Focus Stacking in Macro Photography



in this video I'm going to go over the basics of focus stacking hello my name sure would and welcome to this video so the last video I'll put up which was the macro adventures episode 4 I put an image on social media of this damselfly and a lot of people asked me how did you focus stack that damselfly berry hunt so focus stacking is a process where you take multiple images of the focus playing in different positions and then combined all of those images within a piece of software to create one single image where your depth of field is larger on some lenses when you go above a certain f-stop diffraction comes in because your aperture is so small focus stacking can get around that problem you can also use this technique to open up your aperture to give yourself a higher shutter speed to freeze that action so I have a basic scene set up here with Chewbacca with the Millennium Falcon and a little bit of a background and what I'm going to go through is the basics of focus stacking how and why we do it in macro photography we always struggle with depth of field this is the focus plane in your image where you have the most sharpness and it's a very very very shallow very shallow when it comes to macro photography so what focus stacking does not make this as simple as possible is you take a series of pictures with parts of the image that are in focus and then software such as Photoshop uses an algorithm to mask out the pasture out-of-focus blending it all together to make it look like you have a much wider depth of field so there's two techniques there an issue can alter your focus or you can move to camera I prefer to move the camera okay so the key things very very simple so you can understand what we're doing here I'm going to use a focus trail now this rail I'm not going to recommend it because I never use it it's very cheap I'm not even going to use budget it's cheap okay but I'm just going to use this as a demonstration on exactly how to do this technique so we're going to bring in tripod so I got my camera set up and you can say oh loose it is on this Jeep but I also if you are going to have a well make sure you get a really good one but not to excuse me for stops working it's one of the hotter date of the year and as you can see I've been a sunburn like I said I got my camera set up now and you can see there the the image that we are getting so I am use is to have two bucket in focus but the Millennium Falcon and the background be out of focus and if you look as a focus you can just about get is facing focus and the Millennium Falcon out of focus but you can't have the gun or was crossbow in focus so that is what we are going to use the focus stacking for we're going to take a series of shots where the focus plane changes and then in the software afterwards we are going to combine those together to create one single image so to get this done I'm going to need to introduce a little bit of light ok so I like to take it just in front of where I want to start to photograph okay so I'm going to take a test shot now so I'm going to move it forward so you can see from that shot that only knows he's actually in focus the eyes are out of focus never else is out of focus and this is gonna be perfect subject for us to do a focus stuck with you can see look at okay wobbly daddy's this is why I don't like this particular focus rail by one point key things simplify before we go onto the freehand focus stacking iris wanna explain what it is okay so I'm going to start focus stacking now so I'll put my onion front like a picture that gives me a blank picture in Lightroom so I know where the focus stack starts okay here we go hey I'll move forward a little bit move forward again I will just keep doing this until we have all the images taken okay now we've done that I'm going to take my camera off this rapi focus rail don't ever cheat paper on you on your equipment because that's what happens you try and do a a youtube video and your cheap-ass crappy rail is just so crap you can't do it alright so what I'm going to do again and do the same again but this time gonna use the focusing wheel on my lens I'm gonna focus just in front of where I'm gonna start hand over the lens they'll give me a blank image so I know where the focus stack starts and then I can start the focus stuck again and I'm just altering the focus so that we get a little bit in focus every single time and the idea is here we will let the software work out what's in focus and that will give us our final result so now we've done that it's time to jump out of the computer and finish this off and I'll show you how you can edit your focused at images and combine them into one image here we are now in Lightroom and you can see here we have our images that we've just taken succeed only we have all our images you can see we have the blank images that's when we put our hand over the lens the show but that's a start of a new stack so is our stack saya this is the first one this was done with the year the focusing layer and you can see how the image moves all over the place and that's one of the reasons why I don't like that particular focus rail and he'll probably be going in the bin but there you go so first of all I'm not doing any editing at all I'm not going to edit the colors or anything I just want to get the basics of how we focus stack that way you can go out now and have a little bit of a play with focus stacking so all I'm going to do is gonna select all of my focus stacks the images okay and I want to group those into a stack so there's them there's our next one this was the one that we did with the focus wheel on our lens and then these I can delete because we don't need those any longer well of course we have these images at the beginning which was