Simple Steps for Focus Stacking in Photoshop

Focus stacking is an effective way to achieve deep depth of field; it’s a technique that’s especially used in macro photography. The idea is to make several images of the same scene—each one slightly off in terms of focusing distance—and then combine everything in Photoshop to create one image with big depth of field. The technique is surprisingly easy and extremely effective, as Aaron Nace explains:

What Do You Need for Focus Stacking?

  • Tripod. This ensures that your camera is exactly at the same spot for all shots. A single shot out of place and you’ll have to redo the shoot all over again.
  • Remote shutter release. To be absolutely sure that the camera does not move when the exposures are made, you need a remote shutter release. In this case Nace used two Pocket Wizards. He attached one to a shutter release cable attached to a camera and used the other one to fire the first.
  • Manual focusing mode. Set your lens to manual focusing mode. You’ll be blending several images thats have been focused at different distances from the camera. Auto-focusing tends to spoil that careful calibration.

How Do You Take Your Shots for Focus Stacking?

The easiest way to make several shots—each one focusing slightly away from the other—is to manually turn the focusing ring, take a picture, then turn the focusing ring again and redo the process.

shallow depth of field

One of Several Shots Used for Focus Stacking

shooting for focus stacking

One of Several Shots Used for Focus Stacking

How Do You Post-Process for Focus Stacking?

  • Start by importing the images to Lightroom.
  • Select the images that you’ll be using and export them to a separate folder as JPEG images.
  • Open Photoshop.
  • Import the images to Photoshop as individual layers of the same image. Click File > Scripts > Load files into Stack.
Focus stacking using Photoshop

Stacking Individual Images as Layers in Photoshop

  • Before hitting OK on the Load Layers dialogue, click “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.”
auto-blend layers in photoshop

Using Auto Blend is the Fun Part

  • Next, select all the layers, and then click Edit > Auto-Blend Layers > Select Stack Images. Leave “Seamless Tones and Colors” checked.
  • Click OK.
sharply focused macro image

Final Image

Photoshop should now attempt to deliver an image that has a much larger depth of field than any of the individual images.

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