanna get right about here to just kinda do a waist-high portrait right about here. Okay, how about a 200-millimeter lens. I call this one, Here birdie, birdie, birdie. So put your finger out like this and it's the width of your finger, all right, like this. Get your hand other way around. (laughs) You're like this, now go like, there you go, like this, and so, right on here. Now I do realize that, and I've been told, that there's different sized body parts. But I figure if you have shorter fingers, you probably have shorter arms, and so it probably comes out fairly equal. You can test this on your own to see how well it actually works with your lenses. And if you want to know what a 400-millimeter lens is, arms length, okay, what can you get in the middle of your fingers right there? So if I want to photograph Kenneth's face from here, I need about a 400 from right here. And so if you're looking at something and you're like, "Wow, I wanna take a picture of this super moon," you can probably put your thumb up and cover it up. If you don't have that 800-millimeter lens or a 400-millimeter lens, it's not gonna be very big in the frame. And so this is a quick quick way to check, even before you open the camera bag, do I have the right lens or what lens should I pull out to try to get this shot. Now one of the areas that we're gonna get tons of questions on, I know they're just queuing up for questions is I have a crop-frame sensor. I just don't understand the full frame and the crop frame and I'm just having a hard time getting it all lined up. Well one way to try to line it up is figure out what is home base for you, where you got wide angle on one side and telephoto on the other side, what is your normal lens and forget everything else that you hear. So if you have a full frame camera, it's gonna be around a 50. If you have the normal crop frame, around one five or one six, it's around 35. That's home base, remember that number. Everything less than that number is wide-angle. And so when you get a little bit less than that, it's gonna be kinda a normal one. When you get quite a bit smaller than that, that is gonna be ultra-wide. And so you can take this number and you could divide it by two, that 50 divided by two, gives us a pretty solid wide angle lens of a 24. Take a 35, divide it by two, that gets us around 16, 17, in that range. That's gonna be a nice solid wide-angle lens, not the widest you can buy, but a good solid wide-angle lens. So just remember, what is your normal lens, everything is less, that is wide angle, everything is more is gonna be telephoto. So you take your normal number and you double it, that's gonna be a nice short telephoto. You quadruple it, that's gonna be a pretty strong telephoto. And so these are equivalent focal lengths, just think about what is normal for you, and that's probably the most important thing. But just be aware, other people might be using different terminology that you are using in your mind. So once you have that whole number memorized, I think that'll be kind of the key to figuring out what lens does what. So here's where we have another learning project for you. Chances are that when you bought your camera, you didn't just get it with a 50-millimeter lens. You got it with a zoom lens and you probably got it with two zoom lenses. And so I'd like you to take your pet penguin, or your cat, or a water bottle, or whatever you can find, and photograph it the way that I did with that dolly zoom that Hitchcock zoom where I photographed it up close with a wide-angle lens and further away with a telephoto lens, and do as many steps as you want to do. You should probably shoot it at least in three, four, five different ways and then take a look at those photos and really study them to see what they are doing and how they look and what they look like. Kenna, do you have? I do. I just wanted to jump in for people who are just joining us at this point of the class and have you explain what the learning projects are throughout the class itself. Oh, okay. So the learning projects are a number, let's see if I have this right here, I do here, so the learning projects accompany the class. It's a downloadable PDF and it's basically five learning projects where I have a step-by-step instructions on what you need to do to follow through on the learning projects. This is gonna help you learn about your camera, your abilities as a photographer, holding the camera or working with different shutter speeds, and this will just help you become more familiar with the equipment and photography in general. We also have videos that accompany these so you can kinda watch me doing my learning projects and then you can kinda compare how yours go with mine. And in fact, I think we have a video next, so let's go ahead and see this video. All right, time to do our focal-length comparison. For this test, we've got our little brown bear right here in front of us and we have something in the background that we can see. What we're gonna do is we're gonna shoot this with a number of focal lengths ranging between 24 and 200. If you don't have these focal lengths, just use whatever lenses