Handheld Dragonfly Focus Stacking In Photoshop

I use this technique quite often for my multi-image focus stacked Dragonfly (or other subjects) images. Shooting @ f/5.6 or even f/8 to get smoother looking backgrounds around the dragonfly it is hard to get the wings & tail sharp. So I tend to quickly photograph 3 to 8 images of different focus areas on the dragonfly. Or even more depending on the position of the dragonfly or the size of the subject. In the beginning to get used to doing this technique shoot more focus point areas. You may not need them all, but you have them just in case. These images were shot with a Canon 300mm f/4 lens on a Canon 7d, handheld.

Select images for the focus stack and Load the files into 1 layered Photoshop file-

2 A Load files into Layere PSD copy

Load the files into one layered Photoshop file

6 Aligned Layers befor blending

Select layers & auto align the layers (with all layers selected)

7 auto blend layers

Choose Auto-Blend layers (with all layers selected)

auto blend 2

Check box for Stack Images and Seamless Tones & Colors. Try Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas. Sometimes works well, other times does not. You can just crop in on final image which I usually do.

10 after auto blend

After Auto Blend you can see Photoshop selected the sharpest areas from each layer to blend and put the final blended image on top in the layers palette. You can see the “Masks” Photoshop made for each of the layered images in the PSD file.

My Final Steps are to save the layered file. Then Flatten the layers if you need to do minor touch-ups here or there. Sometimes you will need to do a very slight touch-up or cloning, but nothing major.

These are also similar to doing Multi-Image Panoramas. Or try a combination of Image Stacks & Panoramas in the same file. So you can experiment with different effects. Comes in handy quite often when out in the field photographing. Cuts down on lugging a lot of lenses or even a tripod with you.  Try it and let me know how you do! But if you like shooting with a tripod you can use the same steps with a tripod!




13 Comments on “Handheld Dragonfly Focus Stacking In Photoshop

    • Hi! I have never used GIMP. I’ve used Photoshop since 1990 so it is just so natural for me to use Photoshop in my workflow!😊

    • Thanks Belinda! They are fun to do. Once you get used to doing them you can come up with ways to tweak your exposures and amount of focus points to go with your own style.

  1. Pretty sure I could never pull this off. I can barely get one sharp image hand holding the camera much less several that could be matched up.

    • I go to local parks, usually with ponds or some water. Some were in my yard. Or National Wildlife Refuges. In NJ, the Brigantine Division of the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. My favorite for a wide variety is Blackwater NWR in Maryland. On focus stacking – many times a dragonfly is basking on a plant in the sun, so not moving much. So I manually focus different areas of the dragonfly. I shoot at wider open f/stops for a smoother background. I try to focus & photograph main areas- head, left wing tips, right wingtips and then tail. Then in Photoshop I load all images for that series into a layered Photoshop file. Then select auto-align layers. Then choose auto blend to blend the sharpest areas into one layer on top. I save that psd file, then flatten and save a tif or jpeg for the final.

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