Lesson: Focus Stacking

“Focus Stacking” allows photographers to render both extremely close and distant objects at the same time. The foreground image, a red bromeliad is three feet from the camera, while the background fence and palms are 100 feet away from the camera. With a 50mm lens on the camera, the Nikon “Focus Shift Shooting” program took 7 images. For post processing, the images were opened as layers in Photoshop-then aligned and blended automatically. The merged image was then “flattened” and saved to Lightroom for final exposure tweaks. The entire effort took about half an hour.
In this test example, a 14mm to 24mm lens was used to capture and render a sharp focus foreground (Inches from the lens) and sharp focus background (about 100 feet from the lens)
In this focus stack test, a 70mm to 200mm lens captures in sharp focus both foreground flowers (six feet from lens) and background plants 100 feet from plants. The Nikon automatic “Focus Stack” program took 30 images and all of these images were blended in Photoshop to create this image–which illustrates how deep depth of field is not always desirable. A better image would highlight the foreground subject and render the background in soft focus. Which lead me to the next test shot:

In this example, I took the same 30 image “Nikon Focus Stack’ and combined only the first five “Nikon images (the close-up focused) with image number 30 (the most out of focus background image)–a much more appealing result!

Steps for Focus Stacking a Landscape Image:

  1. Set up tripod–a necessity for perfectly aligned images.
  2. Put camera in auto focus mode, focus on the nearest part of the foreground object.
  3. On Nikon D850, 750 and Z Cameras, Go to menu, select “Focus Shift Shooting”
  4. In dialogue box, select number of shots 300 and middle increment.
  5. Touch the start command–not the camera’s shutter.
  6. Depending on the lens used, the camera will automatically take between 7 shots (wide angle lens)and 60 shots (telephoto lens). If you use a macro lens for super close-ups the camera may take a hundred or more images.
  7. Download the images into Lightroom.
  8. Select Edit as Photoshop Layers.
  9. Download into Photoshop.
  10. Highlight all of the Layers.
  11. Select Auto Align Layers (It may take 3-8minutes)
  12. Select Auto Blend Layers (It will take about half as much time as auto aligning)
  13. Highlight the resulting merged image and hit file SAVE.
  14. You will now find the merged image in Lightroom, ready for your exposure edits.