Shooting Landscapes with Longer Focal Lengths

Shooting Landscapes with Longer Focal Lengths

One of the simpler tips that I would suggest for those wanting to add a little variety to their landscape photography is to shoot with longer focal lengths.

400mm - Image by Tambako the Jagua

While the majority of landscape photography is done with wide angle lenses (and rightly so – it’s a great way to capture to dramatic wide vistas) it can be very effective to take a lens with a longer focal length with you next time you set out to capture a scene.

Longer focal lengths can be particularly effective in those over-photographed locations where images can end up looking a little cliched. They’re also great for capturing patterns and layers on the horizon that often go unnoticed in landscapes shot with a wide lens.

300mm - Image by kwerfeldein

A quick tip for those shooting landscapes with longer focal lengths – make sure you use a tripod. With longer focal lengths, any camera shake or movement will be amplified. The longer the lens the more noticeable it will become. So secure your camera and consider using a remote shutter release of some kind.

Update: Check out our newer tutorial – Tips for Shooting Landscapes with a Telephoto Lens for a comprehensive series of tips on shooting with longer focal lengths in landscape photography.

300mm - Image by mugley

300mm - Image by rachel_thecat

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Joe D'silva November 12, 2010 12:51 pm

    I also love to shoot landscapes using telephoto with a slower shutter speed (of course on the tripod). the wind movements of the trees can produce an artistic effect on the photographs. This bunch I shot in the eastern sierra of California.

    [eimg link='' title='Nature's Impressionism.' url='']

  • Gale October 5, 2010 07:07 am

    Thank you for the info:>))

  • georges October 5, 2010 06:45 am


    Nice shot, but a warning: looking directly at the sun, even at sunrise/sunset, especially with a telephoto lens, can cause temporary or even permanent damage to your vision. Some newer cameras (not my Canon 30D, unfortunately, but the 40D and on) have something like "live view," where you can see the live image on the LCD. That will work, though, again, it's possible to damage the digital sensor through overheating.

  • Gale October 4, 2010 11:12 am

    Thas been a great post. Thank you all very much.
    I hope you will enjoy the image I will share with you.
    100mm sunrise across the river in florida east coast.

    Comment and critiques always welcome
    Best Regards,

  • sebastian michael October 2, 2010 05:36 pm

    the second landscape picture is a beauty..
    i just love it..
    and all Ur article r good...

  • David Skinner September 28, 2010 01:14 am

    Stunning landscape pictures - given me a whole new perspective on the matter.


  • Gipukan September 27, 2010 03:07 pm

    While sorting out last safari's photo's this came up. It sits now on my desktop. Photo taken with my EF100-400L at sunset over the planes of Queen Elizabeth NP in Uganda.

    [eimg link='' title='Queen Elizabeth NP sunset over lake Edward and George' url='']

  • Gale September 27, 2010 11:51 am

    Wonderful images. I always felt guilty to shoot longer. Thanks for this.

  • georges September 26, 2010 03:55 am

    @Simon Bunting:

    Except that they don't. Read the discussion above. Perspective is determined by the relative location of the camera (or eye) and subject, not the focal length. The focal length determines framing, what is and is not in the photo. Ask an artist.

  • Simon Bunting September 26, 2010 03:26 am

    Yeah I could not agree more. Using a longer focal length can create some stunning photographs because they compress the perspective! Thanks :)

  • prabhat bajpai September 24, 2010 03:48 pm

    Black & White photograph of cloud and hill landscape both are very beautiful. I enjoy it very much.


  • Classic Films September 24, 2010 03:18 pm

    Kindly guide us some wide angle lenses details which is best and it will not be more expensive Budgets so we can shoot some natural Photography i also want to participate in some Photo competition at our State level .so please .

  • Rob September 24, 2010 04:43 am

    I've found that my 100-400L canon lens give;s nice shot so yes i use it at long focal length.. even 400mm

  • Robin Oberg September 24, 2010 02:18 am

    Perspective: :)
    'tis 'bout subject-object distance.

  • Phil September 23, 2010 10:56 pm

    Great examples and thanks for the excellent tips. I find photographing landscapes a real challenge because they wind up looking flat and drab. I think this information will help.

  • Arun September 22, 2010 01:28 pm

    @ Joseph

    I still fail to understand where this comes from.

    When you say that perspectives only change because of the subject-camera distance, well, that's imminent! When you have very short distance, and you also want a lot of background, you choose a wide angle, a tele otherwise.

    You're saying that if I positioned my subject at infinity, then both my wide angle and tele render the same image. As with the horizon?? I understand that, but that's what is called 'perspective'!!! Anything not that far, wouldn't be exactly same.

    The wide angle sees subjects radially, as compared to tele seeing them parallel (at least more parallel than a wide angle). This is how optics works!

    Also, if you're attributing perspective only because of barrel distortion, I fail to agree. Barrel distortion only exaggerates this in a way of a barrel. Even without barrel distortion, you'd be able to see this perspective change on the image you just took.

