How to Handle a Large and Heavy Telephoto Lens by Hand

If you are shooting a genre that requires large telephoto lenses, then you know that they can be quite unwieldy to deal with. And while things like a monopod or gimbal head can help alleviate that issue, sometimes, you will find yourself shooting handheld with that behemoth lens. And when that happens, you can use the great tips in this video to make your life easier and improve the quality of your images.

Coming to you from Leigh The Snap Chick, this helpful video discusses how to better handhold large and heavy lenses. No doubt, monopods and gimbal heads can be tremendously useful tools, but sometimes, for whatever reason, you might have to handhold such a lens. When that is the case, it takes extra careful technique. Due to the longer focal length and narrower angle of view, any camera shake is highly magnified. And because of their long length and heavy weight, it can be quite tough to keep the lens still when you are shooting. Spending just a bit of time practicing proper technique can make a drastic difference in your keeper rate and allow you to get away with slower shutter speeds and lower ISOs. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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17 Comments

Jason Smith's picture

Breathing is also a vitally important factor in stabilizing yourself while holding a camera and ensuring that your photos turn out as crisp as possible. As the body naturally rises and falls with each breath we take, the best technique I have found in taking shots with ANY lense, in order to minimize motion in my final shots, is to...

1. firmly plant myself in whatever stance i need to in order to frame the shot correctly,
2. grasp the camera body in one hand with my finger resting on the shutter button, and find the right balancing spot on the lense and hold the lense at that spot with the other hand,
3. Take a deep breath in and out then in again,
4. Then hold my breath, effectively freezing my body's own movement, just before pressing the shutter button.

Jon Kellett's picture

In my experience, holding my breath results in less sharp images than breathing out slowly. YMMV :-)

Stuart C's picture

When I was in the Air Cadets I managed to obtain the 'RAF Marksmen' badge, we were always taught to breathe out then hold before shooting, as breathing in then holding means your chest muscles are tensed up which can cause micro movements, breathing out gives a much more relaxed posture, the same would apply for shooting a camera in my opinion.

Wolfgang Post's picture

Amazing how a video about a physically activity (holding a long lens while using it) can go on while the presenter is sitting still, only talking about it and presenting more additional and unrelated gear, instead of talking about the actual topic. There are about 2min of useful content, the rest is .. something else.

K G's picture

I mean, 'snap chick' kinda gives it away,
expert she certainly is not I remember when she started out she would do vid's from her bath tub . . . Says it all

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

You make it sound as if she did gear news and reviews from her bath tub, which is false.

Tom Reichner's picture

I didn't get that impression at all from what KG said. I think you are reading something into KG's comment, something that he didn't actually say. Gotta be careful about doing that. Take people precisely at their word, nothing more, nothing less.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Just because you didn't doesn't negate it is. You're probably not even aware of Snapchick. I used to watch her videos back in 2012. Gotta be careful in poking your nose when you don't know the full story.

Tom Reichner's picture

But the fact is that what KG said did NOT give the impression that she does gear reviews from her bathtub. And yet you said that he did make it seem like that. I'm just making sure that the falsehood of your accusation is being called out so that KG doesn't get blamed for leaving an impression that he didn't leave. You need to be more careful about tossing false accusations about.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Holy smokes. I think common sense escapes you. Do you not know what Snapchick does? Tutorials and gear reviews, etc. I'm genuinely dumbfounded this went over your head. Remind me never to give you a two-piece puzzle.

Tom Reichner's picture

It didn't go over my head at all. I am a gazillion times more intelligent and aware than you are.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Apparently, your gazillions of intelligence and awareness does not include even just an ounce of reason, logic, and common sense.

Jason K's picture

I wouldn't consider the Sony 200-600 a "large and heavy" lens - not by a long shot...The key to handholding a large & heavy telephoto lens is proper stance and proper breathing technique.. I have hiked 6km+ with my older 10+ pound Canon 600mm f4L slung over my shoulder looking for moose, bears, mountain goats, etc. No tripod required....maybe a monopod though.

Adam Rubinstein's picture

Agreed and this assertion impugned her “expertise”. There are a variety of ways of stabilizing long lenses in the absence of a tri/monopod including position, proper use of slings, and bracing.the lens against fixed objects in the field.

Tom Reichner's picture

You are right - the Sony 200-600mm is not large and heavy at all, relative to the other lenses that wildlife and bird photographers commonly use.

00rob00 Rob00Rob's picture

Shoot m43

EDWIN GENAUX's picture

Good IDEAS all... You can also BE the tripod... I use a heavy duty binocular harness that you find in a hunting/gun store/site. They have two hooks to attach to the peak design loops. Instead of a backpack I wear a big photo vest and while walking about the lens hangs under the vest (unseen) but easy to use. The harness straps (adjustable) stretch firmly when camera and lens are lifted up to your eye making your body like a tree/post (sorta) but more stable. You have to have handy, not in a backpack, easy carry. Even a long hot day at a zoo your not always at your shot place but have to carry your rig around. How many birders to you see following one in flight with bipod hanging down. This lens will focus on the moon and foreground with IS and IBIS you can track handheld even with the 1.4x teleconverter the 2x it is a little harder to keep centered but can also be done, the Sigma no way.
2020 Buck Moon At 1800mm, A7iii aperture/AF modes and FE 200-600mm with sony 2x teleconverter using APS-C mode tracking with binocular harness in front yard, just too easy anymore! A frame full of moon.