01 February 2017

Focus Stacking in Macro and Close-Up Photography

In Macro and Close-Up photography we are challenged with a very narrow Depth of Field (DOF) in creating a sharp image (and providing for more and / or less out of focus areas). In order for extending the DOF across the image image or part of the subject(s) in the frame photographers use focus stacking for achieving a more desired / sharp result.

Stacking is a technique of taking a few images at different focus points of the same subject(s) and then merging the images in a software program.

Stacking is not limited to Macro lenses and can be done with any lens - it is also useful in landscape photography.

Focus Stacking Example
I've done a quick example to show one image in the stacking sequence (21 images) and then the final merged image. Stacking is very popular for individual subjects i.e. flowers or other smaller / still subjects for increasing sharpness across the subject / frame.

Image One: (image 1 of 21 images) I focused on the middle crayon's tip at f/8 (notice the blurriness of the rest of the crayons), and eventually captured 21 images focusing on different areas of the crayons at the same aperture.

Image Two: the result of the 21 merged images creating a shaper image across the frame (which will not be possible even if I used f/16 + at the distance / magnification I was shooting at).

Focusing: I used the Canon EOS 6D / 100mm Macro lens in AF / Live View mode and captured all 21 images at different focus areas.

Please note: in many cases we want out of focus areas for highlighting a specific part of the subject.

Canon Equipment Used

  • Canon EOS 6D
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens
  • Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II flash

Stacking Software used: Zerene Stacker V1.04

(Click to Enlarge)
Focus Stacking in Macro and Close-Up Photography
Image 1 : One Image in the Stack

Focus Stacking in Macro and Close-Up Photography
Image Two : Merged Image in Zerene Stacker