    As for the Panorama, a radial panorama always has perspective change, but using a tele around the pivot ensures that it has lesser change in angle of view, thus lesser problems!

    Let me also go back to find some more stuff on this, now that it's gotten into quite a discussion.

    Thanks for your views though. Got me to thinking again!!

  • Joseph Woodworth September 22, 2010 11:10 am

    @ Arun

    Georges is correct - Wide angle / telephoto / lens choice doesn`t change your perspective - your camera to subject distance changes perspective. Wide angle vs Telephoto changes your field of view. Converging lines will still converge.

    What happens in the corners of the wide angle, has to do with both lens distortion and geometry from perspective - correcting distortion will make some of that go away. Problem is with the telephoto there`s no "corner" in the image to see - since the angle of view doesn`t cover that area, to see the same thing happen - you need to rotate the telephoto around the lens nodal point - and stitch together a larger image with an equivalent angle of view - and you`ll see the same issues show up towards the corners after correcting for lens distortion

    (the inherent lens distortion of the telephoto lens will be different from that of the wide angle, but the geometric distortion from the perspective will be the same)

  • michael September 22, 2010 08:25 am

    You have to watch out for haze when shooting long-focal-length landscapes. The first photo is nice, but the mountains are hazy and low-contrast.

    A polarizer might help, but you'll definitely need a tripod if you're shooting long focal length AND polarizer.

  • Arun September 22, 2010 04:23 am

    Totally agree.. I found more use for my Telephoto lens when I was out there amidst the Himalayas. I was more interested in getting the longer focal length landscapes to my surprise!

    Just one thing I wanted to point out -
    @georges - I don't know where you learnt what you're saying, but if you are saying that wide angle doesn't change perspective, do your basics again!
    Why do parallel lines converge in a wide angle shot, as opposed to a long focal length shot?

    You said you've cropped out the part from a wide angle to match the telephoto. If you centered the crop using the wide angle, that explains it. Try cornering your crop in the wide angle and you'll know.

    If you didn't know, try doing a horizontal panorama using a wide-angle and a tele! You'll feel the difference instantly.

    If wide angle and tele photo could be used interchangeably without difference in perspectives, why not go ahead with wide angle for commercial portrait photography?? Have you ever tried that yourself??

  • Karen Stuebing September 21, 2010 09:58 pm

    Great article, photos and tips. If you haven't been doing this, you've had to crop I'd say.

    That's not to say there isn't a place for wide angle landscapes because they can be super too. But if you can't physically move closer to remove the foreground than zooming is the way to go.

    Here is one of my favorite zoomed in landscapes. 110 mm. I didn't want a lot of foreground in this shot. I'm still not entirely happy with the composition but photography is a learning experience.

    Budding Willow Tree

  • Benji September 21, 2010 08:13 pm

    Here my picture of Bondi beach at 70mm

    [eimg link='' title='Bondi massive wave' url='']

  • Lorenzo Reffo September 21, 2010 05:19 pm

    This is a must if you're shooting during a mountain trekk! Great tip

  • Joseph Woodworth September 21, 2010 04:47 pm

    This is a very important point to remember, I think.

    Many people equivocate wide angle with landscape, moderate telephoto with portraiture and supertelephoto for sports and wildlife - but I don`t think we should think of lenses that way. *

    I tend to use all focal lengths for everything - It`s not about getting wider or getting closer - It`s about choosing the right perspective for the image you want and letting the framing you want determine the focal length you use.

    * on a side note, I think, a portrait lens, is one with nice bokeh, that has softer corners and a sharper center with nice vignetting, while a landscape lens is very sharp, and has very little distortion. Focal length is less important.

  • georges September 21, 2010 04:06 pm


    "Great article, points out the compression effect of longer focal lengths."

    There is no such effect from any lens, period. If you took a shot of the same subject with a wide angle lens (e.g., 28mm), then took the image and cropped it to show the same framing as the long focal length lens, the result would look the same. (Of course, there would be fewer pixels, but the image would be the same.) Otherwise, perspective would change as you zoomed in and out. Any appearance of "compression" (or "foreshortening") has to do with the DISTANCE to the subject, NOT the focal length of the lens. If you don't realize this, you'll make serious errors in photography. Perspective depends entirely upon the location of the camera vs the subject(s). What different focal lengths do is to allow different framing--what is and is not in the picture. If there were unlimited pixels on the image, one would never need telephoto lenses--one could just crop the image. Read what I wrote above about perspective.

    In fact, I have done just what I suggested above. Some time back, I used a Canon 100-400mm lens & Canon 30D mounted on a tripod to take the same scene at different focal lengths. I took images done at 100mm and 400mm, cropped the 100mm image to have the same framing as the 400mm (it's not exactly 1/4, as lens focal length markings are not precise), then scaled both to 600 x 400 pixels.

