Posts Tagged ‘Images’

Round and Round – 19 Images of Circular Things

23 May

The earth is round and travels in an elliptical orbit around the sun which is also round. There are many natural objects that take on a round or circular shape. Let’s see how these 21 photographers captured a few of them.

By Travis Wise

By Bradford Evans

By Colin

By mazaletel

By Brian Ralphs

By Jessica C

By Susanne Nilsson

By Wolfgang Staudt

By Ruth Hartnup

By Richard Walker

By Gorgeous Eyes

By Christian Yves Ocampo

By Phil Romans

By Jonas Tana

By Guglielmo D’Arezzo

By Frank Behrens

By Sean O’Neill

By Pat O’Malley

By Nick Harris

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How to do Post-Processing of Focus Stacked Images

22 May

Let me take you on a short walk through Lightroom and Photoshop. There are relatively few steps required to process focus stacked images. In a previous article (How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking), I went through what I think you will find is the best and easiest way to take the required photographs.

focus stacked image

My Melbourne tea cup

This image is acceptably in focus from the front to the back. You can only achieve this sort of large depth of field by taking, and computationally combining, several photographs. You can work through the image, taking photographs which are focused on different points, then combine those photographs with software. Photoshop does the job well, but there are also other specialized programs for doing focus stacked images. Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus are the ones which seem to be mentioned most often.

I hoped that the tea cup made a bright, attractive image, and gave a clear illustration. However, it is hardly a great photograph, is it? Being a little more aspirational, I have mostly used this technique to produce images of palm leaves. It would really be great if you could find your own project, your personal muse to apply this technique.

focus stacked image

Palm leaf

I confess that I am not always the most patient person when it comes to processing. Every now and then, I have spent hours on one image, but I generally like to get things done quickly. However, with focus stacked images, working in Lightroom, then Photoshop, I actually rather enjoy the process. I think part of the reason for that is that I am happy with the final product, but it is also quite a pleasant, simple routine, which can be almost relaxing.

Stage One – Lightroom

One of the joys of photography, and computers too is that there is often more than one way of doing things. This is my approach, it is probably not the only approach, but it works well.

Firstly, I import the RAW files into Lightroom.

focus stacked image

Import to Lightroom

The images to be focus stacked

The images below have not been processed, just converted to jpegs. I thought you should have some idea what I started with, and that it might be helpful for you to see where each individual shot was focused.

focus stacked image

Image #1

The next shot was focused on the other side of the frame, on the left. In the actual situation of taking the photographs, it was easy to see which part of the leaf was furthest from the camera, and which was just a little closer.

focus stacked image

Image #2

This is moving forward, with focus along the left edge of the leaf.

focus stacked image

Image #3

If you are photographing a subject which has a distinct edge, like this leaf, something running from the back to the front of the object, it can be very useful. It makes focusing easier, and it gives you something which you can work along in equal increments.

focus stacked image

Image #4

For the next shot, I moved to the other side of the leaf.

You may notice that I like to be extra careful to make sure that the front part of the photograph, where the viewer’s eye will go first, is extra sharp.

focus stacked image

Image #5

Three shots cover the front section at slightly different depths.

focus stacked image

Image #6

Lightroom adjustments

For these shots, I knew what my goal is for the final image. To that end, I did a modest amount of processing, using only the Basic panel in Lightroom. I certainly would not do anything like lens corrections, or transformations, or local adjustments – nothing beyond the basics, only global adjustments. The real work is going to be done by Photoshop, and we should give it the best possible chance to do its job.

It might be leaves, your favorite possessions, or even be a landscape (I would love to try and make a focus stacked portrait, a tight portrait with focus from front to back) the point is that your project will require your own individual processing. This is what I did for the highly-textured leaves.

focus stacked image

Lightroom settings

This processing revealed a few details and gave the images a little more bite or edge. That seemed to work well, and move towards what I had in mind for the final image. I then synchronized all settings in Lightroom.

focus stacked image

So far so good?

