Focus Stacking

Following on from my previous post about InfraRed Photography, another of my favourite photography techniques is focus stacking. This is something that I was taught by wildlife and landscape photographer Peter Orr during my time shadowing him on photography shoots. The main use of this technique is to gain extra depth of field to get three dimensional shots. This focus stacking method is taken from Heather Angel, a nature photographer who specialises in Macro photography.


In order to create a focus stacking photograph, you need a couple of things:

  • Manual focus to be selected on your camera
  • A static subject
  • Constant lighting
  • Focus stacking macro rail
  • Helicon Focus software
  • Backdrop – velvet works best as it provides a matt background with no light reflected

Firstly, you set your camera up on a focus rail- one that moves forwards and backwards. You position the camera as far back on the focus rail as possible, and manually focus on the part of the object closest to the camera lens. This technique works best for anything that is exceptionally three-dimensional, which is why flowers work so well with their many petals. You then take your first photograph, and move the camera on the focus rail at equal intervals (keeping the camera on manual focus) until the camera has reached the front of the rail. The intervals can be whatever you feel best, just make sure each interval is the same. You then also need to quickly check back through your photographs and check the flower has focus from the very beginning to end. After this, you then import the images into a programme such as Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker. Et voila! Here you have your focus stacking images.

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