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• The DIY studio - fixing the long lens blues

Using a long lens

One of my students just mailed me about her disappointment after using her 70-300mm lens for the first time. She says the shots are "blurry". So how do you fix blurry photos?

If this has happened to you, don't throw the lens away - it's a standard disillusionment that all buyers of "long" lenses experience! It's called camera shake, and it is easy to fix.

Stabilising a long lens

Because you zoom in on a subject, you're seeing only a section of the entire scene in front of you. Because you are magnifying that bit of the scene in front of you hugely, you also hugely increase the effect of any hand movement, breathing or jabbing shutter finger.

The only way to stop this is to shoot at a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action. And to shoot on tripod, even in daylight.

If you're using your long lens at the wide end (70mm), you should not shoot hand-held at a shutter speed lower than the closest shutter speed to that, ie an 80th or 100th of a second. If you're shooting with the lens at 150mm (you can see that on the barrel of the lens), you should not shoot hand-held at a speed lower than 200th or 250th of a second, and at full zoom, 300mm, you should not shoot hand-held at less than a 350th or 500th of a second.

To select these shutter speeds, go to Manual mode on your camera, select the shutter speed you need, and adjust the aperture to correctly expose for the scene. Alternatively, use the TV (Canon, Pentax) or S (Nikon, Fujifilm) function on your camera. It's the shutter priority selector: with that, you force the camera to shoot at the shutter speed that the length of lens you're using dictates, and the camera automatically selects the appropriate aperture for the amount of light available.

You may not always have these speeds available due to bad light, and hence you need to invest in a good tripod for when you use your long lens.

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