Photographers do not want out-of-focus images except for special effects. But sometimes, it becomes impossible to capture sharp images with every detail. In this case, shallow depth of field can be an issue for taking sharp images. So, is there any way for shooting images with the best aperture and shutter speed combination that will give you sharp detail? Yes, the technique is known as focus stacking. Today, I’m going to tell you how to take extremely sharp images with the technique focus stacking. So, let’s get started.
What is Focus Stacking?
When you look at a scene with your eyes, it looks different in the photo you capture. Using a longer focal length or a shallow depth of field is the reason for that. It is also responsible why everything in a single image can’t be in focus at once.
Professional photographers use a focus stacking to portray multiple objects in focus. They use this technique to shoot sharp images where everything is in focus. It is a crucial tool in product photography, macro photography, landscape photography, and more.
The purpose of focus stacking is to capture a photo of as many in-focus slivers as you can. After that, Photoshop matches them together into a fully in-focus composite image. Besides, In Adobe Lightroom, focus stacking is possible by Auto-Blend Layers on several images.
The Gear You Need for Focus Stacking
For applying this method in photography, you will need some necessary camera gear. Without these gear, it will be a tough job to use this technique. It will help if you use a tripod to keep your camera stable.
- You will need a DSLR camera which is capable of shooting in manual mode. Using manual autofocus is a must in this case.
- You can use a depth of field app, but it is not mandatory.
- For final processing, you will need Adobe Photoshop or other focus stacking software.
Shooting Process for Focus Stacking
Focus stacking is almost the same technique to HDR photography. But in this process, you will shoot images first with different focus points then you will combine them in Photoshop. Thus, you can create an image with more DOF. Landscape and macro photography are the primary fields that benefit the most from using this technique.
It is better to know a lens’s sweet spot before shooting. It helps you find the positions that the lens can capture sharpest images. Usually, it can be found about two to three stops from wide open.
You will face two different cases when shooting landscapes that may benefit from focus stacking.
The first one is when you are trying to shoot a close foreground object with a great background. In this case, you want to capture both foreground & background in sharp focus. And the other case is, when using a telephoto lens and the subject covers multiple distances.
Let’s see some necessary steps for shooting landscapes for focus stacking.
- After placing the camera on a tripod, frame the subject and compose the shot.
- Set your camera to manual mode & fix the exposure. This way, you can ensure that the exposure is constant for every image.
- The camera lives view option will allow you to preview the focus.
- After taking the first exposure, move the focus point to the mid-way in an image and refocus. Then take the next exposure.
- Again refocus for the furthest object in the image. Then take the third exposure.
Usually, three images are necessary for landscapes for creating sharp focus stacking. But to ensure covering the whole scene, you can take additional images. Keep in mind that different images will take longer to process later. But, you can get help from photography post-production experts in this case.
As a macro lens has a too shallow DoF, Macro photography benefits most from focus stacking. Let’s see the steps about how to do macro photography for stacking focuses.
- Use a tripod to set the camera. Then frame the subject & compose the shot.
- The process is the same as the landscapes until you take the first exposure.
- After taking the first exposure, move the focus point the furthest distance without moving the camera. One thing you should remember that DoF in macro photography measures differently than landscapes. In this case, it will measure in inch.
- Repeat the above point to take as many photos as you need.
Focus Stacking in Photoshop
You will have your image focus-stacked through final processing. It is a challenging job, though. But you can save time processing the files in Photoshop. Let’s see the steps to achieve the final focus-stacked image in Photoshop.
Open your photos in Photoshop the get each image on a separate layer.
Go to file menu from the top-left corner of Photoshop. Then choose scripts > load files into the stack. Now browse the photos and select them all. And check the box that says ‘Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images’.
Click ok then open the layer panel. Then select all the layers. After doing all this, go to the Edit menu and choose Auto-Blend Layers.
Now check the box that says Stack Images and Seamless Tones and Colors. By selecting content-aware fill will help to fill any transparent areas with the same colors.
Now click ok then select Layer > Flatten image to flatten the image. Now save it.
Everyone tries to capture the sharpest images possible. For that Focus Stacking can be a great technique to help you achieve sharp images. All you have to take enough focused images to create the final focus-stacked image. If you are confident enough, then give it a shot. Let us know if you have any confusion about focus stacking.
Focus stacking is not cheating. It is a standard technique to improve the signal to noise ratio.
When you take a series of photos for your scene at different focus distances is focus bracketing. And when you blend them to create greater DoF that is stacking.