Close-Up (Macro) Photography and Focus-Stacking for the Beginner (and those on a “tight” budget).

Filed in Tutorials by on September 19, 2014 2 Comments

By Rick Valasek

While a large number of people in the club have expressed an interest in close-up or macro photography they are really not sure if they should spend the expense of purchasing a special “Macro” lens. Since these lens range from $300 to $1000 the investment is significant; especially if you are unsure if this is really for you!

Responding to this need, we tried an alternative – close-up lenses. They range from $20 to $50 which seems like the best answer except for a few limitations. The primary challenge is the depth-of-field (or rather, lack of it). After a bit of research, we did find a nice “work-around” to this problem – it involves focus stacking in Photoshop and we’ll go step-by-step through the process.

Shooting for Focus Stacking

FrontBall

MiddleBall

BackBall

As we were shooting we made sure that we focused on the front ball (in the first image) then focused on the middle balls (second image) and finally the rear ball (third image).

Once you have gotten the images into your computer then:

Loading the Photos into Photoshop

Open Photoshop. Do NOT open the images into Photoshop…rather select the “File” menu and then the “Scripts” submenu and then roll down to the “Load Files into Stack” selection – (see next image)

Grab01
Grab02
Grab04

You will then see a “Load Layers” selection box…you should then Browse for the files. By the way, if you did NOT shoot the photo on a tripod, make sure that you click on the box “Attempt to Automatically Align Images” so that the photos will line-up.

Combining the Photos into a Single Image

You screen should look something like this…(image Grab04). Next select all layers (image Grab 05) Then you will select “Edit”, submenu “Auto Blend-Layers”…

Grab05
Grab06

Finally, you will get this selection box…The program “knows” that you are dealing with stacked images…just select the OK button and the magic happens.

Grab07

You should see the new masked images showing everything in focus…you can see just how complex the masks are (next image). You should then “flatten” the layers and save them with a unique name. (see Composed Golf Balls image)

Grab08

Notice how all of the balls are in-focus.

ComposedGolfBalls

Hope this helps!

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Comments (2)

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  1. Larry Cunningham says:

    Thanks for the quick tutorial of focus stacking, I have wanted to try it for years, but was not sure of the workflow. Will you post more on the hardware required (lenses, bodies motor drive and software controls)?

    Thanks Larr2000

  2. Larry Cunningham says:

    Hey Rick,
    Thanks for the macro focusing tutorial. It was a big help, well done. I expanded the focus stacking to include telephoto focus stacking and ran some test using the same process, but at different F-stops. Interesting results, would you be interested in a peer review of my test results?

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