Image Stacking For Detail With Soft Backgrounds

Quite often I use Image Stacking techniques for my macro images. This works best if you are using a longer macro lens for shallower depth of field & softer cleaner backgrounds. I shot with the lens wide open and take images starting from the closest area I want in focus & ending where I want the background to go softer. The image I chose for this blog is one I photographed years ago. It was photographed using a tripod with a Sigma 150mm Macro lens & 1.4x Canon Teleconverter.  I also went a little overboard on layers, but because I was using a 150mm lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter I shot more focus points than usual. I ended up with 44 images in this stack. But shooting @ f/2.8 & adding the 1.4x teleconverter it was actually f/4 (Wide Open). I started from the bottom of the image & worked my way up to the top. You can also not use all the layers if you want to select where the softness ends or begins. Here I purposely ended where I wanted it to end. You can also use a smaller aperture / larger f/stop number to use less images for the stack but I like the smoother background.

I then load all the images into one Photoshop layered file and select all layers.

A) Under Edit – chose Auto Align Layers

Screen Shot aaa

Screen Shot bb

(B) then select Edit – Auto-Blend Layers – for final blending.

Below is Final Blended file on the top layer in Photoshop with all the sharpest sections of each Layer (masked) below the final layer.

 

Screen Shot b

I use this technique with my macro images mainly to get the greatest detail on my main subject and the softest backgrounds behind them. You can also control how much sharpness you have on your subject and where the softness starts. With practice the results get more reliable for what you are envisioning when you are photographing them. Also you can change your mind after you captured the series and have the detail or less detail where you want it while you are adjusting your files.

image 1

First Image in Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments on “Image Stacking For Detail With Soft Backgrounds

    • Thanks Greta! Once you do a few it becomes quite easy and useful. Plus they are fun to do! When shooting a series of focus points, it is best to shoot more than you need. You do not have to use them all, but you have them if you need them. I tend to shoot with the lens aperture wide open and use more images and get a “smoother blend”. But it depends on your lens and aperture you are using. Also depends on the effect you are trying to achieve. I usually am using longer lenses for these. You can use, say an f/8 or f/11 and shoot less images for the blend, but I like wider open and more images. Thanks again and post what you come up with. I started using this technique when we transitioned from 4×5 & 8×10 View cameras in my Commercial Studio years ago to Digital SLRs & Medium format digital cameras to get the detail we needed for our clients assignments.

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