Focus Stacking in Photoshop

Focus Stacking in Photoshop

When one shot just won’t cut it, take many!

With Macro Photography one shot usually will not cut it.  This is due to the high levels of magnification and the effect they have on Depth of Field.  f/2.8 on a normal lens has limited depth of field and creates that soft dreaming bokeh effect.  Anything in the plane of focus will be in focus and anything outside that plane will gradually blur.  The plane of focus narrows with a Macro lens and as the magnification increases the focus plane decreases sometimes leaving only a sliver of focus in the focus plane.

Focus Stack Example

In this representation, the Light Cyan strip represents the area in focus for the given magnification. This is merely a representation, practical field tests will vary dependent upon Aperture.

 

This makes it imperative to get the most important elements in focus, but sometimes that one sliver is not enough… even at f/10 – 16!  So what do you do?

You take multiple exposures at varying focus planes and stack them in Photoshop.  This allows you to get all of the areas of focus you shot into one photo.  While this is traditionally a Macro technique, you can do the very same thing with Landscape images.

Let’s say your Landscape is extremely vast and even f/16 can’t get everything in focus.  You should take 2-3 pictures each with varying levels of focus.  One for the Foreground, one for the middle ground and one for the background.  When you have all of the exposures, bring them into Photoshop and stack them using the technique in this tutorial!

Enjoy!

 


 

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Blake Rudis
Creator of f.64 Academy
Most people think I am passionate about Photography, but in reality I am not.

WHAT!?!

Wait, before you freak out, you are on a photo site, I am addicted to post processing. To be more specific, I am addicted to workflow efficiency and cracking the codes to complex systems. That's what I do here, crack the code to photo post processing and present it in a concise way, for you :)
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22 Comments

  1. Outstanding, Blake. I will definitely have to try this. Thanks very much.

    Vinny

    Reply
    • Thanks for watching Vinny! You rock!

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the insider information Blake on photo stacking. I took a night shot last night using the Hyper Focal Distance and will now try your method tonight and compare the difference. I was focused at one meter at f11, 30 s 16 mm 100 iso. It looked good. Cant wait to shoot tonight.

    Reply
    • Sweet! I love the enthusiasm behind your comment. I would love to shoot tonight, maybe I’ll find something if the rain passes!

      Reply
  3. I have Photoshop CS3 Extended and cannot find “stack” in auto blend is option only in newer versions? if so how to get around that?

    many thanks.

    Reply
    • I am not sure if this will work in CS 3. I never used CS 3, went for Photoshop 8 to CS5 a while back.

      Reply
  4. Thanks Blake – I was curious how focus stacking was done in photoshop and how accurate it was – I’ll give your method a try and see what happens!

    Reply
    • Awesome! It helps if you give it a lot of images to work with. This tutorial 6 wasn’t really enough.

      Reply
  5. Thank you Blake, I was unaware Photoshop even had this feature. Like you I enjoy both landscapes and macro photography. I can see where this is really going to change the game for me it the future.

    Reply
    • That is awesome to hear someone else shares the same love of it. Glad I could help with this. Give it a shot and see what you think.

      Reply
  6. Very cool. What would the procedure be to do a focus stacked and a HDR exposure bracketed landscape?

    Reply
    • I would process all HDR first, then take the .TIFF files and focus stack.

      Reply
  7. Thank you very much for this tutorial. I took a series of images in Joshua Tree Nat’l Park with this process in mind and now I think I can execute my plan.

    Reply
  8. Thank you for the solution to the depth of field frustration with macros. Didn’t know about the stacking feature in Photoshop. Very excited to try this with both macros and landscapes.

    Reply
    • You are welcome! Glad I could help!

      Reply
  9. wishing you’ll a happy anniversary & many happy returns of the day to your son

    Reply
  10. I’ve seen something like this before a long time ago and of course couldn’t remember how or find it again. Thanks so much for this great short tutorial. Love it. Now I have to do it before I forget? 🙂

    Reply
  11. Blake,

    As always, very informative. Look forward to the next visit!

    Jerry

    Reply
  12. Great tutorial. I used to do quite a bit of macro with manual nikon lens and camera. Shallow depth of field was just accepted. Will enjoy trying this stacking method.

    Reply
  13. Really enjoyed the macro aspect. even though I’ve seen tutorials on landscape its a nice reminder it can be done macro as well. You made it very simple to understand

    Reply
  14. That was awesome Blake I’ve tried it a couple times now. Blake, would you consider a follow-up tutorial explaining what to in case the auto align feature in Photoshop doesn’t work on a particular photo stack?

    Reply
  15. Great tutorial. I have to try this approach. I use a focus stacking program that does really well, so I have to experiment with PS. I use this approach for my close up/macro images.

    Reply

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