Focus Stacking Done The Right Way (... go big)

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18 gradually-focused exposures at: 85mm, ISO100, f/25, 1/10 sec. The crop was a result of aligning and blending all the layers. This one worked out very nicely.

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Comments (13)

david g Johnson on August 19, 2012

Smack on..Kevin..and cleverly done...../..Tech talk bit....- "So..even with a really rock solid tripod..or other device..any movement whatsoever of the camera would be critical to the end result sharpness....so..adjusting your many focus increments...must simply be down to being mega steady and careful with movements.../..and then you blend the images ..as you would a HDR"...?.../..End of tech talk bit.....Cheers from Dj...UK.

kenfowkes on August 19, 2012

I went to full size and it was a treat! I have tried this with a bearded iris and the results were very pleasing, but it was too much work. After you get your aligned focus stack, are you blending by hand or do you have software to help you?

Kevin Childress on August 21, 2012

Hey, DJ! Yeah, I'd say that's a very fair statement except the HDR-blending part (HDR image blending deals strictly with tone-based image construction and doesn't care if things are in focus or not). But the focus stacking approach is all about using only the sharpest bits from each photograph to compile a single image. I have a bunch of Passiflora growing wild around the house ... can't wait to try this again this weekend!

Hello, Ken! I've tried the hand-blended approach and found it to be very, very difficult. This one was auto-blended in CS5 which did a pretty good job. I think the biggest thing about using auto-blend software is making sure you provide it with the right amount of increments (in number of images). I think I'll save all the hand blending for tone based images! :)

Jeroen Verburg on August 23, 2012

At these close ranges a decent DOF is hard to come by, so this is a great way to fix that. And you did an awesome job on this flower!

Have you competely switched to CS5?

Kevin Childress on August 24, 2012

Thank you very much, Jeroen, I really enjoy these indoor projects.

I can't say that I have completely switched to CS5 but it is definitely a big part of my tool box today. There are some things about CS that are much easier to manage compared to PSP (which I still use almost exclusively for my HDR blending). Once I got my hands on CS, things like layer masks became very clear to me.

Jeroen Verburg on August 24, 2012

I understand this is indoor, because you'd never succeed in getting 18 outdoor shots of a flower aligned, at least not here in Holland ;) . But the light looks perfectly natural, not like indoor light. How did you manage that?

Kevin Childress on August 25, 2012

Jeroen, I'm very happy to hear some comments regarding the light. You're looking at the effects of two off-camera flashes. One flash was modified with a small 8" x 12" softbox and the second flash was modified with a homemade grid but was not diffused otherwise.

Each of the exposures received the exact same light so there were no weird shadows or mixed white balance to deal with when stacking all the images. I set the WB in-camera to 5000k so the end result should be very close to 'natural' outdoor light at mid day.

The tricky part about using the two flashes is arranging them in a way that doesn't make the subject look flat. I have found that allowing some shadows to occur helps add a sense of dimension and depth.

FYI about the EXIF: I am using manual flashes (instead of TTL flashes) so there is no actual communication between the camera and flashes. The EXIF will show no flash was used because of the missing TTL link. When using off-camera flashes, the EXIF would only show the flash was fired if the camera received the TTL signal from the flash that it did actually fire.

Kenneth Kruse on August 25, 2012

It's awesome, I can't wait to try it - After I get CS5, and a decent macro, and some strobe equipment, and get you to show me how ----- I think I'm going to tell my wife to go get a job! Don't worry I won't need you to show me how for quite awhile, you could give me some pointers on getting the wife to work though!

Kevin Childress on August 27, 2012

:) @ Ken Kruse!

Jeroen Verburg on August 27, 2012

My wife already has a job, maybe my kids could start paying rent... ;)

Kevin Childress on August 27, 2012

HA ! Good luck with that Jeroen!

david g Johnson on August 30, 2012

kevin......Had an idea...mainly for the novelty aspect...I suppose that you could you take this focus stacking to the other extreme...?
Say - a building...10 miles away../..a tree maybe 4 miles../.. a vehicle..200 yds. then a coin at 3 inches ?.../..may give it a go myself..Dj.

Kevin Childress on August 30, 2012

absolutely DJ, focus stacking can definitely be applied in the landscape. And given your example it would be essential to pulling of a single sharp image when viewed front-to-back.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on August 19, 2012
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Kevin Childress
    • Camera: NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D7000
    • Taken on 2012/08/19 13:00:37
    • Exposure: 0.100s (1/10)
    • Focal Length: 85.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/25.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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