With all the images selected, in this case just six, press G and then CTRL/CMD + A. You can then move to the second stage, by going to Photo > Edit in > Open as layers in Photoshop.

focus stacked

Select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

Stage Two – Photoshop

You may well have Photoshop set up in your own individual way. This is what you should see in the Layers panel once your images are opened.

focus stacked image

The first step in Photoshop is to select all the layers. My habit is to do this by clicking on the top layer, holding down shift and clicking on the bottom layer.

focus stacked image - layers selected

All layers, all six images, selected.

Another confession? There is a part of me which would like to make this sound much more difficult, at least a little bit cleverer. There would then be more chance of you being impressed. However, the next two steps are too easy.

Align the images

Because the point of focus has moved through the image, the size of the object in the frame will have shifted slightly. But, Photoshop can handle this for you.

focus stacked image

Edit > Auto-Align Layers has always worked perfectly for me.

You could choose to go to great lengths to resize the images by hand, making the actual object the same size in each image, being careful to align parts of the subject in each of the photographs. I have never found it necessary, and any extra steps to achieve alignment, would probably be best covered by a video. For the moment, I am happy that Photoshop has never let me down using Auto-Align Layers.

focus stacked image - auto-align layers

The auto-align layers dialog box

Under the Projection area, I have found that Auto works perfectly well.

For the Lens Correction section, I have found it best to uncheck Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion (as shown above). Those choices gave me a couple of strange results and did not provide any discernible benefit. I like to think that the secret for this smooth progress is having taken good images in the first place. Push OK, and Photoshop does its thing and does it very well.

Of course, you are welcome to try whatever settings you like. In fact, I would very much encourage you to experiment, have a play! However, the old KIS acronym, of Keeping It Simple, seems to work well enough.

Blend the layers

Next, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers. I do wish I could make this sound more difficult.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers…

As I am sure you will realize, you should choose the Stack Images option in the Auto-Blend Layer dialog box that pops up. With the images I have been feeding to Photoshop, I have chosen to put a check mark next to Seamless Tones and Colors.

But, if that does not produce a result you are happy with, it costs you very little time to experiment. This is what has worked well for me. The images which you have loaded into Photoshop may have been created in different circumstances to mine, and your desired final image may be very different too. The important thing is that the main steps will be the same.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers dialog box.

Below, you can see the layer masks which Photoshop has created. On a layer mask white reveals, so the white areas are where Photoshop has determined that the focus is good. The white areas are the parts that are allowed to come through and contribute to the final image. In this example, looking at the masking of the layers, you can see the focus stepping forward.

focus stacked image

I think the masks are quite interesting, pretty even.

Merge layers

Finally, right click on any layer and choose either of the Merge commands.

focus stacked image

Merge the layers.

What you see now, in your main Photoshop window, is your single, focus stacked image.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image result!

You might see the marching ants indicating a selection by Photoshop of part of the image. My advice is simple. It seems random in its placement, I have never found it helpful, so just ignore it.

When closing the image in Photoshop, simply click save, and you will find a file added to your Lightroom library. In this example, where there were six files to start with, there are now seven (the new focus stacked image has been added).

This extra file will be in TIFF or PSD format (whatever you have setup in your LR preferences).

That is just about it. Stages Two and Three, fulfill our initial brief. You have produced a focus stacked image. All that remains is to export the image from Lightroom.

However, I think you might find it a little unsatisfactory to leave the process at that point, to walk away with the job not completely finished. I think you might want to see what happened next.

Stage three – final processing

I chose to so some further processing to the TIFF file in Lightroom. Using the Adjustment brush I added some positive clarity, +20, on to the top section of the image. By pushing the ‘O’ key, you can see the red mask where painting has been applied.

focus stacked image - location adjustments

The red area is where a local adjustment has been applied of +20 Clarity.

I added a graduated filter with the exposure pulled down 2 stops to the left side of the image.

focus stacked image

A Graduated filter of -2 Exposure was added to the left side of the image.

Another was added to the bottom too, as I really like the black to be unquestionably pure black.

focus stacked image

Another Graduated filter with -2 Exposure was added to the bottom of the image.

