How to Use a Telephoto Lens to Stack a Photo

Christmas wreaths on Main Street USA in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Christmas wreaths on Main Street USA in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/800s, f/8, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 116mm Focal Length.

A camera lens which has a focal length over 100mm is considered a telephoto lens. This includes the popular zoom lenses which go over 100mm. Just like a telescope, the longer the focal length, the smaller angle of view is seen through the camera’s viewfinder. This has the effect of compressing or stacking objects at different distances in the field of view. Depending on the camera’s depth of field or aperture setting, the objects can all be in sharp focus or just a selected object.

In the picture of the Christmas decorations down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA in Walt Disney World, I compressed the wreaths, garland and Cinderella Castle into a pleasing composition. The aperture set at f/8 kept all three subjects in focus and without the reference of buildings on either side, it’s hard to tell how much distance is between them. Incidentally, I took this from the Walt Disney World Railroad platform which overlooks Main Street USA. It is an excellent photographer’s roost for parades, fireworks and for getting over the heads of fellow guests.  You do have to watch out for the flag pole.

This is what I did last weekend with the large Massed Band parade at the CNY Scottish Games. I used small apertures of between f/8  and f/11 and photographed the band with focal lengths from 100mm to 200mm.  This created the stacking effect of the pipes behind the bagpiper in the photo from the previous post.  Thus, you can see how many pipers and drummers are in the band with him.

I preferred this composition to opening up the aperture and having all the musicians behind and to either side of the bagpiper be out of focus.  While you would get a hint the band he was marching in was large, you would not clearly see them.  This was my creative choice.  Not right or wrong but how I wanted to tell the story of the Massed Band parade.

Pipes are stacked behind this bagpiper during the Massed Band parade during the CNY Scottish Games near Liverpool, New York.

Pipes are stacked behind this bagpiper during the Massed Band parade during the CNY Scottish Games near Liverpool, New York. Nikon D700/70-200VR, 1/200s, f/10, ISO 200, EV 0, 200mm focal length.

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10 Responses to How to Use a Telephoto Lens to Stack a Photo

  1. Great advice and photos. I mostly use a WA/telephoto lens so this helps me a lot with the shallow dof issues that arise from zooming in. Thanks for this informative post.

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  2. great shots! Great information. Thanks.

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  3. Lucinda says:

    I love learning here. Thanks for the post Scott!

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  4. yesbuts says:

    I think photographers need to be like golfers – have a man walk around with them, carrying a bag full of lenses. 🙂

    When I go on a walk-about, choice should I take the 18 ~ 55 or 55 ~ 200mm lens? Guaranteed I always choose the wrong lens. 😦

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  5. montucky says:

    Very helpful, Scott! Thanks!

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  6. Nye says:

    Thanks Scott, I have a better understanding of the different apertures now then ever before. I didn’t know what to use before but now the choice is actually the story that you want to tell.

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