Learn focus stacking for tack sharp photos, over the entire depth of field (DOF), for every shooting situation.
I’ve included a photo editing video tutorial & step-by-step camera techniques, for all skill levels.
Jump to Any Section on this page or scroll down for the complete tutorial:
Step 2: Focus Stacking Camera Technique
Step 4: The Best Focus Stacking Software
What Is Focus Stacking? – Why You Need It
Focus stacking is often referred to as Depth of Field Blending, Focus Blending or Focal Length Blending. For this tutorial I will use the term focus stacking.
If you want sharp photos, these photography tips are for you!
Focus stacking allows you to extend your picture’s Depth of Field ( DOF ) for scenes where there is an important object in the immediate foreground, and another important object in the distance background, both of which must be in focus.
Without focus stacking it’s only possible to focus on the immediate foreground object or the distant background object, but not both.
This is unacceptable for many shooting scenarios, especially for landscape photography.
Below, I’ll provide the best focus stacking techniques allowing you to obtain tack sharp focus, throughout the entire depth of field, for any image.
Focus Stacking Camera Technique – Step by Step
Below I have provided two focus stacking techniques, one for beginners and one for advanced photographers. I would highly recommend using to learn Method 2 which is more advanced, and more efficient.
Method 1: Focus Stacking for Beginners
This is the easiest to learn & least efficient method for focus stacking. It will provide the same results as Method 2 below but you will have to take more pictures than actually required.
If you prefer to use the Method 2, which I recommend, sign up for my free photography classes. You will learn hyperfocal distance in class 2. It’s super easy using my photography tips for tack sharp focus.
Method 2: Focus Stacking Using Hyperfocal Distance
Skill Level: Advanced
Method 2 assumes you already know how to shoot and focus using hyperfocal distance. if you don’t check out Method 1 above for my free Hyperfocal distance class.
It is much more efficient to use focus stacking only after finding your hyperfocal distance using the steps below. This will ensure you can extend your depth of field without having to take too many photos.
First it’s necessary to define hyperfocal distance since you will need the term below.
The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp. When the lens is focused at this distance, all objects at distances from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp.
Apply Focus Stacking When Both of the Following Statements Prove True:
- You have already focused at your hyperfocal distance and taken a shot.
- A portion of your photo, closer than your hyperfocal distance, is still out of focus.
Step by Step Instructions for Focus Stacking – Method 2
The following steps assume you have already focused at your hyperfocal distance and taken a shot. We will refer to this shot as image 1. Reference Example 1 and the steps below:
|Example 1: Focus Stacking Using Hyperfocal Distance|
Step 1: Keeping the exact same composition and camera settings from image 1, re-focus on a new point, 1/2 the distance from the bottom of the picture to the location where image 1 starts to be out of focus. Reference 1/2 Way Focal Point, Example 1, above.
Step 2: Take another exposure ( with the same camera settings ) at this new 1/2 way focal point. We will refer to this as image 2.
Step 3: Verify that the entire area which was out of focus in image 1, is in focus in for image 2.
This is the area from the bottom of the photo to the line where image 1 starts to be out of focus. Reference Example 1, above.
Step 4: If the entire area from step 3 is still not in focus, repeat step 1 and step 2, using the unfocused area from image 2.
Step 5: Effectively your focal point will move closer, with each exposure, until you have a series of images focused for the entire depth of field for the given composition.
Step 6: Blend these photos together using the methods taught in the video below.
Video – Focus Stacking Photoshop Tutorial
More Photography Tips Below the Video
The Best Focus Stacking Software
Currently I use two different focus stacking software systems which include Helicon Focus and the Photoshop Focus Stacking Method shown in the video above.
To figure out what works best for you I highly recommend thoroughly testing each of the following softwares to see which you prefer.
Which Focus Stacking Software to Use:
Helicon Focus Software: When I have to focus stack / blend intricate shapes or moving foreground objects such as flowers, trees, or any detailed outlines I prefer to use Helicon Focus. Click Here & Get Helicon Focus ( Non-Affiliate Link )
Photoshop Auto-Blend & Auto Align Mode: For situations where there are no moving objects I choose to use Photoshop’s Auto-Blend and Auto-Align Modes or hand painted masks to achieve a completely focused depth of field.