Macro Stacking

Today, I'm answering an information request from my PBase gallery (www.pbase.com/radjr) mailbox.  JohnS  asked how I stacked several macro images into this miniature pine cone photo.  

Macro photography is close-up photography. A macro lens reduces the minimum focus distance to a very short distance and allows you to fill the frame with small objects.  At this distance, the depth of field can be measured in millimeters.  Focus is absolutely critical since any change in the camera to subject distance will cause a change in the area of focus.  You should use a tripod to help you maintain the focus exactly where you want it.  A remote trigger or cable release also helps prevent any camera movement.

In order to create a greater depth of field, I frame the object carefully, and manually focus on different planes, taking several photographs.  In Photoshop, I create a stack of these photos and blend the photographs together, masking out the out of focus portion of each photo and leaving the sharp elements.  The remaining composite reveals a sharp macro photograph that cannot be recreated with the camera and lens alone.

The steps are easy.  Place all the photos into one image file, with each photo in its own layer.  Select all layers.  In the Edit menu, choose Auto-Align Layers, and let the program ensure all layers are exactly aligned.  Back in the Edit menu, choose Auto-Blend Layers, and Photoshop creates the masks for each layer.  You may need to crop slightly to compensate for the any ragged edges created in the alignment step.  Nothing to it. 

   

Just in case you didn't know, Photoshop CS5 is now shipping.  Both of us have our copies.  I believe the upgrade is worth every penny.  We'll probably throw in a few blogs in the near future about some of the new features.   Lightroom 3 should be out soon, as they are now in their second public beta.  Another worthwhile upgrade in my opinion.  Lots of fun new toys for the upcoming summer!