I’ve written a little bit about a photographic technique I recently learned about called Focus Stacking. My initial subjects were a coin and a stuffed toy alligator. After getting a pretty good feel for the technique, I wanted to try it out ‘in the field’. Over the course of several days I went out every morning and photographed a few subjects, then I came home and figured out how to work with the software.
I found out pretty quickly which subjects were hard to stack. My first subject was a group of small flowers several layers deep in a bush, the program did exactly what I asked it to do, it stacked all of the images… except it wasn’t actually what I wanted, was it? I had made so many items in the frame in-focus that the final stacked image looked flat and disjointed. No, I had to learn when to let things in the frame stay out of focus.
The after image you see below was a labor of love, it was photographed on the fourth day of my adventure into this new world of photographic stacking, as well as, being from set 14 from that photoshoot. But I knew I would like this image when I took it, and I looked forward to getting to set 14. It did not disappoint. This image is a stacking of 10 images.
Without further ado, my after…
Kind thoughts and comments are welcome!
EDIT: After some consideration, I decided that this image was too dark, so I made a few more adjustments to lighten it up. I added a radial gradient of 90-75 (see my tutorial here) and I also made some adjustments in curves. My new after…
In my quest to figure out how best to take several images that would be useful, I realized that I needed to take an image as if I wasn’t going to stack them. So at the beginning of each set I would take that photo I would have taken if I was only going to take one, rather than just taking a quick exposure check. So my ‘Before’ is the image I would have taken had I not intended to take several photos to create the After.
Go find out what everyone else did this week for AB Friday Forum here.
Every Friday Stacy showcases after/before photos we’ve submitted. Then, if we choose, we can tell how we did it on our own blogs.
I wrote an initial tutorial here which talked about the software I used. For this post I thought I’d show some of the things I’ve learned since that post.
- Allowing some things to stay out of focus will retain the 3D aspect of your image. My first attempts with the following subject I had everything in focus and it was disjointed and flat, not at all what I wanted… this image on the other hand allows the background to stay out of focus which gives it that 3D aspect. This subject proved to be very difficult, this is from the align and stacking software before I cleaned it up…
- By the time I got to today’s image I had figured out what to photograph making artistic decisions before I go to my computer. Which meant taking an image as if I was only going to take one, rather than taking just a quick exposure check. Then I would put my hand in front of the camera to mark the start of the set. I would start my focusing on my subject from front to back in slow progression, then take another picture of my hand to mark the end of the set…
- Once I got back to my computer I went through the series of steps I explained here. Even with the align software and the stacking software I would sometimes feel the need to clean up the image in GIMP*. And since I don’t mind painting masks I tend to do more work than is probably necessary. For this image I opened up the final image from the stacking program. Then I opened as layers [File->Open as Layers] all the output files from the align program plus my ‘before’ image.
- I ended up cleaning more than is probably necessary, but part of the problem is that there wasn’t enough overlap in my images so there was some banding of blur, much like with the stuffed alligator. With the masks I was able to have the layers gradually blend into each other to lessen the banding. I was also able to force in-focus areas more than the program had decided from the stacking. I was also able to clean up areas where there was some ghosting, as well as force out-of-focus areas to make my subject stand out more.
- Lastly, I used the Wavelet Decompose filter, which is a frequency separator, to sharpen my image. I wrote a tutorial about Wavelet Decompose here. I chose wavelet scale 4 and turned the other layers from that filter off.
I hope that you got something out of this tutorial and that you will try it (or parts of it) out. Please let me know if you do and tell me how it went.
Until next time…
* GIMP is Open Source software that is available for all platforms (Linux, Mac, and Windows), it is a photo editor that does many (if not all) of the things you can do in Photoshop. You can download it for free here. The GIMP online manual can be found here.
Like Wilber? You can get him here.