Are you amazed at some of the photos you see online? Stunning landscape shots, sparkling product shots, and glossy macro shots come right from your screen. Do you often wonder about the type of equipment photographers use? Maybe it’s the latest camera, an expensive lens, or professional lighting.
We’ll let you in on a secret: those crystal clear images are created with a magic wand called focus stacking.
What is Focus Stacking?
Have you heard of HDR images? High Dynamic Range images are created by taking three separate images at three different exposures and combining them together in editing software. This technique brings out details and vivid colors.
Focus stacking is something along similar lines. It involves taking multiple images at different focus distances and layering them in editing software to get a picture that looks sharp.
Why you should focus on stacking your images
The usual technique for getting corner-to-corner sharpness in an image is to narrow the aperture (higher f-number). Have you ever taken a photo at f/22? If it does, you should know it’s nowhere near the glittering pictures on the internet. The problem with higher f-numbers is that your lens will diffract at small apertures.
If you remember anything from your physics lessons, you probably know that light travels in straight lines. When your aperture is fully open, there will be enough room for light to pass through. On the other hand, when your aperture is small, light rays will diffract and interfere with each other. As a result, your image will be blurry, especially around the edges.
Most lenses are diffracted at f-numbers greater than f/13. However, cheaper lenses tend to show diffraction at lower f-numbers. Additionally, diffraction is more visible in crop sensor cameras than in full-frame cameras.
To test the sweet spot of cameras and lenses, you can try taking pictures at different apertures and review the quality of the photos at hundreds of percent zoom.
Take photos of breathtaking landscapes
In landscape photography, you want the distant mountains to be in focus as much as your close subjects. So if you turn the aperture to say, f/22, you might be able to focus on the mountains, but your photos will generally lack quality.
The best way to fix the problem is to take multiple photos at a reasonable f-number like f/8, focusing on different places in your scene. You can then focus on overlaying the images in your editing software.
Create your macro image
Macro lenses are great for getting up close to your subjects and rendering them lifelike, but they have one drawback: the depth of field is very shallow in macro lenses.
The close focusing distance and magnification factor make the depth of field very small – usually just a few millimeters. Therefore, it is not possible to fully focus on your subject with a macro lens, even if the f-number is increased. Solution? Focus stacking.
Let your product photos shine
In product photos, especially jewelry and watch photos, it’s not easy to capture all the smallest details using traditional photography and retouching techniques. Focused stacking is the answer to bring out details and make your products look sharp for use in e-commerce.
How to focus on the stack
Focus stacking sounds complicated, but it’s a relatively simple technique. To focus your image overlay, you need an image editing software like Adobe Photoshop.
There is no set amount of images that you can focus on on top of each other — you need at least two, and you can add as many as you want to focus all parts of your subject. You will make that decision depending on your audience.
Macro and product photographers typically take more than 20 shots to make sure every bit of the image is in focus. Landscape photographers, on the other hand, tend to take only a few shots because their subjects are often more prominent, and wide-angle lenses tend to be sharp with a good depth of field.
Unless you’re a macro photographer, you don’t need any other special hardware to focus. However, it is helpful if you have a tripod for your photography as it is important not to change your composition too much.
As with composition, try to keep your exposure consistent. You can use constant light to maintain the same exposure in all your photos. If there are large differences between your photos, your final image may not look right.
When working with macros, depth of field is usually measured in millimeters. Therefore, it may not be possible to get all of your subjects in focus by randomly choosing the focus distance. You may need special equipment such as focus rails and bellows to select them correctly.
The focus bar has a mechanism that allows you to move your camera by millimeters. It attaches to your tripod and you can adjust the camera movement in both front and back and side to side. An extended bellows does the same thing, but it can also increase the magnification of your subject.
Advanced macro photographers use the auto-rail to capture images at different focus distances. One of the best on the market is the Helicon Focus, which includes hardware to control your camera along with focus stacking software.
You don’t always have to focus on the stack
As with all retouching techniques, it’s better not to go overboard with focus stacking. For example, it’s not a good idea to focus on superimposed portraits. Stacking too many images can also slow down your computer significantly.
While focus stacking is fun, don’t obsess over it — feel free to shoot at a larger f-number if you’re okay with a little blur. Also, everyone loves the beautiful bokeh effect. So if that’s what you want in your photos, use it. Call it artistic freedom — there’s no rule that says your image has to be sharp from corner to corner.
Beat your photography game with focus stacking
Focus stacking is an effective technique that will make your photos look professional. Additionally, focus stacking will also prompt you to pay attention to your composition and exposure.
Remember, learning different editing techniques will give you the confidence to handle unexpected situations. So, if you’ve never tried focus stacking before, now’s the time.
How to Stack Focus Using Lightroom and Photoshop: A Step-by-Step Guide
https://www.makeuseof.com/what-is-focus-stacking-sharp-images/ What Is Focus Stacking? The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Images Super Sharp