How do you focus on stacking photos

What is focus stacking?

Much photography is developing creative ways to overcome the limits of the laws of physics. One of these techniques is focus stacking.

Even wide-angle lenses with narrow apertures - a combination that gives you the greatest possible depth of field - cannot bring both the extreme foreground and background into sharp focus. You can get closer, but if there's a cool seashell right in front of you and there is still something interesting to see in the distance, either or both will be a little blurry. Look at this photo.

While it's not bad, the clam is less spicy than I would like while the lock on the island is in focus or as sharp as my setup allows.

Here is a photo where I focused on the shell instead.

When you zoom in on the high-resolution file, you'll see that the seashell is more sharply focused - check out the rings around the seashell as well as the small pebbles nearby to see them - while the castle cannot be seen on the island.

This is where focus stacking comes in. This technique combines multiple images into a single composite image with a depth of field that cannot be achieved in real life. Here I stacked the two photos above.

Take a closer look, and both the clam and the castle will be sharp.

Pretty awesome, isn't it? Let's see how to do it. I'll be demonstrating this using Photoshop, but you should be able to replicate this technique in most good photo editing programs.

When should focus stacking be used?

Stacking focus is always useful when you want depth of field in your images that you can't get optically. This mainly happens when you are shooting landscapes where something is happening in both the foreground and background, as in the example above, or when you are doing macro photography. For the rest of the time, you don't have to use focus stacking as you can get sufficient depth of field with your lenses and camera.

Pick up for stacking focus

The stacking of focus starts with the camera. If you go wrong here, not a lot of Photoshop work will save your shot.

Start the normal process and choose the correct exposure settings. At some point you will find that you have to use stacking focus to have everything in focus.

When you have decided on your final composition, fix your camera on a sturdy tripod and switch to manual exposure. You want the two recordings to differ from each other as little as possible.

CONNECTED:Manually focusing your DSLR or mirrorless camera

Next, switch your lens to manual focus mode. This is one of those situations where you get the best results by hand. Switch on the live screen and zoom in on the foreground by 10 times. Rotate the focus ring until it is as sharp as possible, then take your first shot.

Next, use the live view screen to zoom in on the background. Focus again and take the picture.

Usually two pictures are enough. However, if you are working with larger apertures or just want to be safe, you can take a third picture and focus somewhere in the middle.

Focus stacking images in the post

If you have a lot of focus stacking or want to mix up a dozen images to get perfect macro shots, then you should try special focus stacking software like Helicon. It is designed to work in extreme situations. On the other hand, if you want to expand the depth of field in your landscape shots, you can probably use the image editor that you are already using. I'll show it with Photoshop. To participate, you need to understand how layer masks work. If it doesn't, read our complete guide to layers and layer masks before you proceed.

CONNECTED:What are layers and masks in Photoshop?

Open all the images you want to merge into a single document. To do this, in Photoshop, go to File> Scripts> Batch Files. Click "Browse" and select the files. To resolve tripod shake, select the Try to auto-align source images check box, and click OK.

Since the differences between the two images, I recommend zooming in to 100% and then renaming the layers so you can easily remember which layer is in focus where. I like placing the layer so that the background objects are in focus, but it doesn't make too much of a difference.

Select the top layer and go to Layer> Layer Mask> Show All.

Select the Brush Tool (the keyboard shortcut is B) and make sure you have a nice, big, and soft brush.

Select the mask and paint with black over the areas of the frame that are slightly out of focus. I've disabled the bottom layer to give you an idea of ​​where I'm masking.

Zoom in, swap between layers, and mask the objects so that everything goes well between the two frames. If necessary, you can use advanced selection tools.

Once you're done, you should have seamlessly stitched the two images together into a single image with an expanded depth of field.


Stacking foci is probably not something you need to use often, but it is a handy technique to know about. Just make sure things are right on site.