Fantastic Idea: Photo Stacking

OK.  Be ye warned…for those of you who could care less about that even smacks of technical information about photography, you may only want to look at today’s picture and then go to the trivia and historical tidbits today.

In a post 2 days ago, I mentioned a new technique (focus stacking) that I’ve learned about and which I’m playing with.  Today’s picture is my second attempt with this…and I’m still learning about when this technique is useful and the types of subject matter that it is best used with.  I say that to let you know that there are some obvious flaws in this picture…so excuse me while I’m learning!  (I know some of you say you have to excuse me all the time!!!!)

The concept behind focus stacking is really quite simple.  Every picture has a point which is in sharpest focus.  If you shoot a macro shot, things closest to the camera (as a general rule) will be in sharp focus but everything beyond that will be blurry.  And, if you focus on something even just a few feet away (or farther) then things closer than that will be blurry, too.  Focus stacking is something that is done in Photoshop (I am using CS5 – don’t know if you can do it in Photoshop Elements or not, or at what version of Photoshop it was introduced) and the idea is that you take multiple exposures at varying focus points and then tell Photoshop that you want it to combine the exposures into a single image by choosing the areas of each exposure that are in focus and building a composite image out of the sharpest focus areas in each picture to form a single image with sharpness from close to far.

Here’s a simplified description for those who want to know how to do it.  Use a tripod or set the camera on a firm surface.  Find a subject that has things near and far away that you want to capture in a single, final exposure.  I’d recommend not to try to shoot plants, leaves, etc. on windy days (that’s the cause of most of the problems in my picture today), and not sure about how it works with other moving objects, but probably not too well.  Set your aperture to the smallest aperture you can (probably F22 or bigger in terms of the f-stop number).  For your first picture, turn your focus ring to MACRO and take your first shot.  Then turn your focus ring to about 1-1.5 meters and take another shot (being careful to not “zoom” or turn anything else!).  Then set the focus ring to about 3 meters and take another shot.  Then, maybe one more at 6-10 meters or so, take the shot, and then finally take a shot with the focus all the way dialed in to infinity and take another shot.

After doing a couple of things, you eventually load the images into Photoshop and will use their focus stacking capability to produce the final image.  (If you want more detailed information, let me know and I can email you a link to a video that shows how to do it all.)

The two problems with today’s image that will jump out at you are toward the top center where a branch was moving and created “ghosting”.  The second is toward to top right of the picture where there’s some vignetting and dark blurring caused by moving leaves, etc..  Other than that, though, I was pretty pleased with the result and the image turned out with a much wider range of sharpness from front to back than you’d ever get with a single exposure (as a general rule).

‘Nuff said.  Back to more “funner” stuff tomorrow!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1967, a California singing group called The Association, got a gold record for their song Never My Love.  They would go on to have other hits with Windy, Cherish, and Along Comes Mary (my personal favorite).

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: vampire bats don’t suck blood.  They bite, then lick the blood off the wound.


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