I then took that image back into Photoshop, where I used the bucket to fill some more bits of black around the bottom left corner of the leaf.

Then I spot retouched some bits of nature which were a bit too real. In particular, I think any white spots are very distracting. Then I turned to one of my long-term favorites, Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

focus stacked image

Sadly, it seems likely that Google is going down the route which it has gone down many times before. Having purchased the German company Nik Software a few years back, it seems it is now allowing the software to die through lack of attention. However, I still like the results I get from Silver Efex Pro and still use it. In this case, I applied the High Structure – Smooth preset.

I then cropped the into a square. The final result is below.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image.


I hope the first article helped you take photographs for focus stacking and this one helps you with the processing. Most of all, I hope that you might have a go at this. I hope you do not mind me repeating the same point, it would be great if you could find your own project and apply these techniques. For me, that is a major reason to write these articles.

Please share your questions, comments and focus stacked images in the section below.

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How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

20 May

The ability to combine images together is a very useful skill for photographers. Although most want to get the image right directly in the camera, there are instances where merging images together prove useful (and necessary). As well as this, the image we have in our mind may not always be physically possible to produce during the shoot, and merging multiple photographs together can bring that vision to life!

There are many different ways to merge images together. Of the hundreds of approaches to this task, the best one is the method that works for you. This tutorial will showcase my personal, manual preference of merging images. There are ways to automate image merging in software, but it is better to know the manual method before doing so (as they say, learn the hard way to be able to use the easy way!). The manual method also offers significantly more control.

Before we begin with the tutorial, there are several key concepts to keep in mind:

  • Make sure that the images are the same resolution. If one image is 300 dpi (or dots-per-inch), and the other is 72 dpi, you will need to convert one of them to match the other.
  • Try to pick images with a similar light source. Although you can add artificial shadows and highlights, it is quite difficult to ensure that these simulated sources look natural (although absolutely possible). It is far more convincing to find images that already have a very similar lighting situation.
  • Try not to over-complicate the merge. Attempting to add elements that are extremely convoluted (due to having very fine outline details or other types of intricacies) can be frustrating to blend realistically.

How to Combine Images

I can think of many instances in which a photo shoot could be better enhanced by combining different images together. When merging from the same location, the benefit is that, presumably, the lighting and shooting settings are the same (or similar). As well as this, the location being the same makes for an easier merge. If you are merging images from a different location, try to pair elements that can blend in well together! Burning edges can be a great way to blending images together.

On to the steps:

Begin by planning what elements of the individual photographs you will want to combine together (see two images below).

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Source image #1.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Source image #2.

Make a selection – then copy and paste

Secondly, take the lasso tool in Photoshop and draw around the object, model, or animal you want to add to your base image. You can also utilize the selection tool or quick selection tool to do this. In this particular image, because the colors and tones are all very similar to one another, I found the lasso tool to be a much faster way of selecting the part of the image I need. Other photo editing software will likely have very similar tools.

Note: You cannot do this kind of work inside Lightroom. A program that utilizes layers is needed, and that is a function which Lightroom does not offer.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Image with a selection made around the part to copy to the other image.

Next, paste the image into the spot it belongs in the other image. I like to lower the opacity when placing so that I can see exactly where the subject should be positioned. You can then raise the opacity back up.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Pasted area at lowered opacity to aid in placement.

Blend using a layer mask

Fourthly, to blend the image into its rightful place, I utilize layer masks and the brush tool. The benefit to these two tools used in unison is that if you accidentally erase a part of the layer that you want to keep, you can always undo your mistake. Likewise, if you find later that you would like a certain part of the first layer to show, you can do that without issue.

All you need to do is select the top layer, click “add layer mask”, and then select the brush tool. When utilizing the brush tool, the black color will act as an eraser and remove the top layer, while the white color will bring the top layer back. Make sure that the brush is very soft, as that helps blend. Change to a harder edged brush for straight edges.

Note: Make sure you paint on the mask not on the actual layer!

