First Stack

Macro photography is great fun, but it has its challenges, including the fact that at very close focus distances, depth-of-field, the amount of stuff that's in focus, is very, very shallow. I did my first ever focus stack in an effort to address this issue using a row of .30-06 rifle rounds and my 100mm f/2.8 Tokina macro lens at f/8.
Macro photography is great fun, but it has its challenges, including the fact that at very close focus distances, depth-of-field, the amount of stuff that’s in focus, is very, very shallow. I did my first ever focus stack in an effort to address this issue using a row of .30-06 rifle rounds and my 100mm f/2.8 Tokina macro lens at f/8.

For some time now, I’ve been intent on making a preliminary attempt at focus stacking. It’s not critical to my work, but I often think I should add as many tools as I can to my photographic toolbox. I’m already pretty good with High Dynamic Range (HDR), which is a form of exposure stacking, so focus stacking seemed like the next move.

This was my very basic setup for taking my first step into the world of focus stacking.
This was my very basic setup for taking my first step into the world of focus stacking.

Stacking is a way to blend more than one image. Focus stacking is blending several images, each of which is focused at a different point. The idea is to use sharp portions of each image to create a new image with more in focus. This can be useful for landscapes that have compositional elements at locations both very close to the camera, and very far from the camera, but it is an exceptional tool when it comes to macro photography of very, very small objects, in which focus ranges are so close that depth-of-field is razor thin.

The basic process is to import images of different focus areas into Photoshop, then tell Photoshop to blend them. You can put it into search engine to find a step-by-step, which is what I did. It wasn’t at all difficult.

For this attempt, I made one image for every rifle cartridge in the image, moving focus from one to the next.

This is my first try, and it’s incredibly rough. Obviously I need to read more about how to finesse this technique, and I need to practice. There are many more applications available in addition to Photoshop, but I have Photoshop as part of my Adobe Creative Suite, so it seemed like a good place to start.

Stay tuned for more focus stacking efforts!

My first focus stacking effort didn't look great, but it did create an image with everything in focus. I'll be experimenting with this a bunch in the near future.
My first focus stacking effort didn’t look great, but it did create an image with everything in focus. I’ll be experimenting with this a bunch in the near future.

2 Comments

  1. “This is my first try, and it’s incredibly rough.”

    It looks pretty amazing from here. Wow. Focus stacking is something I haven’t tried (it’s not available in my old Photoshop CS2), but I have seen some incredible macro images — usually of insects — using this trick. I’m certain you’ll master it if you want to. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.