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Anybody like to discuss focus stacking - the process of taking multiple images of a subject at different focus distances from the camera and merging them on a computer to produce an image that is in sharp focus from front to back, something that is often not possible when shooting single images.

 

We could share info on shooting and processing techniques, pictures (not necessarily on Alamy) and so on. I am relatively new to this and am definitely open to learning. I have done a few experiments a little while back but hope to do a lot more now with a lot more time on my hands with the Covid-19 isolation. It is a very suitable activity for those of us isolating in our homes at the moment as it is particularly applicable to closeup and macro photography where depth of field is typically tiny. However it can be applied to lots of other areas of photography as well such as landscapes.

 

Everyone is welcome to join in from complete beginner to technical expert and hopefully we can learn and inspire each other..

 

Here is one of my first attempts:

 

 

Close up image of an orange and lemon using a focus stacking technique that renders the subjects in sharp focus from front to back Stock Photo

 

 

 

 

 

Orange and lemon

 

 

 

 

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Wow! What has happened with the image Mick? It looks squashed from the sides.

 

Good image displaying focus stacking though. I have not tried it yet but look forward to the posts.

 

Allan

 

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7 minutes ago, Allan Bell said:

Wow! What has happened with the image Mick? It looks squashed from the sides.

 

Good image displaying focus stacking though. I have not tried it yet but look forward to the posts.

 

Allan

 

Pix do sometimes get squished vertically depending on monitor size and so on.

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4 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

Pix do sometimes get squished vertically depending on monitor size and so on.

 

As you said to me in another post. OIC.😀

 

Allan

 

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, Allan Bell said:

Wow! What has happened with the image Mick? It looks squashed from the sides.

 

Good image displaying focus stacking though. I have not tried it yet but look forward to the posts.

 

Allan

 


Dare I say orange and lemon squash 😀.  It looked sort of ok on my computer but yes awful  on my iPad. That seems to be happening to any pics I drag into the forum now. If this gets going I would suggest posting to a proper gallery hosted elsewhere. 

Edited by MDM
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The thing is with focus stacking and macro is where to start.

Simple stacking such as product photography would typically use 3 - 7 shots using the lens to select focus and not necessarily be a macro lens.

Once you start getting into higher magnification macro, (in my opinion) the best results are from camera movement to select focus and depending on the subject can use 50 to 100 images and sometimes many hundreds of images.

It's a long time since I did the image below but if I remember correctly took around 90 - 100 shots.

 macro-image-of-bluebottle-head-calliphor

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29 minutes ago, BobD said:

The thing is with focus stacking and macro is where to start.

Simple stacking such as product photography would typically use 3 - 7 shots using the lens to select focus and not necessarily be a macro lens.

Once you start getting into higher magnification macro, (in my opinion) the best results are from camera movement to select focus and depending on the subject can use 50 to 100 images and sometimes many hundreds of images.

It's a long time since I did the image below but if I remember correctly took around 90 - 100 shots.

 

 

That is a really fantastic photo. Please explain how it was done if you remember: equipment, technique (did you move the camera manually or on a motor etc). 

 

Some of the latest Nikon cameras have an automatic method (Nikon call it focus shift which is a misnomer) of taking a set of pictures at different focus distances without moving the camera. I am using a D850 with Micro-Nikkor 105 lens and have been experimenting a little to get the optimum settings but not yet getting in really close into the macro world. The shot above used 7 raw images at f8, ISO 64, combined in Helicon Focus and tidied up in Photoshop. I will elaborate on the internal camera settings if anyone shows an interest.

 

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I haven't done much, but I would certainly agree that for closeups, moving the camera causes far fewer problems than refocusing the lens, which can change the size of the in-focus part of the subject, causing huge problems especdially when you are using more than two or three images.

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Posted (edited)

That is an exceptional image for hand held. I notice he has an image of a wolf spider with young, believe me that would take the patience of a saint to produce. I have hundreds of there spiders running around my feet in the garden and know how timid they are. They are about half the size of a 5p piece.

