Learning How to Create a Macro Image with Focus Stacking

This is my second serious try at doing macro. I used a focus stacking technique from a blog post by Don Komarechka. The technique uses Photoshop CC’s Auto-Align and Auto-Blend Layers feature. My initial results were mixed. I don’t think I shot enough images to stack and I think that something moved slightly between captures. I re-read the blog post a few times and tried again tonight.

This image is a flower from a bouquet my wife cut at the local organic farm (CSA). The flower was staged on a stool I placed in my living room. I used a Fotodiox extension tube with a Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8 lens and Nikon SB-600 flash. The camera was mounted on a macro rail. The flash was set on manual, and the shutter speed was 1/200s at ISO 100.

The lens was focused at the near edge of the flower pollen area, and the rail was adjusted incrementally toward the far end of the pollen area. I took about 30 images, but 28 were used to make this image. I pulled the 28 images into Photoshop and used the Auto-Align Layers function. I then used the Auto-Blend Layers function and then flattened the layers. The image was exported back into Adobe Lightroom.

The capture, import, blending and re-import took about 30 minutes. At this point I was tired and just wanted to be done so I so quickly applied Auto-Tone then -70 on the highlights and set vibrancy to +33.

I am somewhat proud of my results. I learned a lot. I learned to overcome my vanity. I had to use reading glasses to see the LCD screen clearly so I could focus. I had to be patient as I made the slight adjustments on the rail and shot each frame. I had to think through what I wanted to accomplish and what I needed to do to get a good result. I learned that I could operate my camera entirely in manual mode.

Personal insight: For live outdoor subjects, macro photography is 10% focusing, 40% patience and 50% dumb luck.

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