(Last updated on September 26th, 2023)
- Focus stacking is a technique that combines multiple images of the same scene, each with a different focus point, into a single image that is sharp from foreground to background.
- To create a focus stack, you need to shoot multiple images of the same scene with different focus points, using a tripod, a remote shutter release, and manual focus mode.
- You also need to use Lightroom and Photoshop to import, select, merge, and export your images for focus stacking.
- Focus stacking can be used for any photography genre that requires a large depth of field, such as macro, landscape, and product photography.
Have you ever taken a photo of a beautiful scene, only to find out that some parts of it are out of focus? Or have you ever wanted to capture every detail of a tiny subject, but your camera could not handle the shallow depth of field? If you have faced these challenges, then you might want to try focus stacking.
Focus stacking is a technique that combines multiple images of the same scene, each with a different focus point, into a single image that is sharp from foreground to background. It is useful for photography genres that require a large depth of field, such as macro, landscape, and product photography.
In this article, I will show you how to create stunning photos with focus stacking using Lightroom and Photoshop. You will learn how to shoot, import, select, merge, and export images for focus stacking in a few easy steps. Let’s get started!
How to Shoot Images for Focus Stacking
The first step in focus stacking is to shoot multiple images of the same scene with different focus points. To do this, you will need a tripod, a remote shutter release, and manual focus mode.
A tripod is essential for keeping your camera steady and ensuring that the images are aligned. A remote shutter release will help you avoid camera shake and minimize vibrations. Manual focus mode will allow you to adjust the focus point manually and precisely.
Next, you will need to set your camera settings for optimal results. Here are some general guidelines:
- Aperture: Use a small aperture (such as f/8 or f/11) to maximize the sharpness of each image. A large aperture (such as f/2.8 or f/4) will create a shallow depth of field and blur the edges of your subject. If you’re unsure about how the aperture affects the depth of field, consider reviewing this guide on how to blur the background in Photoshop.
- Shutter speed: Use a fast shutter speed (such as 1/125 or 1/250) to freeze any movement and avoid motion blur. A slow shutter speed (such as 1/15 or 1/30) will create a blurry image if there is any movement in the scene.
- ISO: Use a low ISO (such as 100 or 200) to minimize noise and grain. A high ISO (such as 800 or 1600) will increase noise and reduce image quality.
- White balance: Use a custom white balance or a preset that matches the lighting conditions of your scene. This will ensure that the colors are consistent and accurate across all images.
Once you have set your camera settings, you are ready to take multiple shots of the same scene with different focus points. To do this, follow these steps:
- Start by focusing on the closest part of your subject or scene that you want to be in focus. Take a shot.
- Move your focus point slightly further away from your camera and take another shot.
- Repeat this process until you have covered the entire depth of field of your subject or scene. Make sure that there is some overlap between each image, so that Photoshop can blend them smoothly later.
- Review your images on your camera’s LCD screen or on your computer and make sure that they are sharp and well-exposed.
How to Import and Select Images for Focus Stacking in Lightroom
The next step in focus stacking is to import and select the images that you want to merge into a single image. To do this, you will need to use Lightroom.
Lightroom is a powerful photo editing software that allows you to organize, edit, and export your images in an efficient way. You can also use Lightroom to send your images to Photoshop for further editing.
To import and select images for focus stacking in Lightroom, follow these steps:
- Launch Lightroom and create a new catalog or open an existing one.
- Click on the Import button at the bottom left corner of the screen and navigate to the folder where you have saved your images.
- Select all the images that you want to import and click on Import again.
- Once the images are imported, create a new collection or a folder for them by clicking on the + icon at the top right corner of the screen and choosing Create Collection or Create Folder.
- Name your collection or folder and drag and drop your images into it.
- Review and select the best images for focus stacking by using the Loupe View and the Compare View at the bottom right corner of the screen.
- The Loupe View allows you to zoom in and inspect each image individually. The Compare View allows you to compare two images side by side and choose the better one.
- To select an image, click on it and press P on your keyboard to flag it as a pick. To deselect an image, press U on your keyboard to unflag it.