Here's one I did ( a dead One). Again a female carrying her egg sack.

It's getting late now, I will go into more detail tomorrow.

 

bmdbb6-female-spotted-wolf-spider-pardos

Edited by BobD

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, mickfly said:

I have an acquaintance  (VIA Facebook) who does handheld stacks and seems to have mastered it.
Here's an early one of his.

https://www.oliverwrightphotography.com/portfolio/view/five-times-magnification-portrait-of-a-marbled-white-butterfly/macro

 


Yes that guy has some amazing photos. Incredible that he can do them handheld.
 

34 minutes ago, BobD said:

That is an exceptional image for hand held. I notice he has an image of a wolf spider with young, believe me that would take the patience of a saint to produce. I have hundreds of there spiders running around my feet in the garden and know how timid they are. They are about half the size of a 5p piece.

Here's one I did ( a dead One). Again a female carrying her egg sack.

It's getting late now, I will go into more detail tomorrow.

 

 

 

Looking forward to seeing more. I have nothing much to offer myself yet. I am pretty exhausted - the Covid-19 acting up again 😟🙂

Edited by MDM

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9 hours ago, MDM said:

It looked sort of ok on my computer but yes awful  on my iPad.

 

I've found if I drag and drop from the Alamy website they appear distorted on my iPhone, but if I go into AIM, click on enlarge, and then drag and drop from there they are ok. But yes, they look ok from the computer.

 

Ten years ago Stanley and Kaisa Breeden published a book of wildflower images from Western Australia called Wildflower Country using focus stacking. The wildflowers here are often intricate and trying to capture a macro image with a decent depth of field is tricky. Using a tripod to increase exposure time for greater depth of field usually creates problems because there is usually a breeze blurring the image. They've made a sample chapter of the book available online in case it is of interest: https://www.fremantlepress.com.au/system/spree/files/attachments/000/000/352/original/wildflowers_sample.pdf?1417062931

 

I would like to learn focus stacking at some point. I do not currently have the right software, but hope to later this year, so interested to read about other peoples' experiments with this.

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Cheers Sally. It used to be possible to drag and drop the large preview image without distortion but maybe not any more although Bob's pictures look ok. I will keep your tip in mind.

 

That book looks amazing. Thanks for posting the link. I think the biggest constraint on photo stacking is that the subject has to be absolutely still which makes it difficult for outdoor flower photography. The pictures in the book seem to have been taken outdoors so in very calm weather I guess. Here in the east of England today there is a howling wind and it is cold so certainly not the right conditions for outdoor flower photography. There may be legal or ethical constraints on picking certain wildflowers as well.

 

Versions of Photoshop since CS4 can be used for focus stacking so special software is not essential. I did a bit of experimenting back in January as well as checking out some software reviews and Helicon Focus gets the vote so I decided to invest in it. There is a trial version available as well.

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6 minutes ago, MDM said:

It used to be possible to drag and drop the large preview image without distortion but maybe not any more

If you can put up with a smaller image, "copy image location"  and paste from AIM works fine. But with the nature pic thread one wants it bigger. If you have two monitors it's possible to get an unsqueezed image by dragging between separate windows.

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12 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

If you can put up with a smaller image, "copy image location"  and paste from AIM works fine. But with the nature pic thread one wants it bigger. If you have two monitors it's possible to get an unsqueezed image by dragging between separate windows.

 

I do have a two monitor setup and I think I did do what you suggest but will give it another go later - thanks.

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Just now, MDM said:

 

I do have a two monitor setup and I think I did do what you suggest but will give it another go later - thanks.

It makes a difference on my setup which way I drag the image (and for the life of me I can't remember which way at the moment), but I do have monitors of different sizes.

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The orange and lemon pic look great to me on here.

 

Not tried it and no longer have my Nikon 105mm.  

 

It obviously takes a lot of patience but I think we will all have to get used to having that at the moment.  Wondering what other lines may be suitable.

