What is Focus Stacking?
Focus Stacking is a technique where you can combine many different photos taken at various focal points. It’s commonly used in macro photography where you have a very shallow Depth of field. By combining multiple photos together you are able to extend your Depth of field and get more in focus within a small Frame. Focus Stacking is a great way to control what’s in focus in your image.
Capturing Images for Focus Stacking
Focus Stacking is done in Photoshop, but in order for Focus Stacking to work you need to know how to shoot the images. So in today’s episode, we give you a brief rundown of how we captured the images we used. With the help of some Game of Thrones characters we were able to create a little scene perfect for an example. We definitely encourage our phamily members to get out there and have some fun with Focus Stacking. Not just in Photoshop but also in the Photoshoot process.
Here are some things you’ll need in order to capture footage for your Focus Stacking:
- A sturdy tripod (You’ll need your scene to be relatively still in order to really achieve this effect. A sturdy tripod is one of the best ways to ensure your Framing is consistent.)
- A couple pocket wizards (This is totally option, but it was another way for us to get our hands off the camera, ensuring that the camera is shifting positions. We connected the pocket wizard with a shutter release cable and we were good to go!)
- Shoot in “MF” also known as “Manual Focus” (Shooting in Manual Focus will allow us to move the focal Ring of the lens while taking the pictures. The reason that we aren’t shooting in Auto Focus is because Auto Focus would override what we are trying to accomplish by slightly moving the focal Ring. Manual Focus gives us complete control of our depth of field.)
- Capture images for Focus Stacking (There is a technique when it comes to Focus Stacking. Our advice is to choose your earliest stacking point, take a picture, rotate the focus ring a little bit, take another picture and repeat this process.)
Bringing Your Images into Lightroom
So now that we have our images for our Focus Stack, it’s time to prepare them for photoshop. Our first stop is Lightroom, not only are you able to get an idea of the images you want to use for your Focus Stack, but you can also select the exact images you want to export to photoshop. We export and resize our images and now we are ready to rock in Photoshop.
Stacking Files in Photoshop
Now in Photoshop, we are ready to load all our images together. If we go to File > Script > Load Files Into Stack. This allows us to load all our images into one big stack instead of loading them individually. From there you can browse your files and choose the folder with the images you selected from Lightroom. There is an option in the Load Files Into Stack dialog box that says “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.” We do recommend having that box checked. Once you hit OK, Photoshop loads all of those images into one stack. Now that we have the images loaded, we need to combine them all into one image.
Focus Stacking in Photoshop
The first thing we do is select all our files. We click on the first, hold down Shift, and then click the last to select all our images. Next we go to Edit > Auto Blend Layers. The two options that are now available to us our Panorama and Focus Stacking. We check the option “Seamless Tones and Colors” and hit OK. Now Photoshop goes to work, it takes the parts of each image that is in focus, then it creates a Layer Mask only revealing the part of the image that is in focus. Photoshop will use this technique on every photo in your Focus Stack. This automated process would be nearly impossible for us to do on our own. At the end of the process, we have our very own Focus Stacked image!