What is Focus Stacking?

How do I get more of my shot in focus while doing close-up photography?

A common problem photographers face when doing macro/close-up photography is shallow depth-of-field (focus). The closer your subject is to the camera, the shallower your depth of field becomes. However, if your goal is to show the intricate detail of very small subject matter (example: an insect’s eye!), you need to position your lens close to the subject!

…so what do you do?

One option to increase depth of field is using tiny aperture settings such as F16, F22, or F32. Very often, this approach works great! However, there are times that if the lens is close enough to the subject; even F22/F32 doesn’t get everything you want in focus! In addition, using these tiny apertures could have a negative effect on image sharpness, otherwise known as diffraction.

In my example, I wanted to focus on the eye of a small butterfly, yet maintain focus on the butterfly’s body as well as the dime for a sense of scale. I also wanted to avoid any significant cropping of the image as to preserve resolution and detail.

focusStackFocusBracketing2

How did I achieve this?

I used a technique called Focus Stacking. Focus stacking is a process in which multiple images are taken of the same subject but with different focal distances (different parts of the image are in focus). Afterwards the images are merged into a single image with stacking software. In my example, I used a trial version of Helicon Focus software, but other software, including Adobe Photoshop, can be used.

I must admit, Panasonic has cameras that make focus stacking easy. I used the Panasonic Lumix G85 with its built-in focus stacking mode. One shutter click (or in my case…one wireless remote click) instructed the camera to take 100 images, each with a slightly different focal distance. Individually, any of the 100 images has a very shallow depth of field as I chose an aperture of F5.6 (to avoid diffraction). Once merged together, I no longer have a shallow depth of field; rather one image with incredibly great depth.

I should also point out that I used an Olympus 60mm macro lens which has proven to be very sharp. If you were unaware, Panasonic and Olympus share the same lens mount!

You can also just manually focus several shots in a row. Slightly turn your focus ring in between each shot to produce images with different areas in focus. (Keep your exposure the same)

I challenge you to give this technique a shot and share your images with us on Facebook or Instagram! …and don’t forget to use your tripod!!!

Happy Shooting Everyone!

By: Matt Nolte, Springfield, IL Store Manager