Learning How to Create a Macro Image with Focus Stacking

This attempt 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 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). I staged the flower 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 a Nikon SB-600 flash. I mounted the camera on a macro rail. I set the flash on manual, and the shutter speed was 1/200s at ISO 100.

I focused the lens at the near edge of the flower pollen area, and I adjusted the rail incrementally toward the far end of the pollen area. I took about 30 images, but I used 28 photos to make this final 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. I exported the final image back into Adobe Lightroom.

The capture, import, blending, and re-import took about 30 minutes. At this point, I was tired, and I just wanted to be done with the effort, 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 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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