our tests shoe to see if the exposure was correct we don't need those okay so we have our two stacks 117 119 images so we have our stacks now so I'm going to select the first stack this was the one done with the focus rail and a photo editing anyone know open as layers in Photoshop and they were sitting off there and wait we are now in Photoshop and you can see here here we have all of our images you see the the focus shifting on each image okay the first thing we want to do almost like all of my layers and we want to come up to edit or tau align layers I leave it on auto make sure your vignette removal and geometric distortion is on ticked I'll click OK now you don't have to use Photoshop there are many other piece of software out there there's Irene stacker and there is another one I can't remember the name of buy art but I don't use any of these because I don't file Stucky enough to want me purchasing a separate piece of soft bread okay but if you want me to demo those software's show you what those software's can do let me know in the comments below and I'll see if I can get myself a trial version to show you the difference between Photoshop and say serene stacker when it comes to stacking images but those piece of software I would say are for if you're really serious about focus stacking okay so here we are it's they're aligned to these images so next what we want to do is come to edit Auto blend layers and we're going to stack images making sure seamless terms and colors is ticked and content-aware fill transparent areas it's also tipped and we will click OK okay so there we have our finished focused at image you can see there how Chewbacca is all in focus now but the Millennium Falcon in the background is still out of focus that's the power of focus stucking let's examine what's going on here so basically what's happening here is Photoshop is using an algorithm to detect what pixels are actually in focus it then masks out those pixels and blends them in as layers so you see these layers here at Sur let's get the bottom one so each one of these has images that it thinks is in focus now these ones are for the background okay they're able to focus but then as you come here you can see but each one each layer has a little bit of Chiri that is in focus because they here on to the gun now look though each layer is a little bit that's in focus and Photoshop has basically blended those layers together to give us our overall finished image let's get back into Lightroom let's um look at that over stack that we had but this one is you remember is the one we did with the focusing reel on the actual lens the game we're going to edit in open as layers in Photoshop okay so here is our image again and you can see there the different focusing okay we're going to select them all again go to edit Auto align layers like Auto and you can create yourself an action in Photoshop that does this for you okay all your do is record it once you record it you all you got to do is hit fly on your action and it will do all this for you okay that's done snow come to edit auto blend layers again stacked images seamless turns corners content-aware fill transparent areas and we will let Photoshop do its thing okay so this is a great example of something I wanna show you okay now I struggled with this a lot when I first started now let's just deselect now if you have a look at this one okay you can see noon off most of its in there we've got a few little bits of artifacting around here okay however if you look at this one a lot of his gun is actually out of focus and some areas just here are out of focus so what's happened there is that is a failed stack and what happened is I've turned the focusing wheel too much okay so this actually put me off focus they can fall quite a block I couldn't figure out what was going on and if you ever see this here your focus stack is still out of focus it's because you haven't got enough information that's in focus and that is something I want to touch on in the next video where I'm going to be focused stuck in some live subjects okay so I will touch on that in the next video so those two again moving the camera seems to work better I always do it I don't know why it just does okay but that is our final image there and of course you always get these a little bit of artifacting around the edge of your primaries where the image is shifted slightly what we gotta do now is crop and since we are doing Chewbacca let's do a 16 to nine crop okay and my computer is not that fast I've just edited the video okay okay I'm gonna say this as a tiff let's discard the layers okay so we can always bring this image back into Lightroom to do some color correction and depending on the subject will depend whether I do my color correction before stacking or afterwards typically most the time I do my color correction before I do my stack there's a nice kind of cinematic type of look to it there you go but that's the basics of focus stacking when you need a subject in focus more ok the depth field needs to be more but you can't push your lens a bull of certain f-stop because of diffraction I hope you learned something from this video if you did let me know in the comments below in the next video we're going to be doing some focus stacking on live subjects out in the field so I hope you're going to be looking forward to that but again as always my name's Sherwood not see you on the next video so I have a sitter we always have a struggle of the focus playing us the plane it's erm in macro photography you always struggle with the focus plane focus depth in macro photography your Wester will be depth of field and that's the the field you yep and our aim here is to have the whole of Chewbacca in focus but the Millennium Falcon and the background out of fall