    Here's the first:

    [eimg url='' title='IMG_5223-crop-scaled.jpg']

    And here's the second:

    [eimg url='' title='IMG_5227-crop-scaled.jpg']

    Now, looking simply at the perspective (the detail may be slightly different; both had unsharp mask applied, which is a good thing to do when you downscale an image), can you tell which was taken at 400mm? Don't they have the SAME "compression effect"? (If you don't believe me, save the images from this page and check the EXIF or go to

    and get the two files in the folder, "perspective_demo")

  • Scott September 21, 2010 02:07 pm

    Great article, points out the compression effect of longer focal lengths.

    I've used a macro lens of shorter focal length, though not wide angle, on less distant landscape landscape shots.

  • Mei Teng September 21, 2010 10:33 am

    Beautiful landscape shots :)

  • Tim September 21, 2010 10:14 am

    Great tip. Looking forward to giving it a try.

  • Massimo Belloni September 21, 2010 07:27 am

    Great article and images.

    Me too shot landscapes with long lenses, anyway.


  • GeorgeS December 31, 2008 03:03 pm

    Re: Perspective: The lens has NOTHING to do with perspective. Perspective depends entirely upon the physical (geometric) relationship between the subject and the camera. To prove this, put your camera on a tripod with a good zoom lens. Take a series of pictures at various focal lengths, then compare them. It's easiest to do this if you change the focal length in integer multiples--e.g., 50mm, 100mm, 150mm, 200mm. Download the photos and then blow up the ones taken at the shorter focal lengths so that the image is the same size. (In the example above, you'd blow up the 50mm by a factor of 4 & the 100mm by 2.) Crop the blown-up images to give the same framing as the long focal length. You should see that the perspective is EXACTLY the SAME.

    The myth arose, I expect, because, with prime lenses, photographers had to change their location to control the framing--the proverbial "sneaker zoom." When using a shorter focal length, they had to get closer. It was getting closer that changed the perspective, not the lens, itself.


    Other reasons for using longer focal lengths in landscapes:

    1. To minimize the "parking lot" effect--the huge expanse of foreground at the bottom of the image. Sometimes, that is interesting; most of the time, it's not. Longer focal lengths can reduce distraction/unwanted objects from the image, in general. I found this last summer doing a shot where there were powerlines above. I couldn't get past the powerlines--I had to shoot from a road, so I used a longer focal length to narrow the field of view to just under the lines. (An alternative would have been to clone them out in post-processing, but I'm lazy.)

    2. To minimize distortion. Most zooms--especially those that start at true "wide-angle" focal lengths--have greater distortion (usually barrel) at the short focal length end. This can be obvious when shooting architecture, but I've seen it in landscapes, as well--e.g., telephone/power poles on the edge of the frame bending over.

    3. To control depth of focus. At the same focus distance and aperture, a longer focal length lens will have a shallower depth of focus. That can also help minimize distractions and draw the viewer's attention to the intended subject. This is a great help with wildlife photography, where one often wants to blur the background. I found it useful, as well, in photographing a solitary tree, blurring the background.

  • Matt October 2, 2007 12:11 pm

    I'll have to be the lone decenter: I like the first (trees & flowers) picture better. But good tip nonetheless.

  • Kelvin Jay October 1, 2007 11:42 pm

    Great tip. I'll try it as soon as possible, tomorrow perhaps. The mountains are very beautiful indeed.

  • Karen September 29, 2007 11:06 pm

    Thanks for the info. Love the mountains shot.

  • Chandamama September 28, 2007 03:49 pm

    Generally, I observe at various focal lengths of the same shot and which one is appealing to me, I will go for it. Yes you are right, we may get better shots at longer focal lengths.

  • Gary Strader September 28, 2007 01:59 pm

    I too often use longer focal lengths, in the range of 70mm to 250mm. I find that the longer lengths give a unique perspective to photographing sunsets.

  • Arturo Martinez September 28, 2007 05:25 am

    Excelent tip!

  • Hitesh Sawlani September 28, 2007 04:21 am

    Also to note, longer focal lengths compress the perspective, so things end up looking bunched up together - ideal if things are too spread out (e.g. field of flowers)

  • Klaidas September 28, 2007 02:27 am

    Pretty interesting, should give it a try sometime :).

  • Shyamal kumar Roy September 28, 2007 01:13 am

    Suggestions are good. I shall try it in my next outing. I think also that it will give some other sensational effects in the landscape. But use of tripod is a bit troublesome, although I feel that the advice is perfect and should have to maintain.Thanks for the advice, expectimg some more in future.

  • Pete Williams September 28, 2007 12:53 am

    I think in certain situations, using a longer focal length can look great for landscape shots. I particularly like the second image you've posted - the way the hills are 'flattened' into a more abstract composition really gives it a unique view, and one that is a bit more different from the usual landscape shot.

  • AC September 28, 2007 12:51 am

    Image #2 is beautiful. Will give this a try on the weekend!