Do you want an image that is sharp as a tack from front to back? This fairly simple technique will change the way you capture macro (close-up shots.) Many photographers call it focus stacking and it involves digitally processing multiple images taken at different focal distances to create a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images. Focus stacking can be used in situations where the subject you would like to capture has a shallow depth of field (lots of background blur.) This includes all macro shots of small items such as flowers, insects, tiny still life shots and other close-ups.
Here are some things to consider:
- The longer your lens, the shallower the depth of field.
- The nearer you are to your subject, the shallower the depth of field (all macro.)
- The wider your aperture, the shallower your depth of field.
- Set your aperture where your lens performs the best (usually around f/8.)
- A steady tripod
- A macro lens or macro filters (inexpensive alternative)
- Manual focus ability
- A lot of patience
Taking the photos:
Your scene will be in front you. Set up your tripod so it will not move at all. Set your aperture at about an f/8 or what works best for your camera lens. You can find this information by reading your manual or doing a search online. Set your camera on manual shutter speed or aperture priority depending on what you prefer to get the best exposure. You need to use manual focus for this exercise.
Focus the first shot at the closest point to you, take the photo. Adjust your focus each time a small amount further into the subject. Make sure there is a tiny amount of overlap with each shot. I generally take between 5 and 10 shots.
Before you begin processing, go ahead and edit all images in Adobe Camera Raw (make sure you when you edit the first image, you synchronize all the images.) You do this by select all> synchronize> save as> jpg. Put all the images you want to work on in a file of their own. Open Photoshop. Select file> scripts> load files into stack> browse. Select the folder of images you will use and open.
Each image will now be in Photoshop as a separate layer. Click on the top layer and shift-click on the bottom layer to select them all. Go to edit> auto-align layers> auto> no check lens corrections. Now got to edit> auto-blend layers> stack images> check seamless tone and colors. And there you have it!
You may want to flatten layers now (layer> flatten image) and crop to get rid of rough edges. Put the finishing touches on sharpening, final color corrections, and personal creativity. Your image should now be sharp as a tack from front to back.