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focus stacking technique and photos

Discussion in 'Photography Techniques' started by pniev, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    I don't think a thread exists on this topic, so I thought to start one to share experience, questions, and examples. Mods: feel free to delete this post if there is already a thread on stacking.

    I never paid much attention to the technique because I like shooting close-up and macro w/o tripod. I also like to use bokeh to accentuate certain parts of a product, flower, or other object/subject. However, for watch photography I need to go a step further in my technique.

    When I saw Michael Erlewine's photos I experienced a mindshift. He is such a great source of inspiration. I am sure I will never achieve his mastery level, but I do hope to improve my photography with this technique.

    The basic technique appears to be simple: focus on various parts of the object, align photos, blend photos. Adobe Photoshop offers “auto functionality”: open photos as layers, select all layers, auto-align, auto-blend, flatten image and save. Michael’s favorite program is ZereneStacker. But I decided to increase my shooting proficiency before looking at other software. Using a tripod helps, but could be avoided. When using a tripod, aperture priority mode with ISO 100 can be preselected.

    Let me share my initial experiences, based on some photos (yours could be different). Most photos are based on 20-30 shots.

    1. Planning is essential. While it is not necessary to shoot 200 images, it is important to know the DoF and carefully and methodologically select focus areas. I did not do that in this photo. You will see some blurred areas that should not be blurred.

    [​IMG]

    This is relatively easy. Not a lot of curves, so less shots:

    [​IMG]


    2. Watches are, like drops, trickier because of the curves. You will notice some inconsistencies when you zoom in:

    [​IMG]

    3. There is no need to get everything in focus! I like these ones although I should have made a few more photos of the crown:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This one has too many flowers in focus. I don't like that.

    [​IMG]

    Feel free to add your own thoughts, ideas, tools and photos.
     
    • Like Like x 4
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Hey Peter,
    I haven't done any focus stacking, but I've read a fair amount about it. A long-time flickr friend of mine was WAAAAY into it when he got into extreme insect photomacrography. You may want to check out his stream. He is also very generous sharing technical details..... I wish I had a few specific examples, but it's well worth clicking through his flickrstream. For a long time he was shooting almost exclusively macro, but it seems he has gotten into landscape photography as well.

    Craig Taylor
     
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  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    It's an interesting technique, as is the Brenizer method of shooting very narrow DOF shots in panorama for sort of environmental portraits. Both require both a tripod and planning, though, and I detest tripods and planning, so I'm not likely to do them. But I love seeing the results! How small an aperture are you using Peter? It would seem like if you're using a tripod and shutter speed is no issue, you could stop pretty far down and need very few shots to have everything in focus across the plane. Or is the point of this different? Regardless, some of those shots are really "pro" looking whatever the details of the technique used...

    -Ray
     
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  4. serhan

    serhan SC All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
    NYC
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  5. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Thanks Ray! I shot at 5.6 and iso 100. I could have gone higher but I thought to use the aperture with the hifhest sharpness. I am going to try various apertures to compare results. Good idea.
    I also want to try to do this w/o tripod.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
  6. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Its a new term & technique to me - great results Peter & well worth exploring further. I look forward to seeing more
     
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  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    How and why would you do it without a tripod? This seems like the kind of shooting that's tailor made for a fixed camera position. Doing it without a tripod would just make blending multiple photos more difficult and, in some cases, might preclude it. Or am I missing something?

    -Ray
     
  8. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    • Like Like x 1
  9. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Thanks, Luke! Wonderful, wonderful photos. I am a follower now!

    Regarding your other post about the rail: thanks for the link. It looks like a great tool for macro work. However, I am not sure if it works for focus stacking because you want to keep the composition as equal as possible between shots and by moving the rail, you also change the position. Or am I missing something?
     
  10. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    You're right. It is made for tripod shooting. But for watch photography on a trip it is often difficult to bring and use a tripod. Or it limits flexibility. So I want to experiment with handheld shots, obviously while trying to keep the composition as steady as possible. To keep the number of photos limited, aperture will be f11 or perhaps even f16. The auto-align function in PS does a great job in aligning the various photos.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I haven't used a focusing rail, but I know Craig started using one fairly early on in his insect photography. I think they are most useful for extreme macro and/or using longer focal length lenses (but don't quote me on that). Follow this link to read when you might want to use a focusing rail instead of changing focus with your lens barrel.
    stacker:docs:troubleshooting:ringversusrail [Zerene Stacker]
     
  12. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    thanks for the link. Interesting read. Their conclusion is also that focus-by-ring is better for stacking because it keeps the camera in the same position, which does not occur with focus-by-rail. I guess with extreme macro (beyond 1:1) both are help: find the right position with the rail and focus by using the ring.