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How to Use Focus Stacking for Beautiful, Tack-Sharp Images

If you’re looking to create tack-sharp images, focus stacking is a technique you should definitely explore. In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about focus stacking, including when to use it and how to do it. So whether you’re a landscape photographer or a macro photographer, focus stacking can help take your photos to the next level.

What Is Focus Stacking?

Focus stacking is a technique that allows you to combine multiple images with different focus points into one image. This results in an image with greater depth of field than any of the individual images.

How Hard Is Focus Stacking?

Focus stacking is simple to accomplish, and you can do it with a smartphone camera and nothing else. However, I recommend buying a few basic items: A tripod, which will help keep your shot consistent as you take several photographs. A focus rail, which allows you to make minute adjustments to your focus point. And a remote shutter release, which will help avoid camera shake.

Why Should You Focus Stack?

Focus stacking offers several advantages for photographers. It allows you to:

  • Create tack-sharp images with a large depth of field
  • Get more precise focus than is possible with a single image
  • Capture otherwise impossible shots, like macro photography or night photography

Is Focus Stacking Worth It?

The fact is that learning a somewhat more advanced method such as focus stacking has several benefits, and it’s well-worth the modest bit of extra effort in the field and after post-production.

When Should You Focus Stack Photos?

In general, focus stacking is most useful for macro photography and landscape photography. However, it can be used in a number of different scenarios.

Equipment You’ll Need To Focus Stack Photos

To focus stack photos, you’ll need a tripod and a camera that allows you to focus manually. You’ll also need a remote shutter release, or else you’ll have to use the timer on your camera. And like I mentioned before, using a helicon tube or automated focus railing can help steady your focus when shooting your images.

Can You Focus Stack Without A Tripod?

I don’t recommend focus stacking without a tripod, as it’s very difficult to keep the camera steady enough to get a sharp image.

Different Ways To Focus Stack Photos

There are several different methods you can utilize to focus stack your photos, which we cover below:

Manually Shift Focus

The easiest way to focus stack is to manually shift focus between each shot. This can be done by either moving the camera or changing the focus ring on your lens.

Helicon Tube

If you want to focus stack without moving the camera, you can use a product called Helicon Tube. This is a extension tube that goes between your camera and lens, and it allows you to focus stack without moving the camera.

Automated Focus Railing

If you want to focus stack and don’t mind spending a bit of money, you can buy an automated focus rail. This is a device that will move the camera back and forth for you, so all you have to do is press the shutter release.

Handheld Stacking

You can focus stack handheld, but it’s much more difficult than using a tripod. I don’t recommend this method unless you’re experienced with focus stacking and have a steady hand.

Automated Stacking Camera

The final option for focus stacking is to buy a camera that can do it automatically. This type of camera is called a focus-stacking camera, and it will take several shots at different focus points and then combine them into one image.

How To Focus Stack Your Images

Now that we’ve covered what focus stacking is and the different methods you can use to do it, let’s walk through how to focus stack your images when shooting.

Set Your Composition And Subject

First, you’ll want to pick a subject and set up your composition for the photo.

Once you have your composition set, focus on the subject using manual focus. It’s important to use manual focus so that the focus doesn’t change between shots.

Take A Series Of Shots

Next, you’ll want to take a series of shots at different focus points. I recommend taking at least five shots, but more is better.

To do this, simply shift the focus ring on your lens or move the camera back and forth while keeping everything else in the frame consistent.

If you’re using Helicon Tube or an automated focus rail, all you need to do is press the shutter release button.

Blend Your Images With A Photo Editor

Once you have a series of images, it’s time to focus stack them in a photo editor. I recommend using Adobe Photoshop, as it has a focus stacking tool built-in.

To use the focus stacking tool in Photoshop, simply select all of the images you want to stack and go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers.

This will open up the focus stacking dialog box, where you can select the type of focus blending you want to use. I recommend using “Stack Images With Seamless Tones And Colors”, but feel free to experiment with the other options.

Once you’ve selected your focus blending option, click OK and Photoshop will automatically blend the images together.

And that’s it! You’ve now focus stacked your images and have a beautiful, tack-sharp photo.

I hope this article has helped you to understand focus stacking and how you can use it to take better photos.