Macro Week: Telephoto Close-Ups

May 6, 2010

Photo Tips

[Editors Note: This week is Macro week here on DPE with Rob Sheppard. We’ll be having a macro tip every day, make to sure to check them all out!]

One of the reasons that I really like to use more than a macro lens for close-up work is that I love to use telephotos for extreme close-ups and macro shooting. Telephotos really change the way we see close-up subjects and scenes. They have a lot of advantages for shooting up close. They include:

  1. Extremely limited depth of field to isolate a subject from its surroundings.
  2. A perspective change that brings the background in closer to the subject.
  3. A narrower angle to the background so you can easily select a different background for your subject by just moving slightly right or left.
  4. Combine 1 and 2 and you get some wonderful backgrounds that have little detail but good color and tonality.
  5. You can photographs skittish subjects such as butterflies better.
  6. You can photograph dangerous subjects such as a stinging insect or a poisonous snake from a distance.
  7. You gain distance between the camera and the subject so that you are less likely to shade your subject.

These are all very important and will help lift your close-up and macro work above the ordinary. If most people are shooting close-ups and macro with macro lenses, then they won’t be shooting with really long telephotos, for example.

I love the look of the soft backgrounds you get with a telephoto for close-ups. I also really like the ability to get a different background quickly and easily. This is very different than working with normal macro lenses that show more of the background. It can be a lot harder to get this sort of look with them.

And certainly I appreciate the ability to get close shots of insects. Some insects, such as bees, really don’t care what focal length you use and how close you get to them. But a lot of insects, from butterflies to beetles, react to you and your lens as you bear in on them. If that “you and your lens” is farther away, then you have less of a problem.

Since depth of field is so shallow with a telephoto, it is very important to pay attention to exactly where your focus is. If you are off by fractions of an inch, the photo will not look right. For some subjects, it can help to pay attention to the plane of your subject. Focus is parallel to the back of your camera, so if you can keep your camera parallel to the subject, you will have more of the subject in focus.

For a continuing look at lens focal lengths and how they affect photos, you’ll find a section about this in my latest book, The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 27 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Sheppard is the author/photographer of over 30 books, the editor-at-large for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and a nationally known presenter and workshop leader. His specialities are nature photography and helping photographers with digital technologies from getting the most from small sensors to Lightroom to Photoshop. Check out Rob’s websites at and

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2 Responses to “Macro Week: Telephoto Close-Ups”

  1. Emily Ambler Says:

    Love this as it give you more options. The dogwood is lovely.


  2. Alfa Hardjoko Says:

    I love it…
    Macro is a different perspective of view for me.
    It looks so wonderfull can see small world in detail that our bare eyes couldn’t see it..


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