 

Carol

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I use on of these for small camera movements:

 

https://neewer.com/products/tripods-10033981

 

About £25 from Amazon UK

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I use focus stacking quite regularly, both for close up work and for landscape (frequently gardenscape in my case), and have a number of focus stacked images on Alamy.

 

In fact, 2 years ago I bought my Olympus OMD EM1 (now replaced by an EM-5 Mk II) partly because of the built in focus bracketing though I have generated focus stacks using my bigger Canon gear.  The Olypmpus makes it a lot easier but it's certainly possible with DSLRs, particularly those with accurate touch screen focusing.

 

With the Oly my default is to use a 7 bracket setting with a differential of 3 - all set up in the menu.  The focus bracketing is assigned to one of the many buttons that litter the body so I can easily switch it on and off as needed.  To be effective the bracketed set needs to be taken with a still subject and a still camera.  So, no wind, tripod and remore trigger.  The stack is started by focusing on the closest point and then starting the run.  It's quick, with speed depending on the light available.  I usually use f4 to f5.6 for the shots as this gives sufficient overlap depth of field for the stacks to line up without noticeable blurred gaps.  It's worth repeating stacks if conditions aren't quite ideal to ensure that one of them generates unblurred images for processing.

 

I don't use the in camera stacking.  My current workflow with the images is to take them into Lightroom, check for motion blur and focus, process one of the images (don't set the white point too high) and then synchronise the processing across the whole stack.  These are then transferred as layers into Photoshop - Photo|Edit in|Open as Layers in Photoshop.  Once in PS all the layers are selected.  It's then a two step process, both in the PS Edit menu.  Step 1 is to Auto Align the layers using the Auto projection.  Once aligned Step 2 is to Auto Blend Layers using the Stack Images option.  The process then takes the in focus areas from each image in the stack and combines them to produce a composite image with far greater depth of field.

 

I then transfer the compsite back to Lightroom for final cropping - the edges blur in the stacking process =and any final tweaking needed.  The results?  Well, judge for yourselves.  

 

Compact mounded cushion of the common pocket moss, Fissidens taxifolius var. taxifolius, in a UK woodland.  7 shot stack allowed me to get the whole 5cm mound sharp front to back.  Oly 60mm macro.

compact-mounded-cushion-of-the-common-pocket-moss-fissidens-taxifolius-var-taxifolius-in-a-uk-woodland-2AHJ28Y.jpg

 

Colourful fans of the turkeytail bracket fungus, Trametes versicolor, on a silver birch log in UK woodland.  4 shots selected from a 7 shot stack to ensure only the fungus and log were in focus and the background blurred.  Oly 60mm macro.

 

colourful-fans-of-the-turkeytail-bracket-fungus-trametes-versicolor-on-a-silver-birch-log-in-uk-woodland-2AHJ2AG.jpg

 

Compressed perspective view taken with the Panasonic 35-100 f4.5 - 5.6 using a 4 stack shot to get sharpness from front to back in the image.  Total distance is about 200 metres from the foremost flower bed to the house.

 

compressed-perspective-view-over-the-autumn-hues-of-the-long-walk-at-the-garden-house-buckland-monachorum-devon-uk-PTGW3A.jpg

 

To be continued....

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5 minutes ago, John Richmond said:

Compact mounded cushion of the common pocket moss, Fissidens taxifolius var. taxifolius, in a UK woodland.

I know nothing about it but I've been very interested in what I've seen on this thread. Would I be right in thinking that everything has to be completely still for this to work?

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1 hour ago, spacecadet said:

If you can put up with a smaller image, "copy image location"  and paste from AIM works fine. But with the nature pic thread one wants it bigger. If you have two monitors it's possible to get an unsqueezed image by dragging between separate windows.

 

You can change the "zooms" to "comp" in the address to get a larger image. Or it may be changing the "comp" to "zooms". Anyway, just make it the other one before you hit "enter" or "submit" or whatever it is. Memory lapses.

