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Focus Stacking Tutorial

Article by GOLDENORFE aka Phil See more of Phil's work on www.flickr.com/photos/goldenorfe

This is the method of increasing depth of field in macro shots by shooting a series of frames (2 or more) and combining to give a final image with much greater dof than a single frame could produce. Most of my shots are 2-5 frames. A simple 2 frame stack could consist of single frame of a bees body/legs, with a second frame with just the head/eye detail in focus , but upto 9 frames sometimes needed to obtain full dof of certain subjects.

At magnifications of x1 life size shooting , using an apperture smaller than f14 will produce soft details, as magnification increases so does diffraction softening, so use of larger appertures will give much sharper results, but with much shallower dof.  Typically f6.3 - f8 will give sharpest detail on most macro lenses.

This is an example of a focus stack showing the individual frames as shot before stacking -

A series of shots showing how i shoot a high magnification butterfly head focus stack. All 5 frames of stack are shown which have been converted from raw files and just resized for web.

Stacking was performed by zerene stacker - http://zerenesystems.com/stacker/
There is a free program combine czp that is also very good - http://www.hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/CZP/News.htm 

To start shooting i hold the stem with perched butterfly in left hand, holding a leaf between fingers to give background colour. The lens is suported by my thumb or fingers and slid along to change focus points as frames are shot. Everything is therefore kept steady,if my hand moves slightly so does the stem and butterfly, which means all frames are quite well aligned.

Resting lens on thumb for support, the blue male butterfly is the one i was shooting

Here are the five frames as shot,  iso 100, f8,1/200th full flash ,handheld. All frames  just converted from raw files and shown resized for web.only slight different focus planes, starting with the nearest hairs towards the camera and shooting each consecutive frame further into the subject, the last of the five frames has the back hairs on the nose in focus.

You can see they are not exactly aligned but zerene stacker still aligned them pretty good. I then used "edit" to clone all the best, sharpest areas.


#1 USED FOR HAIRS NEAREST ON SHOULDER AREA AND ANTENNA DETAILS

#2 THIS IS THE MAIN FRAME WITH WING DETAIL

#3 EYE DETAIL AND WING SCALES and HAIRS BOTTOM RIGHT CORNER

#4 HAIRS AROUND THE HEAD

#5 HAIRS BACK OF HEAD



Here is the finished image after stacking,minor adjustments with layer masks in ps. levels/contrast adjustment and very slight crop to remove stacking marks around edge , re size for web and unsharp mask


HOPE THIS IS HELPFUL

PHIL



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