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One of the problems with shooting macro or close up photographs is depth of field, often measured in parts of a millimetre or, at best a millimetre or two when shooting this close to your subject. Sure stopping down to f11 or f16 can help but there are limits to how much difference this will make and, in any case, diffraction rears its ugly head as you go past f11 or so, ruining things for everybody.

Enter focus stacking. A lovely technique where you shoot a number of photographs focused at different places on your subject, at a relatively modest aperture, and then use the "focused" parts of each image to create one sharp image with a huge amount of it in focus. You can either use software to do this stacking and masking or do it manually, hiding all the out of focus areas. I was playing around with some pics pic of a Hibiscus flower the other day and though I'd share the process I followed to create the composite image.

Firstly, you need a static subject (and a static camera for that matter) so that the images will all align perfectly. Now, shoot a series of pics adjusting the focus point carefully for each one. Make sure everything else stays the same - exposure and white balance. Some cameras, like my Panasonic GH5, have a function called Focus Bracketing (much like exposure bracketing) where the camera automatically shoots a series of pics focussed at different places - most convenient really! How many? It depends (doesn't it always!!!) on how much you need to get in focus but for this pic I shot 9 pics.

In Lightroom I did the usual edits and then opened them up in Photoshop as layers in one image. Make sure the layers panel is open and then select all the layers (click on the top layer and the Shift click on the bottom one). In the Edit menu I first chose Auto-Align Layers (just to make sure that everything was in alignment (select the Auto button under Projection). Photoshop will do its thing and then go back to the edit menu and select Auto-Blend Layers, clicking on Stack Images and making sure that Seamless Tones and Colors is ticked.

Auto-Align Layers in Photoshop
Auto-Blend Layers in Photoshop

Click OK and Photoshop will once again get busy. You may need to adjust the masking a little, painting black and white as necessary on the layer masks but generally Photoshop does a pretty good job. When it's all to your liking flatten the pic (Layer - Flatten Image), close it, remembering to save the images and it should pop up in Lightroom.

Experimentation is the order of the day here. Try different subjects, different apertures and different focus points. Have fun...

Check out more of our flower pics.

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Photography and stock images of wildlife, travel, conservation, lodges and lifestyle in Africa.

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