What is “Focus Stacking” or “Focus Blending”?

Simply put, Focus Stacking is when you combine the sharpest pixels (areas) of 2 or more images to obtain more of your subject in sharp focus than you could with a single exposure.

 Examples of when you might use this:

  • Shooting macro when you only have a very small field of focus or depth of field
  • When you want to  keep your background very soft, yet still get a cluster of flowers in focus in the foreground
  • when you cant get a small enough aperture to get what you need in focus

 

First a Short video and below is the same tutorial in blog form so you can easily follow it yourself.

 

In the example below I wanted to have both the dead tree and leaves in focus as well as the sky.  There was not enough light to do it in one exposure so I took one with the sky in focus and one with the foreground leaves in focus and then used the Auto Align, and Auto Blend features of Photoshop to give me the best of both images…..

Sky in focus

Blending the sharpest pixels of two images into one

Tree in focus

Blending the sharpest pixels of two images into one

The process

I began exporting the two images from Lightroom to photoshop as layers in the same document.  You can do this from bridge or even from the “open” command in the file menu.

open as Layers

This created the image below, one of them was a different pixel dimension and you can see that in the image. Photoshop has no trouble handling that situation whereas some other stacking programs need the files to be identical in pixel length and width.

select both

With both layers highlighted in the layers panel (see above)  Choose Edit>Auto Align Layers.

Auto Align

A dialogue will appear with choices, leave it at auto and click  OK.

Align Dialogue

When it is finished aligning the layers, they will appear the same or similar still since they are not yet blended together.  That is the next step.

Aligned

With both layers still highlighted, select Edit>Auto Blend Layers

Auto Blend Dialogue

A new dialogue will appear with some more choices, choose “Stack Images” and check the checkbox that says “seamless tones and colours. Hit enter and let Photoshop ingeniously select the sharpest pixels from each image, create layer masks and leave you with an impressive, all in focus image

choices auto blend

The layers with the intricate layer masks Photoshop used to reveal only the sharpest area of both images.  This is impressive, but think about how impressive it is when you begin to stack 10, 20 or even 30 images!

Aligned and Blended Layers-2

The final image, cropped and ready for upload

Blending the sharpest pixels of two images into one

Blending the sharpest pixels of two images into one