View Full Version : Experiment with Focus Stacking

03-09-2013, 07:15 PM
Inspired by the excellent podcast on focus stacking, I made this attempt on a flower bouquet. Setup was with three speedlights, two aimed at umbrellas on each side and one bare flash directly behind. Shot about 4 feet from the flowers at ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/10 sec. at 105 mm. Three stacked shots, one focused at the rear, one at the middle and one at the front. I processed and then synchronized all three shots in Lightroom. In PS Elements, put each shot on a layer and created layer masks to show the best focused areas from each shot. I had difficulty with some of the leaves that are actually farther back in the bouquet, and so required more careful masking so as not to blur flowers that are farther forward, but appear right next to them. Still not as sharp overall as I would have liked (the yellow rose in the middle, for example). I believe it would have been better to use four or five stacked shots, rather than three, to account for all the varied depths. All in all I'm pleased, and it's a technique I'll use more often for sure. C and C very welcome.


03-09-2013, 10:35 PM
For the person that did not know, all looks perfectly in focus. Great job.

Matt K.
03-10-2013, 12:02 AM
Wonderful work. Looks superb.

03-10-2013, 09:22 AM
Hey mbrager - thx so much for the compliment! What a cool guest and concept eh?
You are blending in the same way as the focus stacking podcast (http://www.photography.ca/blog/2013/03/07/focus-stacking/) guest Michael does and i agree it is the best way. We didn't discuss this in the podcast, but your instinct is correct that as you approach the subject macro style,(versus backing away from objects) you will need more frames because d.o.f. is naturally reduced as the camera approaches subject. For this shot though, curious why did u choose f/6.3?
As for the test, don't hate me but I think it would have been a 'more shocking' test to either shoot objects that have more distance between them, OR cut through 1 object like a flower. Although there does seem to be a span between foreground and background flowers, it's not that huge and with this perspective it's hard to be sure of the level of sharpness we'd expect to see imo.
Still, I do see excellent overall sharpness here and a very sharp foreground, with sharp background flowers. I do see areas that probably required more time masking but this is an awesome effort on your part. Mastering this is difficult. I've had the benefit of watching Michael's tutorial and the level at which he corrects and adjusts images, through masks, channels, layers etc. is at an advanced level for sure. each image takes him in the 2 to 2.5 hours zone. But the results are gorgeous on a technical level. Crazy sharpness, no noise in the shadows, no haloing - delicious stuff.
Thanks for doing this test mbrager! Keep at it!

03-10-2013, 09:28 PM
Nice and sharp front to back. Looks like a succesful experiment

03-10-2013, 09:44 PM
good for you! i can't wait to try this!

03-10-2013, 11:44 PM
Awesome results. So sharp I'm afraid I'll cut my finger on these petals. Nicely done. It's a wonderful tool to have in your toolbox. :thumbup:

03-11-2013, 08:52 AM
Hello mbrager,

great to see that you got inspired by the podcast. Looks sharp :-) What I should add here, since in macro you are working with a longer lense and the subjects are closer it might be needed to use even more focussed shots than with a wide landscape shot as I normally do. And also, since you have full control when shooting in studio and no movement at all you could give helicon focus a test. For such close-ups and macro stacking it was originally designed and works very well.

For landscape though I'll stick to manual mode :-)


03-11-2013, 11:03 PM
Thanks so much for the comments and detailed critique. Marko, I believe I was shooting at f6.3 because of the light meter, which gave me that aperture for ISO 200 at 1/10. I was trying for a better depth of field while being so close to the subject. I was also turning off the ambient light in the room, only using the speedlights, which were turned up to nearly full power as I recall. Thanks to you and Michael for confirming what I originally suspected, that at that close distance, more shots would be better. But also more work with more layers. Can't wait for some outdoor opportunities.

03-19-2013, 12:33 PM
Nice work! Looks good all around.