Create Sharper Images with Focus stacking

To create sharper images you might consider using focus stacking technique. Most lenses are unable to render every detail sharply, especially with close foregrounds. With this technique, you can approach a much sharper depth of field. We guide you from the field to your desktop to help you understand this topic better.

It might seem complicated at first, but with some practice you can master this approach.

Focus stacking is a technique of blending 2 or more files together. The point is that we take  images of the same scene with the same exposure, but different focus, and combine them together in Photoshop.

What to keep in mind on the field?

You obviously need a tripod to take your images from the exact same position. We are going to take 3 pictures. Make sure you set your lens to manual focus. In live view mode, you can use the zoom buttons on your camera and enlarge a specific area to set your focus more precisely.

Step 1: Set up your composition and take your first picture, focusing on the first ⅓  of your image.

Step 2: Focus on the middle ground and take your second image.

Step 3: Focus on the background and snap the third picture.

If you want to take more images, for example 5, then you divide your images to 5 consistent parts and keep repeating the method above.

In the following case, I used only three images.

create sharper images
Focus stacking – Focus on the yellow area

Now we have our 3 images, and you can tell the focus is not the same on all parts of the image. The picture below explains where did I focus and what areas are sharp on my pictures.

create sharper images
Focus stacking explanation

Combine them together to create sharper images

Once we adjusted your images in Lightroom (lens correction, chromatic aberration etc.), we are going to stitch them together in Photoshop.

Step 1: Select your images and use right click to open them as layers in photoshop.

create sharper images
Open as layers in Photoshop

Step 2: Make sure you have selected all your layers. Auto align layers in Photoshop, go to Edit → Auto-Align Layers

This process fixes small tripod and zoom movements.

create sharper images
Edit – Auto align layers – Auto

Step 3: Stack images together, go to Edit → Auto-Blend Layers and select Stack images

create sharper images
Stack images together

Now we have our 3 images combined together, the final image placed on the top of our layers. We can switch off the visibility of the top layer and check what Photoshop did with our 3 images. It may have a few errors on some parts, so check it before you start your post-processing.

Till next time!


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Gabor Boszormenyi is a landscape photographer and founder of Shutterture. His goal is to help photographers create better images.

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