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Paint on the layer mask to blend the two images smoothly.

Keep blending until the image looks to be a natural part of the frame.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

The final blended image – two combined into one.

Repeat the steps as many time as necessary.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Adding or Changing a Background

Adding a new background is quite possibly the most common use of the image merging skill. Whether you shoot your subject in a studio or just a snap out in nature, changing the background can add an entirely different feel to the photograph.

The same steps apply to this type of merging as with the aforementioned. If you’re working with hair or fur, a tip is to try to pick backgrounds whose light and dark areas match with the original background, as that allows you to not have to work around those very fine details (and can leave them untouched). In the photo example here, the new background elements were matched to the dark parts of the photograph, which allowed me to not have to select the fine fur details (see the ear and snout fur).

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Original image.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Edited image with a new background.

Changing Animal Heads

Animals are notorious for not sitting still, blinking, looking away at an inopportune moment, or otherwise being uncooperative for photographs. A very common practice in animal photography is to swap the heads out.

Similarly to the aforementioned merging methods, follow all of the same steps. Make sure you pay attention to how the fur flows, and use that to your advantage when blending! In the photo example case here, the wolf’s neck and head were placed onto the body of the base image. After some basic additional retouching (cloning out the leash and lightening the eyes), I got the finished result.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Original image.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Second source image for left wolf’s head.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Final image of the two combined.

Swapping Human Heads

Like animal photography, sometimes it is necessary to take a head from one image and put it on the body of another. Occasionally, you will like the model’s pose but not her facial expression, or like the model’s expression but not her pose. The key is to make sure you align the neck correctly, or else your model will look disfigured.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Image #1 – I used her face from this shot.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

Image #2 – combined with her body from this shot.

How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop

To make this final image.

For a more detailed look at head swapping check out: How to do a Head Swap using Photoshop


There is a good overview of how to merge and combine images in Photoshop. If you didn’t know that the final images in the article had been altered could you tell they weren’t shot that way?

What other applications can you think of to use this technique? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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Initial sample images from the new Olympus TG-5

17 May

We had a little bit of time to try out the new Olympus Tough TG-5 prior to its launch, in and around the waters of Seattle. As the weather improves, we’ll look to update this gallery with additional underwater samples and a range of samples from various lighting conditions. For now, wet your whistle with these.

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Company wins $900k in damages after competitor steals images

17 May

In 2015, Oregon-based company Under a Foot Plant Co. filed a lawsuit against Maryland-based competitor Exterior Design Inc. over the latter company’s alleged copyright infringement. According to the lawsuit, Exterior Design used 24 of Under a Foot Plant Co.’s copyrighted photographs without permission, resulting in 133 instances of copyright infringement. Under a Foot Plant Co. had created the photos to market a product line called Stepables, while Exterior Design used them to market a competing product called Treadwell Plants.

According to the lawsuit, Exterior Design’s infringement of Under a Foot Plant’s copyrighted images began in 2011 and continued through 2014. The legal document claimed that Exterior Design was engaging in ‘copyright infringement, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and unjust enrichment.’ Though Exterior Design denied the allegations, the legal matter proceeded and, after the better part of two years, has reached its conclusion in Under a Foot Plant Co.’s favor. 

Per the jury’s decision, Under a Foot Plant Co. can choose to be awarded either $ 300,000 in statutory damages or $ 900,000 in actual damages, but isn’t allowed to receive both.

Via: PDN

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel – 18 Totally Tubular Images

10 May

Tunnels have a unique lighting situation – they are dark in the middle, with the light coming from one end.

They can also be a great place to create or take unique photographs. Here is what 18 photographers created with photos of tunnels:

By Tore Bustad

By Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York

By Susanne Nilsson

By _ Liquid

By Indigo Skies Photography

By Rex Boggs

By ??? tocausan

By Matt Niemi

By Andi Campbell-Jones

By Hernán Piñera

By Vincent Lock

By darkday

By darkday

By Vaidotas Mišeikis

By pieter musterd

By Rahigrim Monasterios

By Simon & His Camera

By darkday

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How to Create Abstract Images With a Soft-Focus Look Using Vaseline

09 May

As a rule, sticky substances and photography don’t mix. For a beloved camera, any liquid substance is a cause for concern. So naturally, I was surprised when I stumbled upon a neat trick used by glamor photographers back in the day. Actresses of the 1920s and 30s were photographed in the soft-focus style that photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen developed.

