Learn how I used focus stacking to achieve a sharp foreground and background in this closeup shot of water lilies in Kawai Nui Marsh.
I have visited this area in the marsh several times, and have had the idea of creating an image like this for a year or more. But, until this image, I was never quite satisfied with the results, and that is because I needed to use focus stacking to get the image I envisioned.
To finally create the image I wanted, gives me a nice sense of accomplishment. And now I want to share how I shot this photo with you!
Taking the Photo – My Gear and Setup
I captured this image using my Sony a6000 and 12mm Rokinon f2 lens. I probably should have used a tripod, but I didn’t want to submerge my tripod in the marsh and there was enough light to shoot handheld.
I was planning on using a technique called focus stacking, which is where you capture multiple images focused on different areas of the scene and combine them later in post processing to create a single image with everything in focus.
To do this, I simply took one photo with the focus on the foreground, changed the focus to the background, and took another image. It is a simple process, but it is important to not move the camera, which can be tough while holding it instead of using a tripod. (So I would suggest using a tripod unless you like a challenge)
In most situations you want to capture at least three images for focus stacking – one focused on the foreground, one on the middle, and one on the background.
Here’s one of the original RAW images. Settings: f5.6, 1/50th sec, ISO 100.
Editing the Photo
To edit this image I used both Lightroom and Photoshop.
I started by selecting the images I wanted to use, in this case, just two images, and did a quick edit on them.
Next I applied the edit to both photos, and opened them as layers in Photoshop.
The first thing to do is have Photoshop auto-align the layers. This is very important in my case because I shot handheld. It is better to use a tripod, and Photoshop will have an easier time aligning the layers.
Next, with the image in which I focused on the foreground as the top layer, I used a layer mask to ‘erase’ the top half of the photo, so that the image on the layer below, with the background in focus, would show through. For more information on how to do this technique, take a look at Thomas Heatons short tutorial.
With some final adjustments here and there to make sure the layers blended together nicely, I then saved the image and opened it again in Lightroom for some final post processing.
Here is the final image:
Here is a vertically oriented version of the scene in which I stacked three images in Photoshop to achieve an in-focus photo:
I like the vertically oriented image because it adds to the depth of the photo.
Well that covers how I shot this photo and I hope it was useful and interesting! Leave a comment if you have any questions.
Read my last post – Practice is More Important than the Latest Gear.
Thanks for visiting!