33 Replies to “Focus Stacking in Macro Photography”

  1. Unfortunately with 99.999% of subjects you'll end up with significant halos around foreground elements where the background can't physically be captured sharply. Thus there are very few subjects that allow for focus stacking to work – for the rest it's a complete waste, you're much much better off learning how to concentrate on one aspect of your subject and make that aspect the hero of the shot and grab the viewers attention. Attempts at focus stacking usually are a failure to determine what really is interesting about the subject.

  2. Great video. What LED light are you using? I've just started experimenting with focus stacking. The free Canon EOS Utility allows me to adjust focus remotely from a PC and operate the camera shutter.

  3. Yay, fun stuff! I hate shallow depth of field when it isn't wanted, thanks for reminding us of other ways to tame it. You got me trying this out in older CS4 –it's there! (That wemacro.com site you mentioned here is interesting, also.) Waiting for your next video, great job.

  4. Great video Stewart! I have been using a rail for years for all of my photos, with my eyesight I have to always focus in live view and the rail is great for those last changes for a perfect focus.

  5. Hi Stewart and thanks for making this video. My question is , which aperture works best with focus stacking? Thanks

  6. 1 that is one bad sunburn. Buy some Egyptian Miracle cream it should take care of the redness within a day

  7. I've only ever tried focus stacking once but quiet liked the results although I did get some out of focus parts .. I used a progrm called Helicon focus waiting patiently to see how you do it with live sujects …. AWESOME content as always Stewart 📸👍

  8. I recently started watching your videos and they are so informative and interesting. keep it up. congratz from New Zealand

  9. Another great video and a super nice tan on you arms😃 I interested in the hand held focus stacking when will the next vid come out?

  10. Well done, Stewart! Good point about focusing rail — have been through a few of them; in one case I had to wedge a sliver of rubber between the moving rails to firm up the mechanism. Without the rubber insert, even with tightening screws, the unit jiggled. Perhaps a vid comparing different rails (design, screw drive, et al) would be very helpful. (Vid should have shown final PS steps — save, close — to return to LR.) Look forward to the follow up.

  11. Brilliant explanation as always and i must say im looking forward to the coming videos of the more deep dive on focus stacking

  12. Just getting into focus stacking – using "Affinity Photo" – so this was very helpful indeed. Interesting to see that moving the camera was more effective than changing focus on a stationary camera. Looking forward to your next video using live subjects. I've been wondering how to do that. Thanks very much for sharing, Stewart.

  13. I've tried in-camera focus bracketing but found it to be more trouble than it's worth, so I just move the focus ring. Do you think a focus rail is better than using the focus ring?

  14. Hi Stewart! Thank you again for another great video, I start doing stacking moving the focus ring but sometimes getting bad results with insects, some parts was blurry, it was a good practice doing that but to get the most accurate results its better a good focus rail. I am working with Helicon software and it is great. Regards!!

  15. I ran into the same issue recently where I was trying to capture a tiny succulent from front to back using this technique and missed focus on two planes, ended up having two blurry spots. It was my first attempt ever at multiple shots but learned quite a bit after going through the entire processing. Also, I use the exact camera setup so your videos feel very related and I get to learn quite a lot. Thank you for that!

  16. Should have toned down the red colour in this video…..ouch looks painful. Great video BTW and just shows that you do not save on buying cheap kit, yes it looks good but is only fit for the bin.

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