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Focus stacking - Lightroom & Photoshop CC

MWhite

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Joined
Apr 24, 2019
Messages
322
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Indiana
Real Name
Mike
I thought I would play around with focus stacking today using Lightroom and Photoshop CC. I took a series of photos in manual mode using my Pentax D-FA 100mm macro at f2.8 with my A7III mounted on a tripod. Shutter was tripped with a remote. I used a macro-slider to move the camera and lens across the focus planes. (I love how the focus highlighting makes this easy.) After importing to LR, I opened the series in layers in PS, auto-aligned the layers, and then auto-blended the layers as a stack. The resulting photos (I did this a couple of times) are not bad, but not great either. If you've done this, you know that PS makes a series of masks for the different layers letting different in-focus areas appear in the final photo.

Controlling what shows up seems to be a problem. Note the stem under the flower (coreopsis). It starts off in focus and then becomes blurred near the flower. The disc flowers in the center of this composite flower are not sharp. They were in camera. Similarly, bits of the petals (ligules) are not sharp. It may be hard to see on your screen.

Do you have any suggestions about my technique? Is other software better at this?
_MJW2807-Edit.jpg
ILCE-7M3    ----       f/1.0    1/13s    ISO 100
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 13, 2012
Messages
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The Netherlands
I have done focus stacking with LR and PS some time ago when photographing lenses from my collection and I remember that I sometimes had to correct some of the masks in the various layers. I do this with a bellows and I quickly found out that the position of the lens should be fixed and that focussing had to be done with the rear panel where the camera is mounted. If you move the lens, the alignment of the layers cannot be perfect in principle because the perspective changes. Thus your moving the camera/lens combo as a whole may have caused problems although I don't see evidence of that. The multitude of small features of the petals may have been too much for Photoshop to determine which part of the images are related, so I don't know if you'll be able to avoid manual correction of the masks.
 

bdbits

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Sep 10, 2015
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Bob
For other options, when looking into this recently the two I see mentioned most are Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus. I saw a slight edge given to Helicon capability but Zerene a bit easier to use. I would not consider either one cheap, but if you are serious about focus stacking they are probably worth the price of admission. Both have 30-day trials.

If you do buy one, I would be interested in hearing back how it goes. I recently acquired a macro lens and have found depth-of-field is not an easy thing to deal with particularly up close. I often have to go way beyond my usual aperture of f8 or wider, often down to f16 or even f22, just to get enough depth. So focus stacking is something I also need to look into soon.
 

WoodWorks

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Dec 12, 2012
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Ashland, OR, USA
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David
I was idle today, and thought I'd have a go at focus stacking, which I've never attempted before. The conditions weren't ideal, there was a bit of a breeze, and the smoke from our wildfires obscured the details in the distance. But here's the result I got from a six-shot set of images taken with my A7RIV and the Loxia 21mm @ f/2.8.

Here's the initial, close-up frame:

DSC09474.jpg
ILCE-7RM4    E 21mm F2.8    21mm    f/2.8    1/1000s    ISO 50


And here's the final result, using Lightroom Classic and Photoshop 2021 to focus stack the images:

DSC09480.jpg
   ---            


There's some blurriness in the foreground because of the breeze. But that’s fairly easy to fix, and otherwise I think the result is quite acceptable. A little more editing/cleanup, and I bet no one could tell this image is a stacked set of images.
 

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