The visual power of a pin sharp, focused image can pull us into a photo and make us feel like we’re part of it. No wonder that we often make sure that our photos are as focused as possible!
Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to achieve this type of breathtaking focus over an entire image only with focusing techniques in the camera, especially with landscape or macro photos.
When it seems impossible to pin down the focus with just one camera, many photographers turn to one of their favorite techniques – Focus stacking.
What is focus stacking?
Stacking focus is a photo editing technique that allows us to achieve an impressively sharp focus throughout the image when it is not possible in the camera.
When stacking the focus, several shots of the same subject are taken, whereby only the focus is adjusted each time and these shots are then combined in the post.
In the simplest case, two images are taken during focus stacking, one of which is perfectly focused in the foreground and the other is perfectly focused in the background. Then they are combined into a single image so that the focus is ideal throughout.
Of course, stacking focus often involves more than two pictures!
How does focus stacking work?
When looking for images that are focused throughout the scene, many photographers can increase the aperture to increase the depth of field. However, increasing the aperture too much leads to image diffraction, which counteracts the additional sharpness achieved by the greater depth of field. This puts many photographers in trouble.
Stack focus to the rescue!
Focus stacking uses technology that we may not even know we have – it is directly available in our favorite photo editing software.
When we load similar images, programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic can merge them into a single image that contains the sharpest and sharpest parts of each photo. This results in a single image that is focused throughout.
When is focus stacking used?
Stacking focus is common in various photography genres. Because of its crisp, clean, and focused results, photographers from all niches can find a way to use this technique to enhance their photos.
However, stacking focus is particularly common in landscape photography. Because of the large distance between foreground and background in many landscape shots, it can be quite a challenge (if not impossible) to get a shot that is free from annoying blurring. For this reason, landscape photographers often use focus stacking to ensure that the clarity of their shot is accurate from foreground to background and everything in between.
Similarly, macro photographers love stacking focus because the shallow depth of field that most macro lenses offer makes it difficult to get the right focus across all of the photos.
By stacking the focus, these photographers can artificially expand the area that appears in focus without increasing their depth of field.
Try it yourself
We want to say that the best way to understand a technique thoroughly is to try it out for yourself. Of course, we didn’t want to leave you without a tutorial on how to use focus stacking in your photography!
in The Field
While the process of merging photos – the final step in focus stacking, which allows you to achieve perfect focus in your entire scene – is completed during post-processing, the focus stacking process begins.
Without the right field technology, you will probably not be able to merge your photos at a later time.
To prepare the images you need to stack the focus:
1. Set up your shot with a tripod and a remote release
Holding your camera still on a tripod ensures that your images stay as similar as possible, except for the manual changes you make to the focus.
The remote shutter minimizes the effects of vibrations that can penetrate your photos. Especially when taking macro pictures (a common reason for stacking the focus), the movement can be increased by touching the hand on the camera body in the picture, which affects the desired clarity.
2nd Make your settings exactly right
Now take some time to adjust settings such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Do this in a way that suits you, but don’t worry about focus yet. When you are satisfied with your settings, continue.
3rd Start working with the focus
Once you’re happy with the composition of your shot, all you have to do is find your focus. When you take your first shot in the series, adjust your focus so that the foremost setting of your shot is in focus. Use the chance. Then adjust the focus so that it is a little further away before taking another picture.
Repeat this process until you have taken enough pictures so that every point between the foreground and background within one of the photos is in focus.
During post processing
Merging images to stack focus can be accomplished in numerous photo editing programs. This explains the process of merging photos in Adobe Photoshop.
Once you’ve nailed down the images you use to stack the focus, transfer them to your computer, open Photoshop, and follow the steps below.
1. Upload your images to Photoshop and align them
You can do this by navigating File> Scripts> Load files in batches. Here you can browse the photos on your computer and select anything you want to include in your focus stack.
Be sure to check the “Try to align source images automatically“To keep your photos in line and take into account the slight variations that can occur even when using a tripod. We will be as specific as possible here!
Once you’ve confirmed your selection, Photoshop automatically inserts each image into its own layer.
You can then ensure that your images are aligned by selecting each level (all at the same time by clicking on the first level, holding down the Shift key and then selecting the last level) and then navigating Edit> Align Layers Automatically. This would align your images if you forgot to check this box when uploading the photos to your batch.
2nd Merge or “stackThe layers
Select all the levels in your stack with the Shift key and then choose Edit> Mix layers automatically. Choose “Batch images“And make sure both”Seamless tones and colors” and “Content-conscious Fill in transparent areas“Being checked.
Once you’ve approved Photoshop, your images will be merged into a single photo that should stay focused! Finally, select all the layers again, right-click and use “Reduce image. ”
Focus stacking is a process that becomes more familiar and intuitive when you try it yourself. Use this tutorial to practice and never worry about frustrating, blurry pockets in your photos again.