Backyard Macro: Focus Stacking

By Jon Vemo

If you are like me, you are probably going crazy with ‘self-quarantine’ that most of us are following. I haven’t really been out other than groceries and an occasional trip out to pick up a take-out meal (I’m tired of cooking!). The idea of taking my wife out for dinner seems so foreign, so distant right now.

It’s time to get outside!  Grab the camera and explore your backyard. However, rather than photographing what interests you or what you gravitate to, consider what you can use to explore new post-processing techniques. For me, focus stacking is a technique that I’ve wanted to learn, but spent very little practicing. What better time than now?

I spent some time recently in the backyard photographing flowers at different focal points with my macro lens, creating images for use in practicing focus stacking.

There are several programs out there for use in focus stacking–Helicon Focus and Photoshop being just two of them. For this exercise, Photoshop was my tool of choice.

The below image is from a two-image stack, one focused on each of the two flowers.  After importing into Lightroom, I selected the two images, then took the images to Photoshop by selecting Photo -> Edit In -> Open as Layers in Photoshop.

Once Photoshop opens, select the Layers pallet, then select all the layers that were just loaded.  Select Edit -> Auto-Align Layers, on the Auto-Align Layers window, select Auto, then press OK.

Next, with all layers selected, go to Edit -> Auto-Blend Layers, uncheck Content Aware Fill Transparent if selected, then press OK.

Give it a try sometime. The more images, the more layers, the more interesting the image. This is a great tool to have in your virtual camera bag.

Jon Vemo is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.