Long Lens Tripod Technique

It can be a real source of frustration.

You get this fancy new telephoto lens, hang it off the front of your camera and are more than a little disappointed with the not-so-sharp results. So, you do a little digging and discover that maybe a tripod is what you need to sharpen up those photos.

So, with dreams of spectacularly sharp images dancing in your head, you plop down the cash for a nice new tripod and head. You barely have the gear out of the hands of the UPS man and you’re out in the field.

However, when you come back to your computer and check out the images, to your astonishment they still aren’t as good as expected! What went wrong? Well, it could be a number of issues, but the first place to look is tripod technique. In the video below, I show you how to use the long lens tripod tricks I’ve been using for years to get sharp images on my memory card. Check it out:

The techniques in the video are the ones I use every day out in the field to capture images like the ones you see below.


For this black bear image, I was faced with a dim morning and not as much shutter speed as I would have liked. However, careful use of the techniques mentioned in the video allowed me to pop off shots like this until we had our fill.


In many cases, you need to stalk your subject with the tripod, as was the case here. Although I had decent shutter speed, I was using a tripod to keep from becoming fatigued while I waited for the inevitable flight shot. Had I been hand-holding my 600mm as I pointed it at this snowy owl and waited, it’s a pretty good bet no amount of shutter speed would have helped my shaking arms!


If you enjoyed this article, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books, Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography and Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System. They’re filled with hundreds of pages of information just like this. Check it out – click here (hey, it’s free to look 🙂 )

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This entry was posted in Techniques, Using Your Gear and tagged , , , .


  1. Ganesh April 11, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

    Hi Steve,

    What is your recommended VR settings for Nikon super-tele lenses? I use a Nikon 500mm F4G that has “Normal” and “Tripod” VR modes. Do you suggest turning the VR on/off for any of the below circumstances and if on, which VR mode do you recommend:
    1. Shooting BIF
    2. General Shooting at higher than 1/focal length shutter speeds
    2. Shooting on a tripod with Gimbal head
    3. Shooting on a monopod with Gimbal head
    4. Panning shots

    Thanks much for all the wonderful videos those are really helpful!!!

    • Steve Perry April 12, 2017 at 1:28 am #

      Hi –

      1. I usually have mine off, but some people like the extra stabilization in the viewfinder. The 500G doesn’t seem to care too much about shooting VR with higher shutter speeds, so either way works.

      2. Again, the 500G seems to do fine with VR on at higher speeds, so if you find it helps keep the viewfinder steady, go for it. From strictly a sharpness standpoint, once you start getting to 1/500+ shutter speed is doing more to net you a sharp image is than VR.

      3. Depends on the shutter speed. If I’m on the slow side, I’ll turn on VR and put the lens into Tripod mode.

      4. Same as #3

      5 Same as #1.

      • Ganesh April 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

        Thank you Steve! Really appreciate your quick response. That really helps!!!

  2. Serge January 11, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    Best wishes for the year 2017 of Switzerland

    Serge Pittier

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