that you happen to have. We're gonna start with a wide-angle. We're gonna move out to the telephoto and I think we're ready to go. Here's our shot. We have our camera in aperture priority at F 16 and we're gonna go ahead and take our picture, as long as we make sure that we're at 24. Yes, we are at 24, so that is our first shot. There, it's done. So now, we're gonna swap out the 24 for 35. So what this talks about in there is keeping that subject in the foreground the same size. So what I would do is I would shoot the 24, and then I moved back little bit, and then I would shoot it with a cause I get the teddy bear about the same size in the frame, and then I moved back a little bit further and get it with the 50. The instructions in there are fairly clear so you can just follow along. And then you look at the photos and then you'll start understanding the differences that you see: a little bit of depth of field, and an angle of view, and what's going on with your lenses. Because if you walk into a situation that you see as real good photographic potential, it's like, "Oh wow, let me get my camera," you shouldn't have to ask the question, "Wow, what lens should I use?" If you're asking what lens should I use, you probably don't know your lenses well enough. Cause in most cases, once you've got those figured out, you know exactly the tool that you need to solve that particular problem. And so get out there, and practice, and use your lenses, and really get to learn them so it becomes instinctual. Oh, I know exactly what lens I need for this, and you're ready to go, and that problem is solved fairly quickly. All right, you guys ready for our first quiz? We love quizzes in here. Now we get to see how good we are at what we just learned. So we are gonna be judging photographs and trying to figure out what focal length lens was used to take this photograph. So we're gonna start and we're gonna start at the front row on the right and we're gonna make our way around in a circle. So take a look at this photograph and if you would like to first just kinda express what you're seeing, and what you're thinking, and then what your answer is, what are you basing your decision on. So in the front things, things look a little bit bigger, so you're just kinda zoomed in to get a little closer. It's not too wide of an angle. You can't see the full houses in the front. So, maybe, you're still probably pretty far away, so maybe 100? You're guessing 100? Okay. Yes. The actual answer is 200. Like we said yesterday, if you get one away, you're doing pretty good and you should feel fine. I might say it's 400 and I could very easily see that. So this is a 200 and it's showing compression. These are houses and we all know what size houses generally are, and there's a lot of compression going on. So we know it's gonna be in the one, two, to 400-millimeter range. So let's pass that microphone down and let's see what your photo looks like. Okay, so here we go. What do you see and what do you think? Okay so I am seeing that those barrels closest to me are very large and that's gonna indicate that, and distance to the back, it's a very narrow, so to me that's what is gonna be used a wide angle lens and I'm gonna go with the 24 because you're not super in on it up close. I'm gonna go with 24. Okay. The answer is 16. So one off, you're close. It's very good. Honestly, it's hard to tell if it's a 16 or a 24. Oh, we're still in the front row here. Oh, they have their own microphone. Okay, so yes. It's kinda hard to see the straight lines in here and it's kinda hard to tell distortion here because we have a round object and it's less likely to see that. But here you just kinda have to judge. Well, it's a wine cellar. It's probably just wide enough for a person. It's probably this close. What lens would that be? Wide angle lens is the correct answer, 16, in particular, for this. All right, next image. Here we are. We are in Venice, Italy. Okay (sighs). It's definitely a landscape. My gut is that it's a 200. 200? And this one is more of a wide angle. Oh, oh. You're a little bit off on that one. So this is a wider angle and you have to be thinking about how wide might this area be cause we can use the boats for size, judgment, and we're able to see both sides of the harbor here, both sides of this little waterway, and we can actually see quite a bit over here on the left side, so that's indicating a little bit of a wide-angle lens. All right, let's go to the back row. Your photo is right here. It looks like there's some compression with the sun and it looks really close to the boat, so I'm gonna say this is more of a telephoto. So I'd probably say, and it's look like it's pretty far away, maybe 200. And the actual is a 400 and so the key element here is the sun. If you take very many pictures of the sun, it's very hard to get the sun really large in the frame. And so if you want to get those big sun shots, you're gonna need a really big lens. And even at 400, it's not that big. But at least one away, so nice job on that. All right, next up. Let's take a look at what you got here. For a little trick here, we're focused up a