Focus Stacking In Photoshop – A Complete Guide

landscape, river, mountainsWhere an image is focused can tell us a lot about the image and the photographer. Focusing on something trivial while something big happens in the background can show us a different perspective on things and make us feel a lot of things by just looking at an image. That is what most photographers aim to do, make their audiences look inward and feel something (and then hopefully buy a print or two).

But to have somebody moved by an image, all of the elements of the picture need to be just right and sometimes, our images don’t turn out the way we want them to. Sometimes, all that a photo needs is for all of it to be in complete focus. Not a lot of cameras usually allow this. For this, we use editing software’s such as Lightroom and Photoshop.

Now, to change the focus of an image is a task entirely its own which not a lot of people know how to perform correctly, so in this article, we’re going to show you how to correctly focus stack your images, to create a clearer, well-focused image.

What is Focus Stacking?

In simple terms, focus stacking is an editing process where you choose multiple pictures of the same subject with different focus points and then blend them together to a point where each and every single part of the image is in focus. Now, you may think that this is an easy thing that can be done with any few images but that isn’t true.

What focus stacking does is that it blends the depth of field of each image. It takes the shallow focus from each image, then blends them together, to create an image with such a wide depth of field that no camera could possibly capture it in one shot. This is what makes focus stacking such an essential in the photography community and why it’s essential for you to learn how to do it properly.

What is Depth of Field?

As mentioned above, focus stacking blends the depth of field of each image. Now you may ask, ‘What is this depth of field you speak of?’

The Depth of Field or DoF is the space between the farthest objects of your image. For example, if you click a photo of a person standing a few metres in front of a tree, with the focus being on the person, the depth of field would be the blurry space between the person and the tree. Now, there are a few ways to control DoF.

These factors include your camera’s aperture, your lens’ focal length and the distance between the subject and the camera. But even with all these factors under your control, it can be hard to get a good enough DoF when you need it. Focus Stacking helps with this, giving you a seemingly infinite DoF.

Photography Tips for Better Pictures

To get the best post-edit result, it’s important that the images you click are high quality. To help you with this, here are some tips to improve your photographs.

1. Tripod- Using a tripod can help reduce the shakiness of the images and also, a tripod will enable you to click pictures from the same height, angle, etc which will make your edited picture look a lot better.

2. Cables- Again, shakiness is not something we want in our pictures. Clicking a shutter can often lead to shaky pictures, even if you’re using a tripod. A cable will minimise the shakiness and help you click a clear picture.

3. Manual Focus- If you let the camera autofocus it will only click pictures from one DoF angle. Manually focusing means you can slowly turn the focus ring after every shot to get a lot of focus points.

4. Amount- Click lots of pictures. The more pictures you click with separate DoFs, the better the post-edit picture will be.

How to Focus Stack in Adobe Photoshop

Now that you have your pictures, let’s move on to the actual editing of the pictures.

1. Load Images As Layers- To do this, go to Adobe Photoshop, then to File, then choose Scripts, and then click Load Files into Stack. After this, change the Use option to Files and then click Browse. Select all the pictures you want to merge. Uncheck the Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images then press OK.

2. Alignment- Although it’s possible to align your pictures by simply checking the Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images box, it’s important for you to know how to do it manually as well. So, to do this select all of your layers by clicking the Shift Key and clicking on the bottom most layer. Then go to the Edit menu and choose Auto-Align Layers. Then, select Auto and click OK. This might take some time, depending on how big your files are.

3. Auto-Blend- Select all of your layers, then go to the Edit menu and choose Auto-Blend Layers. After this, select Stack Images and check the Seamless Tones and Colours. Click OK.

4. Cropping- After editing, the outer layer of the photo can look unprofessional and blotchy so we recommend cropping the photo until the blotchy areas aren’t visible anymore.

Conclusion

That is how you focus stack your images in Photoshop. Focus stacking is an essential tool in your arsenal so you must know how to do it properly. It is important to take all the precautions to get the best pictures, such as using a tripod, cable and manual focus, etc, since if your original images aren’t up to par, they’ll be of no use while you edit, leaving you with a badly stacked, out of focus image. Follow our tips and have fun crafting your image. Happy clicking!

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