Focus Stacking – What is it?

In Tips and Tricks by Patrick

Let me preface this article by saying that that there is no magic formula for this. Often you may take a d few as three shots or as many as 20 to achieve the desired affect. It can be a lot of trail and error. Lets start by answering what focus stacking is. This technique is used to extend the DOF (depth of field) and often to avoid diffraction that can occur when using an increased f-stop. Focus stacking in primarily used in landscapes and macro work and your subject must be stationary.

Capturing your images

Lets use the landscape as an example. You are going to take three photos. One for foreground, one for middle ground and one for background. You will need a good, stable tripod and a solid ball head to ensure no movement of your camera between shots. Using the shutter delay setting on your camera or a shutter release is recommended. If you’re shooting with a DSLR using the mirror up setting is also recommended to avoid camera shake caused by mirror movement.

Photo © Max Foster

Once placed on the tripod, you can use a shutter release to minimize movement, select the sweet spot of the lens, usually 2-3 stops above its largest aperture. Focus 1/3rd of the way into the frame and take some shots. Then focus 2/3rd of the way into the landscape and finally shoot the background making sure they are as tack sharp as you can get them. Once back in PS, you can use tools like exposure blending for the sky if you have exposed for the sky, cloning, masking and merging to make the final image. This may seem like a lot of time and effort, but once you do this multiple times, you will find your own style and have fun making photographs tack sharp from foreground to background fit to be in a gallery!

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