Top tip for handholding telephoto lenses

Matt Bennett

Using the correct shutter speed to avoid camera shake

Shooting with a telephoto lens
Shooting with a telephoto lens

When handholding a telephoto lens, it’s very important to remember to use a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake.

Basically, the minimum shutter speed that you should use is 1/(your focal length in mm).

So, if you are using a 200mm lens, you should not attempt to handhold the lens at a shutter speed any slower than 1/200sec. Remember, this is the absolute minimum and as such an even faster shutter speed will often be required.

Also, remember to base this on the effective focal length when using a crop sensor camera. So, when using a 200mm lens on a Nikon D7000, your effective focal length is 300mm, so your minimum shutter speed is 1/300sec.

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    • A nice compromise between stability and mobility can be had with long telephotos using a shoulder mount system like the excellent BushHawk products. Their 320D is used by a lot of wildlife, nature, air show, and motorsports (etc.) photographers. It is hand-held, only better.

    • Robin Hector

      Good advice .However your photographer could have had a more positive grip , the lens is just resting on the tips of his fingers. Also for important shots use best quality RAW . The difference is so noticeable.

    • Dimitris Lahanis

      I also find useful to leave the tripod mount on the lens all the time.This way I can rest the mount on my palm and still reach the zoom ring with the tips of my fingers.

    • Roland Bogaerts

      Tip: avoid handholding a long telephoto lens! Use a tripod or monopod whenever possible.

    • Coalville Photographed

      I try to rest on a wall, bean bag, anything to add stability. I use a remote wifi release too if I can be sure the photo is famed ,just sat as it is !

    • arkhunter

      There’s also this thing called image stabilization. I shoot handheld with f/4 70-200 all the time at way less than 1/200 and certainly 1/300 (being I’ve got a 1.6 crop camera) Sometimes that IS too slow, but most of the time it’s just great and you’re much more mobile. Now if you have a 400mm lens, you’ll need something unless you are Hercules. (or other heavy/fast glass) Tripods/monopods have their place, but with high ISO and IS, there isn’t as much need unless you are a stickler for lowest ISO possible.