Arnold Grethe and Victor Georg, photographers of Vanity Fair used hazy focus, diffusion filters, and other techniques to soften the portraits of actors, particularly women. This stylized softness was adopted by American filmmakers who before then had stuck to the sharpest focus possible. Doris Day, queen of romantic glamor portraiture was rumored to have insisted that photographers use diffusion filters to soften the focus of her photographs. And sometimes, in a pinch, photographers applied Vaseline or petroleum jelly to the lenses.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

An abstract photograph of yellow flowers, taken with Vaseline or petroleum jelly applied to a clear filter. The waves in the image reflect the density of the petroleum jelly applied to the lens.

How to make a soft-focus look with petroleum jelly

Creating a diffusion filter with petroleum jelly is actually quite simple, and a lot less messy than it sounds. First, raid your bathroom cupboard for some Vaseline. If you don’t already have a supply, you can purchase a tub from your local pharmacy.

Next, you’ll need to apply the jelly to your lens. There are two ways to go about this. One method is to first stretch a layer or two of cling wrap over the front of your lens, forming a barrier between the jelly and the lens. Fix the cling wrap with a rubber band and double check for holes in the plastic before you start applying the jelly. The potential risk of this method is that the plastic might rupture, causing the jelly to ooze all over your lens instead.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

Alternatively, if you have a spare clear filter handy, you could smear petroleum jelly all over that instead. This is a little simpler and you can remove the jelly with alcohol wipes later. Either way, DO NOT apply the petroleum jelly directly to your camera lens – it won’t end well.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

This abstract photograph of water was taken with only a thin level of petroleum jelly applied to the center of the lens filter.

Method of application

Start off by adding very small amounts of petroleum jelly to your lens or cling-wrap rig. You can apply the petroleum jelly with your finger, a brush, or some additional plastic for varying results. I’ve found that if you use your finger to apply the jelly, it can leave abrupt areas that affect the softness of the resulting image. Even in very small amounts, the softening effect of the petroleum jelly is quite pronounced. The more you add, the more abstracted the resulting photograph will be.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

The direction in which you apply the petroleum jelly also has a significant impact on the outcome of your photograph. Swiping the petroleum jelly in one direction could result in a completely different effect to that of jelly applied in the opposite direction. Experiment with different application methods by tracing different shapes into the lens with your finger.

I also pack some alcohol or glass wipes in case I want to remove a portion of the Vaseline for artistic purposes.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

The direction that the petroleum jelly is applied impacts how the resulting photograph will look. For this image, I applied streaks of petroleum jelly around the outer edges of the filter. I then used a tissue to clear the center area. This resulted in a clearer view of the subject in the center of the photograph, and streaks of color on the edges.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

A balance between abstraction and soft-focus, this effect was achieved with different densities of petroleum jelly distributed over the lens filter.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

For this effect I used my finger to draw zig-zag patterns in the layer of petroleum jelly on my filter. The resulting image is clearly shaped by the sharp edges I traced.

How to Create a Soft-Focus Look With Vaseline

An abstracted image of tree branches with diffused light peaking through the leaves.

When finished, carefully remove the cling wrap or filter. You can wipe the filter down with some alcohol wipes before stowing it away for later use.

Try it

Give this fun abstract soft-focus technique a try and share your results in the comments section below.

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What Bugs You? 19 Images of Creepy Crawly Critters

02 May

With spring comes new life, growth, rebirth. It’s also time for the bugs to show up!

Those creepy crawly, flying, buzzing, annoying insects. But yet some of them are oddly beautiful as well. Let’s see some images of these creatures.

By Allxan.

