The Macro Challenge
This week I chose to feature two antique miniature dice and a penny reflecting on two stacked CDs for my upcoming blog article for The Art of Macro Photography.
While that idea was my creative vision, the technical challenge was to get all elements in focus simultaneously despite the shallow depth of field. Macro photography by its very nature makes doing so quite a challenge.
I realized I could easily solve the problem by using the focus stacking technique. Focus stacking is a very straightforward process that begins with shooting and ends with the magic of post production software. Here’s a brief explanation of what I did to make it all work.
First Step – The Shooting Process
The focus stacking technique begins by shooting a series of the same image at the same exposure but at different focal depths. Note: Manual focus enables you to incrementally adjust the focal depth with each shot. It is also best to shoot using a tripod and shutter release cable.
In this example, I only needed to shoot two photos. I shot my first image by focusing on the dice. As you can see, they are in focus – but the penny is not.
I then took a second shot. This time, however, I focused on the penny. Even though the dice and penny were positioned very close together, their slight distance apart from one another was still enough to throw the dice out of focus.
Step Two – Post Production
After getting the two shots that I needed, I then moved over to my computer to download the photos and to open Photoshop CS4. Note: Focus stacking is a new feature found in CS4. Other software, however, can also be used for focus stacking.
Here are the basic steps to take when using Photoshop CS4:
- Open Photoshop
- File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack
- Browse > Select the images you want to use by clicking on the files > Open > Files will appear in a list > OK
- Files will then load as separate layers. Click on all layers to activate them.
- Align images using the auto-align layers feature. Edit > Auto-Align Layers
- Projection Selection window will open. Click on AUTO to select it. Then click OK.
- Focus stack images using the auto-blend layers feature. Edit > Auto-Blend Layers
- Blend Method window will open. Click on STACK IMAGES to select it. Also check the SEAMLESS TONES AND COLORS box. Click OK.
- The sides of the final blended image might be slightly blurry. Crop image and Save.
Note: If you’re more of a visual learner, click here for a video demo.
I actually chose to save the Photoshop file as a .jpeg image before doing any final cropping. I then worked from that .jpeg file on some final retouching, such as dust removal from the CD reflection. Once I was satisfied, I then cropped and saved the final retouched image.
Focus stacking worked its magic. Two images blended together with the dice and penny simultaneously in focus. Dust removed. Final cropping done. Sweet!
Gotta love technology!
~ Liz Mackney