Focus Stacking

Single Image at f/20

This time of year I probably do more macro photography than any other time because I want to capture the fine details of the Christmas decorations and especially the Christmas tree ornaments. And while most times I love the shallow depth of field a good macro lens offers, sometimes it can interfere with the details of the ornaments themselves because of how big some of these ornaments are. Yes you could deepen the DOF by stomping down the f/stop, but that also takes away that wonderful Bokeh that separates the subject from the background.

Adobe CS5 offers a wonderful tool to help solve this problem and it is called FOCUS STACKING. By shooting several images of the same scene with different focal points you can combine them into one image where the subject will be in focus and you can keep the background out of focus.

Focus Stacked Image

To do this you will need to place your camera on a tripod and set it for manual focus. Once you have the scene composed focus on the nearest point and take a shot. Then re-focus on an area behind where your first shot was and then take another shot. Do this until you have captured the whole subject in focus.

Now load the images on your computer and through Adobe Camera Raw highlight the images you want to use and then go to TOOLS>PHOTOSHOP>LOAD FILE INTO PHOTOSHOP LAYERS.

Once the image is opened in Photoshop you will see all the layers in the layers pallette. You will need to highlight all of these layers in the pallette. To do this have the top layer highlighted in blue and then hold the shift key and click on the bottom layer, they all should be in blue at this point. Then go to EDIT>AUTO-ALIGN LAYERS. This will align the layers based on the content (sharpness in this case). After this is done go to EDIT>AUTO-BLEND LAYERS. There will be a window that pops up and it will be highlighted on STACK, just click OK. The images will now be blended together so you will have a complete sharp image.

Once the images are blended together go to LAYER>FLATTEN IMAGE. Then you can fine crop away any unwanted edges along the frame to clean up the image. That’s it!

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