 

Paulette

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, MDM said:

 

That is a really fantastic photo. Please explain how it was done if you remember: equipment, technique (did you move the camera manually or on a motor etc). 

 

Some of the latest Nikon cameras have an automatic method (Nikon call it focus shift which is a misnomer) of taking a set of pictures at different focus distances without moving the camera. I am using a D850 with Micro-Nikkor 105 lens and have been experimenting a little to get the optimum settings but not yet getting in really close into the macro world. The shot above used 7 raw images at f8, ISO 64, combined in Helicon Focus and tidied up in Photoshop. I will elaborate on the internal camera settings if anyone shows an interest.

 

 

Bear in mind that these images were taken over 10 years ago and I do not still have the original shots and as you are probably aware when you do a stack the original metadata is lost so I cannot give you exact details.

In those days I was using a Nikon D3, which was a ground breaking camera in its day. I now like you use a D850. 

I also used one of these https://www.cognisys-inc.com/store/stackshot-macro-rail-package.html In those days you had to get it from the USA although I believe you can get them in the UK now. Although a great piece of kit I found it not to be very robust and it only lasted a few months. Anyhow I wasn't prepared to pay that kind of price twice so I took a more Heath Robinson approach and (bear with me) got one of these https://www.axminster.co.uk/proxxon-kt-150-aluminium-die-cast-compound-table-474334 It was a lot cheaper in those days. I bolted a piece of plywood to it and drilled a hole for a camera screw. 

The D850 focus shift is OK for landscapes but certainly not accurate enough for macro, Bearing in mind that depth of field can be as low as a tenth of a mm or less. The setup I used can give movements as low as 1/20th of a mm.

The enemy of macro  and stacking is movement, any shift in the subject or camera can ruin a whole stack.

If I was to approach these images again now. Depending on the size of the subject I would use a combination of a bellows( extension tubes), a 50mm 1.4, a Micro-Nikkor 105, or a Nikkor 200 F4 macro.

Of course the higher the magnification you are aiming for the more light becomes a problem. I probably used studio flash for the above images but wouldn't do that now.

I would use continuous light with longer exposures aiming for a F5.6 - 8 aperture and a 100-200 iso. The D850 also has an electronic time delay mode. I would use this to shoot, move the camera,   shoot again etc. This has the advantages of saving shutter actuation and eliminating and movement due to mirror flap or whatever.

I must point out that I am no expert and these are my opinions only.

 

This one below was of a live subject but he was too busy devouring his prey to be moving around.

 

bnexbc-crab-spider-misumena-vatia-feedin

Edited by BobD
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14 minutes ago, Harry Harrison said:

I know nothing about it but I've been very interested in what I've seen on this thread. Would I be right in thinking that everything has to be completely still for this to work?

Ideally. yes.  That's not always possible and you may have to edit the odd tiny bit of blur / doubling caused when two or more frames of a stack don't quite align due to subject movement.  If it gets too bad you have to dump the stack but the consolation is that one of the frames could be both sharp, optimally focused, and usable as stock.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, John Richmond said:

 

 

compressed-perspective-view-over-the-autumn-hues-of-the-long-walk-at-the-garden-house-buckland-monachorum-devon-uk-PTGW3A.jpg

 

Great images John I especially like the one above, illustrates stacking well.

 

Edited by BobD

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I use stacking occasionally. Usually of just 2 frames to get better depth of filed in landscape shots. But sometimes more, on still life shots.

 

I've used Photoshop (using the technique described by John above) , but also Affinity Photo which does a good job too. Main problem I find is when foreground features obscure increasing amounts of background features as the lens gets closer.

 

Some shapes are easy (e.g. round or spherical).

 

arrangement-of-four-old-dried-poppy-seed-heads-with-mildew-spots-against-BRKPH4.jpg

 

But more complex 3D items where the working distance of the lens changes significantly can give serious ghosting problems (look around the crown wheel of this watch).

 

2019-04-22-10274-Focus-stack.jpg

 

  Mark

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