116 — Sharpness on Steroids — Focus stacking interview with Michael Breitung

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #116 fea­tures an inter­view with Ger­man land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Bre­itung where we talk about why and how to do focus stack­ing in pho­tog­ra­phy. Basi­cally focus stack­ing involves tak­ing mul­ti­ple frames of the same scene but each frame is focused at a dif­fer­ent part of the image. Then these frames are blended together using a graph­ics pro­gram like Gimp (free) or Pho­to­shop (expen­sive). The result is sharp­ness and depth of field on steroids that can’t be matched by any cam­era lens com­bi­na­tion on a 35mm DSLR cam­era at the time of this writ­ing.  Only tilt shift lenses can com­pete in this extreme sharp­ness arena, but those lenses require many saved dol­lars or a rich uncle. This tech­nique is free if you have the skills and a graph­ics program.

Scroll to the BOTTOM of this post to find the player to imme­di­ately lis­ten to the audio podcast.

Bloody Causeway - a focus stacked image by Michael Breitung

Bloody Cause­way by Michael Bre­itung — This focus stacked image blends 4 frames into one. Each frame was focused at a dif­fer­ent point and then blended in Pho­to­shop. Check out the sharp­ness from the clos­est cor­ners all the way to the end of the cause­way. This is sharp­ness swim­ming in awe­some sauce. The aper­ture used here was f/9.5


Kraichgau at Dawn - Focus stacked photograph by Michael Breitung

Kraich­gau at Dawn — Focus stacked pho­to­graph by Michael Breitung


Kraichgau at Dawn - Close up comparison by Michael Breitung

Kraich­gau at Dawn Details — Close up com­par­i­son by Michael Bre­itung — Only 2 frames were needed to cre­ate the final full-sized image above this one. One frame (left) focused at the fore­ground cor­ners, gets the cor­ners sharp in the final image. The other frame (right) focused at the midground, gets both the midground and the back­ground sharp. Then the frames are blended in Pho­to­shop to pro­duce the final image. The aper­ture used here was f/11.


Links /resources men­tioned in this pod­cast:
Michael Bre­itung Pho­tog­ra­phy
Michael Breitung’s (advanced) start to fin­ish tuto­r­ial on his (Lightroom/Photoshop) post-processing work­flow and how he cre­ated the Bloody Cause­way image.
Heli­con Focus image stack­ing soft­ware
Zerene Stacker
Tilt shift lenses in land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy
March 2013 reg­u­lar Assign­ment — Wet or Rain
March 2013 level 2 Assign­ment — Dra­matic angles

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You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below.

Thanks for lis­ten­ing and keep on shooting!

F-16 Isn’t Magic

I’ve been giv­ing photo courses lately and I’m com­ing across a few points that peo­ple are reg­u­larly hav­ing trou­ble with. The lim­its of depth of field (or how sharp objects should be in gen­eral) is one of the things that many pho­tog­ra­phers don’t com­pre­hend. This is often because they are aware of only one of the three fac­tors that deter­mine depth of field, namely the aper­ture. Many of us know that when we use a small aper­ture we get good sharp­ness from fore­ground to back­ground ver­sus large aper­tures. But this is true only up to a cer­tain point because two other fac­tors are miss­ing.  A small aper­ture like F-16 isn’t a magic one that will give you great sharp­ness from fore­ground to back­ground in all cases.

Take the fol­low­ing image called Rust for exam­ple. It was cre­ated by Crash­cat from our forum for our monthly assign­ment called - June 2012 — f16 or smaller– Shoot­ing with a small aper­ture. Thx Crash­cat for the use of this image.

This image was shot at ISO 1600 f/16 at 1/20 using a 105mm lens.
As we can clearly see the depth of field here is shal­low and this is because there are two other fac­tors besides the cho­sen aper­ture that influ­ence depth of field. These fac­tors include the dis­tance from the object we are pho­tograph­ing and the focal length we use.  As we  approach an object, depth of field dimin­ishes. The longer the lens we use the less depth of field we will have ver­sus using a shorter one.

The image we are look­ing at is a macro image and so the cam­era is very close to the object. Had the cam­era been far­ther way, we’d see more sharp­ness from the top of the screw to the bot­tom of the screw. Not tons more sharp­ness mind you, but more. The side effect is that the screw wouldn’t have the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion that it does and would look less ‘close-up’.

Had this lens been wider, we’d also see a small increase in sharp­ness from the top of the screw to the bot­tom of the screw, but again the screw’s per­spec­tive would seem smaller.

There is no easy answer here. It’s just a mat­ter of prac­tis­ing and know­ing what to expect.

For those that are look­ing for fab­u­lous pre­ci­sion, feel free to use a depth of field cal­cu­la­tor which will show you the depth of field you can expect under any shoot­ing condition.


Depth of field — Photography podcast # 2 — Photography.ca

Our sec­ond pod­cast is ded­i­cated to depth of field. We dis­cuss in pretty good depth how to become more cre­ative with depth of field. These 2 pho­tographs below illus­trate the dif­fer­ences between smaller and larger depths of field. Remem­ber: A smaller aper­ture like F 16 results in both the back­ground and the fore­ground being pretty sharp. A larger aper­ture like F 2.0 results in a sharp fore­ground and unsharp back­ground. If you’d rather read the dif­fer­ences instead of lis­ten­ing to the pod­cast below, a good depth of field expla­na­tion is located here.

F-16 — Large depth of field. Image sharp throughout.

F-2.0 — Shal­low depth of field. Only the fore­ground is sharp

If you see the player, use the player below to lis­ten to the pod­cast — it’s faster. If you don’t see the player click the link below.

You can down­load our sec­ond pod­cast here. http://www.photography.ca/podcasts/photog_ca_podcast2.mp3

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast tran­script #2