- Once you have selected all the images that you want to merge, you can apply some basic adjustments to them before sending them to Photoshop. These adjustments include exposure, contrast, clarity, and sharpening. To apply these adjustments, use the Basic Panel on the right side of the screen and adjust the sliders as needed.
- To apply the same adjustments to all the images, select them all by pressing Ctrl+A on your keyboard and click on the Sync button at the bottom right corner of the screen. Choose the settings that you want to sync and click on Synchronize.
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How to Merge Images into a Focus Stack in Photoshop
The next step in focus stacking is to merge the images that you have selected and adjusted in Lightroom into a single image that is sharp from foreground to background. To do this, you will need to use Photoshop.
Photoshop is a powerful photo editing software that allows you to create and manipulate images in a variety of ways. You can also use Photoshop to merge images into a focus stack using the auto-blend layers command.
To merge images into a focus stack in Photoshop, follow these steps:
- Select all the images that you want to merge in Lightroom and right-click on them. Choose Edit In and then Open as Layers in Photoshop.
- This will open all the images as separate layers in Photoshop. Make sure that they are aligned by selecting them all and choosing Edit and then Auto-Align Layers.
- Choose Auto as the projection method and click on OK.
- Next, select all the layers again and choose Edit and then Auto-Blend Layers.
- Choose Stack Images as the blend method and check the box that says Seamless Tones and Colors. Click on OK.
- This will blend all the layers into a single layer that is sharp from foreground to background. You can see the result by toggling the visibility of the original layers on and off.
- You can also fine-tune the focus stack by masking, cropping, and retouching the image as needed. To mask out any unwanted areas, use the Layer Mask tool and paint with black or white. To crop out any excess edges, use the Crop Tool and drag the corners of the image. To retouch any imperfections, use the Clone Stamp Tool, the Healing Brush Tool, or the Spot Healing Brush Tool and sample from nearby areas.
How to Save and Export the Focus Stack Image
The final step in focus stacking is to save and export the image that you have created in Photoshop and import it back into Lightroom. You can then export it again from Lightroom as a JPEG or TIFF file for sharing or printing.
To save and export the focus stack image, follow these steps:
- In Photoshop, go to File and then Save As.
- Choose a name and a location for your image and save it as a PSD file. This will preserve all the layers and masks that you have created.
- Close Photoshop and go back to Lightroom.
- You will see that your image has been imported back into Lightroom as a new file in your collection or folder.
- You can now export your image from Lightroom as a JPEG or TIFF file by clicking on the Export button at the bottom left corner of the screen.
- Choose a name, a location, and a format for your image and adjust the quality and size settings as needed.
- Click on Export again.
You have now successfully created a stunning photo with focus stacking using Lightroom and Photoshop!
Focus stacking is a technique that allows you to create sharp images from foreground to background by combining multiple images of the same scene with different focus points.
In this article, you learned how to shoot, import, select, merge, and export images for focus stacking using Lightroom and Photoshop.
You can use this technique for any photography genre that requires a large depth of field, such as macro, landscape, and product photography.
I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new. I encourage you to try out focus stacking for yourself and share your results with me.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Lightroom does not support focus stacking natively, but it can work with Photoshop to create a focus stack.
You cannot create a focus stack directly in Lightroom. However, you can organize and prepare your images in Lightroom and then export them to another software, like Photoshop, which supports focus stacking.
Yes, Lightroom supports photo stacking, but this is typically used to group similar photos together in the library module, not for focus stacking or blending images.
Photoshop supports focus stacking. Specifically, Photoshop has a feature called “Auto-Blend Layers” which can be used for creating focus-stacked images. Lightroom, on the other hand, does not support focus stacking.
Jane Smith, hailing from Boston and currently residing in New York City, is an eminent voice in the world of design and software. With a rich background spanning over a decade, Jane specializes in tutorials and comparisons across platforms like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Canva. Her passion lies in exploring the nuances of design tools, and sharing those insights with budding designers. Recognized for her expertise, she holds certifications in Adobe Illustrator and Lightroom. At Vidlery.com, Jane continually delivers engaging content, helping many navigate the vibrant tapestry of design software with ease.