By Mike Keeling

By Grozzle J

By Dinesh Valke

By Tibor Nagy

By Santanu Sen

By Markus Trienke

By uditha wickramanayaka

By Giuseppe Calsamiglia

By Robert Whyte

By Robert Whyte

By Ziva & Amir

By the_tahoe_guy

By Mike Keeling

By Mike Keeling

By coniferconifer

By Steve Bremer

By Mike Keeling

By John Flannery

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Posted in Photography uses smart watermarks and more to protect photographers’ images

29 Apr is a new service offering photographers paid photo hosting that automatically applies smart watermarks and other protections to images uploaded to the platform. It aims to allow photographers freedom to embed and share their images on the web while limiting the risk of someone re-using their work without attribution – or flat-out stealing it. enables customers to share their photos using an embed feature or to share it with others directly via a sharing tool. Anyone who tries to download the photo will be blocked, presented with copyright information, and/or a watermark will be automatically applied to the saved photo, depending on the photographer’s preferences.

Users can opt to apply ‘smart watermarks’ that appear when someone tries to download or screenshot an image, add photo credits, block embeds on websites, enable sharing with websites and track the number of online views each photo receives. The service appears simple to use, requiring customers to first upload their images, then add details to them such as credits. The user sets the permissions they want for each image, then saves it to their account.

You can see it in action below:


The service is free to sign up for, and it is priced on a per-thousand views basis. The rate for 10,000 to 99k views is $ 0.30 per 1,000 views, the 100k to 499k rate is $ 0.25 per 1,000 views, the 500K to 999K is $ 0.20 and the 1m or greater rate is $ 0.15. For example, says 10,000 views of a photograph will cost the subscriber $ 3. Individuals who sign up for the beta service will receive 1,000 credits for free.

The company acknowledged in a blog post yesterday that it’s service certainly isn’t foolproof. It stresses that its goal is to ‘add some friction’ to protect against casual theft. Would you find a service like this valuable? Let us know in the comments.

Via: PetaPixel

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How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

28 Apr

This tutorial will help make it much easier for you to take the photographs needed for focus stacking. This is the best and the easiest way to achieve the results you want. There are a few details along the way, but the bonus is that there are also other photographic situations where you will be able to apply the same technique.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

What is focus stacking and why is it needed?

When your camera is really close to the subject, depth of field will be very shallow. For example, if you are using a 100mm lens, at a distance of 50cm (nearly 10 inches from your subject) with an aperture as small as f/16, the area which is acceptably sharp is just 1.9 cm (about 3/4 of an inch). Reduce the distance to subject to only 25cm (less than 5 inches) and the depth of field reduces to only 0.36 cm (1/6th of an inch).

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking
The only way to conquer this issue in order to get a greater depth of acceptable sharpness in a final photograph is with computational photography. That means using software to blend together a number of photographs which have been taken with different points of focus. This computational process is called focus stacking.


The recommendation made in this article is an application of the old computer acronym of GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. If you input rubbish, the output will be rubbish. To achieve the best results with focus stacking, you need to produce the photographs which are technically the most suitable for the focus stacking process.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking


A while back, I decided that I wanted to make some images that would look good in a home or workplace, which would reflect the Filipino environment. With various adjustments, the five photographs shown in color above were combined to produce the image below (and a lot more like it!).

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

If you like the idea of producing something like this, with sharp focus through the whole frame, it needs a little attention to start. This soon becomes quite easy, and you may find that it is actually a lot of fun. Find your own subject, then follow along with this method for producing your focus stacking images.

The actual processing of the images is a sequence of steps, and I would be happy to go through my approach for you at another time. Although there are other specialist programs for producing a focus stacked image, you will most likely use Photoshop. Of course, there are tutorials on how to do this here on dPS; A Beginner’s Guide to Focus Stacking.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

The Method – Part One – It is a Surprise

At this point in most focus stacking tutorials, you will see somebody holding a set of focusing rails. Forget it! No further expense is required here. They might then talk to you about focusing manually. Forget that too! No need for any delicate touch with this method. You do not even need a cable release. This is absolutely all you need.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking
In the past, I had not even bothered to install Canon’s software offerings. Yes, the surprise news might just be that it is Canon EOS Utility which will serve you best for shooting focus stacking images.