little bit closer on this one, so there are other things that you can be using to judge the photograph on, for instance, depth of field. I would say if anything, it would be a 35-millimeter lens. And so one of the things you have to be thinking about on this is how much is that background out of focus. One of the things we could say is we could rule out 16. Cause if we shoot this at 16, pretty much everything is gonna be out of focus. And your answer was 35? Yes. And the actual answer is 50, so nice job, close. And so this could have been shot with a 35. The background would've been a little bit more in focus. But yes, thinking about how close you can get to this from this angle, this should be impossible to shoot, at least from this angle, with a 400-millimeters lens or it would be near impossible to shoot something like that. All right, let's go back up in the front row. I think we got two more to go. All right, what do you think this photo is? What do you see? So it goes pretty far back. The front is pretty wide so I'd go with maybe 50? Okay. This case, we are at a 24. So one of the things that you want to look at when you are reverse engineering someone else's shot and you're trying to figure out what they did is what is the size of the object, how big is it on fame, and is there another object that is of similar size. I mean these boats here, in reality, are about the same size, but it diminishes in size very quickly. And if you have two subjects that are radically, they're really the same size but they change, that means you're probably using a wider-angle lens because foreground objects seem much larger when you're using those wide-angle lenses. And so all the people are a little bit further away, so the boats are our best reference in this particular photo, and so judging what is similar objects look like at different distances. All right, I think this might be our last one. So, what does this look like? It doesn't look like you're standing too far back. Your subjects don't look, I'm gonna say 50. 50, we have a spot-on winner, folks. Round of applause, nice job! (audience clapping) Oh, it looks like I have another one or two in here, so. I forget exactly how many I throw in here. You have one more. One more, okay. Oh and I turned this one black and white just to see if that could throw you for a loop. Okay, we've got the depth of field. So (sighs) (groans) I'm (sighs) I'm gonna go with the 35. How close does it seem that I am to this cart? Does it seem like I'm really close? Not too close, no. And we know how big a cart like that can be cause we can see some people in this. So you know Okay. The size of that cart. Okay. So the scoo... 200? I'm gonna stop you right there cause you're right on! Yay! (audience clapping) So this is a valuable exercise to look at photographs where you weren't there. This is something that it's kinda hard for me to remember what lens did I use, but it's gotta be really hard for you guys because you weren't there. You didn't see it. You're just trying to assess with what little information you have here. But that's a good thing for you to do when you're looking at photos, go, what lens did they use. It's not that you're trying to get it spot on, but getting it into that right genre, getting it within a couple focal lengths from there just helps you assess okay that's how that photo is done. And so you don't even need to look at the meta data down here as to what lens they used, you can just look at the photo and instinctively say this looks like about this type of lens. It's just a good skill to have when you're studying other people's photography.

Class Materials

Free Download

Fundamentals of Photography Outline

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Learning Project Videos
Learning Projects PDF
Slides for The Camera Lessons 1-13
Slides for The Sensor Lessons 14-18
Slides for The Lens Lessons 19-31
Slides for The Exposure Lessons 32-42
Slides for Focus Lessons 43-62
Slides for The Gadget Bag Lessons 63-72
Slides for Light Lesson 73-84
Slides for the Art of Edit Lessons 85-93
Slides for Composition Lesson 94-105
Slides for Photographic Vision Lessons 106-113

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!

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Wow! John is THE best teacher I have ever had the pleasure of learning from, and this is the most comprehensive, eloquent and fun course I have ever taken (online or off). If you're even / / interested in photography, take this course as soon as possible! You might find out that taking great photos requires much more work than you're willing to invest, or you might get so excited learning from John that you'll start taking your camera with you EVERYWHERE. At the very least, you'll learn the fundamental inner workings and techniques that WILL help you get a better photo. Worried about the cost? Well, I've taken courses that are twice as expensive that offer less than maybe a tenth of the value. You'll be much better off investing in this course than a new camera or a new lens. I cannot reccomend John and this course enough!

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