How To Do Focus Stacking in Photoshop
Above: That’s our awesome group of ice warriors!
Hi, everybody — I’m back from four wonderful days up in Canada at snow-covered Banff National Park with my friend and KelbyOne instructor Ramtin “Rammy” Kazemi at a workshop he was hosting, and it was just glorious! Great weather (not too cold and not windy at all); great food, met some really great folks (that’s us above after a dawn shoot), took a bunch of photos, just had a ball all the way around – and best of all — I wasn’t there working; I was just there to learn and make images. Absolutely loved it!
Above: That’s Rammy. On ice. Such a great trainer, and a really great guy all around. I loved his workshop and learned a lot. Here’s a link to his photography site.
A lot of times we were down on a frozen lake, shooting from a low perspective (either splaying out our tripod legs or using Platypods), and to get everything in focus from the ice chunks down low directly in front of us to the mountains off in the distance, just using f/11 or f/16 won’t do it. Instead, to get we used a focus-stacking technique. Focus Stacking is where you focus on the object right directly in your foreground, then you move your focus point up a bit and focus on the next area back, and then move it upward to the next, and the next, and finally the mountains in the back, then in Photoshop you put them all together (actually, in many cases Photoshop will do all the work for you).
Above: Q. Scott, where’s your Platypod? A. Out on loan. I took two of them but offered them up to other students to try. Q. Hey, isn’t that a Nikon D-850? A. Yup. Q. Wait…did you switch back to Nikon? Q. Well yes, I did. Well, just for this one picture (that’s Rammy’s camera). Had ya going there for a minute, didn’t I?
If you’re a Lightroom user…
…head over to LightroomKillerTips.com for my post today which shows how to take your focus stacked images in Lightroom over to Photoshop to where you just two clicks away from a perfectly stacked image. Here’s the direct link.
For Photoshop users, here’s what you do:
STEP ONE: If you’ve already got your focus-stacked images open in Photoshop, go under the File menu, under Scripts and choose “Load Files Into Stack” (as shown above).
STEP TWO: Doing that takes each open image and puts it into one document with each on its own separate layer in Photoshop’s Layers panel (shown above).
STEP THREE: In the Layers panel, select all your layers (in this case, all five images), then go under Photoshop’s Edit menu and choose “Auto-Blend Layers.” When the Auto-Blend Layers dialog appears (shown above) choose “Stack Images” and turn on the checkbox for Seamless Tones and Colors.
STEP FOUR: Click OK in that Auto-Blend dialog, and it analyzes the images on each layer and only leaves the sharp areas, masking away the areas that aren’t sharp with a layer mask and it creates a new merged layer at the top of the layers panel (as seen above). The layer masks are handy if the Auto-Blend didn’t do a perfect job — you already have a mask in place which you can edit.
STEP FIVE: That merged layer on top has that expanded depth of field where the bubbles trapped in the ice in front are tack sharp, and so is the ice behind it, and behind that, and even the mountains in the background — all in sharp focus, and all in one image. There’s also a manual way to combine the sharp part of each image — I’ll cover that in a separate post with a video sometime soon. Again, all of this only works if you focused on different parts of your image during the shooting phase, then the rest is up to Photoshop.
Hope you found that helpful (and don’t forget to head over to LightroomKillerTips.com for the other part of this tutorial.
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Have a great week everybody!