As far as I have been able to determine, Nikon users will find that Nikon Capture includes a Camera Control component. I do not have the facility to put that to the test, but I imagine it works just as well. If you shoot Nikon and give this a try, do tell us how it worked for you in the comments section below.

The magic trick – the secret sauce – the silver bullet, for making images for focus stacking is the Canon EOS Utility program. It allows total remote control of the settings of your camera when shooting tethered to your computer.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Plug and play!

Once you have your shot set up, you can control everything from your computer. If that happens to be an adjacent laptop, that will work the best. However, the photographs which follow below were produced with everything controlled from a computer in another room, fully 10 meters, more than 30 feet away from the set.

The Method – Part Two – The Mechanics

This type of photography, which I think of as “constructed photography”, does take a little while to set up. Follow these steps:

  • Put your camera on a tripod.
  • Compose your shot.
How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

You need to make two measurements.

  • Measure from the focal plane of the camera (the mark indicated above) to the front of the object which you are photographing (A), as shown above.
How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

The circle with a line through it indicates the focus plane – this is where your lens focuses the image onto the sensor.

  • Measure the depth of the object, from the point which is nearest to the camera, to the point farthest away. I have found that a steel rule or tape measure works well enough for these tasks.

Standard issue.

  • Now take a test shot.
  • Use a small aperture, like f/10, then check the exposure. I tend to look at the LCD screen which gives the RGB histograms. This allows you to judge the exposure, exposing to the right if you like, but also to check that none of the individual colour channels is overloaded. That is prone to happen in photographs which have one subject filling the major part of the screen. At this stage, exposure is not critical, you are only trying to achieve a guide shot.
  • Make a note of the settings which have given a reasonable exposure.
  • Cover the viewfinder to prevent possible light leakage.
  • Switch off image stabilization, it is always the best practice to do so when your camera is on a tripod.
  • It is not essential, but you might choose to put your camera into manual focus.
How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Manual focus, stabilizer off.

  • Again, not essential, but you might choose to put your camera in Manual shooting mode.
How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Switch to Manual Mode

Now the magic begins, the bit which makes me smile at how brilliant and easy it is.

The Method – Part Three – Computing

Connect your camera to your personal computer using Wi-Fi, a USB or Ethernet cable, whatever works best for your setup. I like cables, so I use a USB cord.

Run the EOS Utility software. Your camera should be discovered quite easily.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

The EOS Utility dashboard.

Choose “Remote shooting” and the screen below will appear.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

You are in control

From the comfort of your computer, you can release the shutter, the ultimate cable release, and do pretty much whatever else you like. As advised, you can switch off autofocus, and switch to Manual Mode without even touching the camera. In fact, adjustments can be made to all the usual camera settings for shooting. Most importantly for this exercise, you can switch to Live View shooting. Do so, and you will see a screen like this.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

The Remote Live View window. This is where the fine focusing happens.

The first thing to do is to fine tune the exposure. Controlling your camera from EOS Utility soon becomes quite easy, and intuitive. You can actually learn a lot about exposure by experimenting with the exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture all from your computer, with the benefit of Live View in grand scale.

One extra benefit of shooting in Live View is that you will have locked the mirror up, and removed any chance of vibrations from that source.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

You can click on the screen arrows, even use the scroll wheel on your mouse to make adjustments.

Take a shot and it will soon appear on your screen. This is not an article on ETTR (Exposing To The Right), but there is a good one here; Exposing to the Right. You can now adjust the exposure to try and get as much data onto your sensor as possible (the premise of ETTR). Take your time and take as many shots as you like. Check the histogram, check what you can see on the screen, and get the exposure exactly to your liking.

I do tend to prefer a shorter exposure. In the interests of sharpness, if I can get a compromise between ISO, and aperture which gives me an exposure of less than 1-second, I believe that is a good step in the direction of sharper photographs.

