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Focus Stacking

I once saw, on the Internet, an amazing photograph of a fly vomiting on a piece on food prior to sucking it back up and extracting the nutrients.

Now while this really was a stomach churning image, I was fascinated with the detail the author managed to capture; together with the lighting, the photograph was simply stunning.

With all macro photography, capturing a moment in time like this is going to leave some of the image out of focus, given the shallow depth of field with macro lenses - it would have been something else again had the entire fly been in focus.

It’s important to remember a tripod is essential if you are doing macro photography and to keep the exposure locked throughout the series of shots to ensure a good fusion.

Focus on the nearest part of the subject, take a shot and altering the focus point, shoot through the entire depth of the subject with as many shots as is necessary to complete the task.

Using the lens’ focus ring can result in an acceptable image, providing you alter the focusing minutely.  A focus rail will allow you to move the focus point far more accurately.

Extension tubes can be used with an ordinary lens, but a dedicated macro lens will produce a far superior image.

This shot is of a twenty pence piece, placed at a 30 angle to the camera and taken at 2:1 magnification using a Tamron 90 mm macro lens.  Ten stacked shots, combined using  CombineZP.

Focus stacking is a photography term used to describe the process of combining photographs to obtain images with a much larger depth of field that would be possible in a single photo.

There are a plethora of programs out there that will stack photographs. Ranging from the industry standard, Helicon Focus and Zerene, costing hundreds of ££££’s to CombineZP, an Open Source piece of software.  

While this free software hasn’t got the slick front end of Helicon Focus the end results are remarkably similar.

The difference lies in the fact that Helicon Focus has a far slicker operation than CombinZP and of course the price.

While you'll have to persevere through the clunky interface of CombineZP, this is is a handy program to have.

Again, there is plenty of Open Source photo stacking software available:

Hugin      (Windows and Mac).



For Astrophotgraphy



A good place to look for Open Source software is here.

Open source Software

Photoshop has an image stacking facility built in using layers, as does Gimp, the Open Source alternative to Photoshop.

To be fair, the majority of photo-editing packages will have some sort of  photo-stacking with, I’m sure, varying results. It will be a case of looking.

Focus Stacking

My Introduction to Macros and Focus Stacking