Focus Stacking a Macro

Since I started messing around with macro shooting, one thing that annoys me is the incredibly shallow focus depth. This is to be expected shooting so close to the lens. Even at high f-stops, you really can’t get much focus depth. One answer to this problem is focus stacking.

Focus stacking involves taking multiple images at different focus points and then blending them all together to get an image with more in focus. Sounds simple, but if there is much movement from image to image, you get a mess. And adjusting focus to get all relevant parts of your subject in focus is not easy. There are cameras that can automate this, but mine is not one of them.

So, being of bored mind on a Sunday afternoon while waiting for the World Series, I decided to wander around the backyard and give this a try. I have some lantana that happily blooming in bright sunlight so I set up the tripod and camera to take some focus-stacked macros. Instead of a blooming flower, I decided the delicate little bud looked more interesting, so I focused on it from the side. After waiting for a lull in the breeze, I took 6 photos of the bud at varying focus points to merge in Photoshop. Below are the two extremes of the group, far-focus and near-focus.

lantana-bud-1antana-bud-2

This was shot at f/13 and it was not going to be possible to get the entire bud in sharp focus shooting this close, even at f/22. Below is the final image result of blending the 6 images in Photoshop. Pretty sharp, all the way across the bud.

Focus Stacked Lantana Bud
Focus Stacked Lantana Bud

I initially tried to find different focus points on the flower to focus on for each shot, but this is madness. I eventually just focused on the far part of the flower, took a picture, and then just dialed the focus in very slightly, took a picture, and repeated this process until I got the near part of the bud in focus. This was much easier. And I was doing this in the view finder as it was too bright to really see the camera screen.

I also kind of like the way the lantana looked against the background of the old wooden fence, so I played with that composition as well. The image below is a single image and not focus-stacked, but not such a close-up, so thicker focus depth.

Lantana Against an Old Wooden Fence
Lantana Against an Old Wooden Fence

I also tried focus stacking with my Julia Child rose. I think that this flower might be a little to complicated to make a nice close-up, but tell me what you think. Below is focus-stack of 6 images using the same techniques as described above.

Focus-Stacked Close-up of Julia Child Rose
Focus-Stacked Close-up of Julia Child Rose

The Lightroom and Photoshop process is quite simple.

  • I import the images into Lightroom, select the images that I want to focus stack, right-click, select Edit in >> Open as Layers in Photoshop. This opens Photoshop and opens all of the selected images as layers (takes about 30-40 seconds).
  • I then select all of the layers and auto-align the layers (takes about 20 seconds).
  • Now that the images are all aligned, I blend them and wait for a TIF to be created of the blended images (takes about 30 seconds).
  • I save the TIF and go back to Lightroom where it is there to finish editing.

The tough thing is doing this with an insect as they tend to crawl or fly away. But, if I can find one being still enough for a few seconds, I will try this.

Julia Child Rose Close-Up
Julia Child Rose Close-Up

This was my 200th blog post. It doesn’t seem like I have written that many, over the last 2 years or so, but I have and enjoyed it. I guess I need to type out 200 more now.

Thanks for reading and leave a comment below.

9 thoughts on “Focus Stacking a Macro

  1. I like the one against the fence the best. Very pretty.

    World series fan? I used to watch baseball games with my Dad when I was at home. A fond memory. 🙂

    Congrats on your 200th post, time goes fast when blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Time goes fast no matter what I do these days . Maybe I need to go back to elementary school. Time seemed to really drag then.

      Thanks for the nice comment. Glad that old fence is good for something. I need to rebuild it soon.

      Like

      1. Haha! Yes. What is it with time going so fast! Time definitely drug in elementary school! Christmas seemed to take eons to get here! Now it’s like, didn’t we just have Christmas a couple months ago!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love focus-stack. It makes a big difference, to my eyes. I like the focus-stacked Julia Child, but the focus-stacked lantana is my favorite.
    I guess you’re pulling for the Astros. Good luck, though I’d like the Nats to win.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been an Astros fan since childhood. I spent a lot of evenings in the old Astrodome before they moved to the new park. Don’t get many chances to see your favorite team in the World Series, so I am enjoying it. In 2017 I was stuck in Malaysia listening to the Astros on a streaming app on my phone every morning. This time I get to be home.

      The focus stacking has frustrated me in the past as I would always leave something out of focus , but I think I figured out a better way to do it today. Thanks

      Liked by 1 person

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