For this particular exercise, there are all sorts of detailed decisions, but the most important part of this screen is the Focus Adjustment and the Zoom View.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Double clicking on the area highlighted, shown towards the bottom of the screen capture of the Remote Zoom View window (shown above), will bring you to this window below.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Zoom View – allow you to easily get the nearest point of the image sharp as possible.

You now have turbocharged, hyper control of your focus. Not until you take the plunge and try this method, and find out that you can focus to the width of a hair, will you realize how brilliant it is. There is even the facility to zoom in further still.

I believe you will find the focus adjustment intuitive. There are three different levels for adjusting focus in either direction, “<<< / << / <” and “> / >> / >>>”. This is very useful in a way that no focus rails or manual adjustment could ever be. The bonus is that you will have no physical contact with the camera whatsoever.

The Method – Part Four – Finally

Martin Bailey is a photographer who goes into admirable detail. He is of the opinion that if you start photographing to the rear of the object, and work forward, Photoshop handles the process better. I do not see the evidence so clearly but, experience tells me, he is very likely right.

Another piece of advice would be to shoot a little wider, do not frame as tightly as you might usually. It gives you a little more room for maneuvering if you need to make adjustments.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

You now need a Depth of Field (DoF) calculator. There’s a wide choice, there are many that are readily available for your computer, phone, and for use online. I happen to use, Simple DoF (iOS only, see Android options here), as shown in the screenshots. Let’s apply it to a situation.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

The depth of field required for this scene is about 20cm (8 inches) To determine what you need, measure from the part of the object nearest the camera to the point furthest away. Divide that by the Depth of Field of 3.39cm (let’s call it 3.4cm), which tells us we will need 5.88 images. That means that we will need to take six evenly spaced images from the back to the front, in order to get every part of the image in focus. Here they are!

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Focused at the rear, on the plastic case of the ruler.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Moving forward, picking a point about 3cms (just over an inch) closer each time.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Focused between 6 and 7 inches.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Shot 4.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Coming forward.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Focus closer 3cm, about an 1 inch, each time.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Finally, focused sharply on the front edge of the ruler.

You can go to whatever lengths of precision you like. Experience allows me to trust my judgment of distance, and I am happy to err on the side of taking too many shots. If I reached the front edge of the saucer and found that I had taken eight shots I would be perfectly happy with that. As it happens, it seems that I took seven.

Here is the image produced from all the above by following the focus stacking processing routine in Photoshop.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

The final focus stacked image.

You should always be looking for ways to improve. As I have said, better results from less effort is a good thing.


I think that to be certain of producing the highest quality product, the next time I do a project like this, I would refine my technique a little further.

I would actually put a rule next to the object but, unlike this time, do so temporarily. In this specific example, I would decide to take 3cm as my Depth of Field. I would then focus a shot on the 0cm mark of the ruler. I would then use the focus controls in EOS Utility to nudge the focus to 3cm and see how many clicks of the “>”, “>>” or “>>>” buttons it took to move the point of focus 3cm. It might, for example, be three clicks of the “>>>” button. Again, sticking with this example, I would then know that I needed to take seven shots. I would then take a shot focused on the back edge, click “>>>” three times, take another shot, click “>>>” three times again … and so on. As I said at the start, what could be easier?


This leaf was 10cm, that is 4 inches from front to rear. I do not think there is a way to produce this final image without using the technique of focus stacking. What you have read above is the best, and the easiest way to produce the shots.

How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking

Waving goodbye?

I am all for spontaneous, shooting on the run, shots. However, if you want to shoot in a more controlled way, I think you might find the control offered by Canon EOS Utility to be a lot of fun. I do!

Once you have been introduced to it and learn some of the power of the software, you may well find yourself using it for other projects. This last week, I have used Canon’s EOS Utility to produce some product shots. The proof is in using it, and I hope you can see that it is something you can try if you want to do focus stacking.

The post How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking by Richard Messsenger appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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