Focus Stacking

A new adventure into photography – focus stacking.  The purpose of stacking photos is to create one very sharp and detailed image from many.  There is a lot of software out there, free and pay-for.  I am playing with CS5 and Helicon Focus.

To do stacking, you need a tripod, and a steady object.   I am using a peony in a vase.  Then what is done is to take multiple images, and focus on different parts of the object, taking multiple images.  This means that the focus moves through the object at different points, so what is now in focus becomes out of focus, until you have moved from front-to-back or back-to-front.  From all the images a final one will be produced.

This first attempt is with just 5 images, which you can see in the combination picture below:

These images were both merged into a single file, as you can see below.  The one on the left is using CS5, and the one on the right is using Helicon Focus.

The next one I did shooting 16 different pictures, close in, and using the macro capabilities of the Tokina 100mm macro lens (which I used for the above images, as well).  You can see the different pictures below:

I focused from front to back.  In CS5, the software got itself into a tizzy when I did all 16 – which are 16 MB jpgs, so they are pretty big.  So, I used only 10 or 11 of them, and got this result:

The ragged edge in the above picture shows you how CS5 works by aligning sharp edges with one another.  Below is the image generated by Helicon, using all 16 images:

Below you can see the result of only using 10 images with CS5 on the left below, and all 16 images with Helicon on the right:

The result is rather interesting – using only a few of the pictures for the CS5 stack, there is a nice sense of depth because the upper part of the picture is out of focus.  The Helicon picture ustilises all 16 images, but because the upper image is not blurred, the sense of depth is lacking – or else it shows that there are even more petals in the flower as we move along.

As this is my first attempt to do this, I don’t have much of an opinion about the final product.  I own CS5, but have a 30 day trial running with the Helicon.  The CS5 will require cropping, which is not a big deal, but the Helicon produces a very clean, elegant product.  And, the Helicon is very easy to use as it is a software specific for stacking.


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