Photo-Editing Tutorial: Focus Stacking
If you've ever experienced the dilemma of not having enough depth of field, you should consider experimenting with a technique called "focus stacking." This process involves taking multiple photographs and blending them together, creating the illusion of a completely in-focus image. The major benefit of focus stacking is that you can use the sweet spots of both your lens and camera to produce a high-quality image. You can utilize an extremely low ISO, and the best aperture for your lens (usually 1-2 stops closed down). Thankfully, we have access to modern-day software like Photoshop, which makes this photographic technique relatively easy to accomplish.
Phase 1: Shooting
To start, you're going to need a few things: a camera, a tripod, and a purpose.
The sturdier the tripod, the better. Any changes in framing will make blending and aligning these images more difficult in post production, and potentially have a negative impact on the quality of your final image.
Make sure your subject is ready to be photographed, and that you're shooting in Manual mode, including manual focusing.
Depending on your initial depth of field, and how precise you want to be with this technique, you can shoot just three images or hundreds. Most situations likely won’t require hundreds of images, but extreme macro shots may call for it.
Focus from front to back (or vice versa), and take a picture at different points in the image. This will provide the set of images that you'll work with in post. Below are some sample images:
Phase 2: Editing
Note: this tutorial uses Adobe Photoshop CS6 for processing images.
- Step 1: Open up all images that will be used in your preferred Raw converter. I use Adobe’s Camera Raw. Here you will perform base adjustments to things like exposure and color temperature, but you need to make sure that all edits are applied to each photo equally.
- Step 2: Bring all of the images into Photoshop.
- Step 3: Place each image as an individual layer within a single Photoshop document.
- Step 4: Use the Auto-Align tool to ensure all the images are organized properly.
- Step 5: Use the Auto-Blend tool to merge all the images into a single layer.
- Step 6: Crop out sections on the corners that remain out of focus or didn’t blend properly.
- Step 7: Perform final edits as you would a normal image.
- Step 8: Export!
That's it. Now go try it out yourself.