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Erez Marom explains focus stacking in macro photography

By dpreview staff on Apr 11, 2013 at 22:43 GMT

Macro photography can be extremely challenging, but very rewarding if you get it right. In this article - the latest in a series - Erez Marom explains how to use focus stacking to achieve deep depth of field for capturing tiny subjects with a macro lens. Click the links below to go to the 2-page article 'Focus Stacking in Macro Photography'. 

Comments

Total comments: 24
axlotl
By axlotl (Apr 13, 2013)

Thanks for this, good advice. I Tried it with landscape and it works well. Just two comments
1. The Photomerge screen can be reached via ACR>Tools>Photoshop>Photomerge
2. In the second step, in Ps13(CS6) the sequence is Edit (not File)>Auto Blend Layers.
Very nice article.

0 upvotes
wakaba
By wakaba (Apr 12, 2013)

Yesterday, sandbank somewhere in the Caribiean. Setup for some slow moving ground birds. Then this zipped past:

http://sphotos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/906985_314451492017193_1622980351_o.jpg

D600, 180mm Nikon, low 0.7, sunset. Distance about 3m

Iguana ran past me to its treestump hole. Paused a moment and disappeared. So yes macro bracketing is great but I would never have gotten closer to this animal.
Love this cam and lens.

0 upvotes
HL48
By HL48 (Apr 12, 2013)

Does any camera have a macro bracketing routine? The photographer would indicate the front and back of the target using a touch screen for example and the camera would produce some small number exposures at intermediate positions?

Thanks,
Harry

0 upvotes
tomservo33
By tomservo33 (Apr 12, 2013)

Yes, It would be cool if the selectable focus points could be numbered and assigned to a series of shots, area 1 (shot 1) area 2 (shot 2) and so on, I'll bet some app developer is making it now!

0 upvotes
PowerG9atBlackForest
By PowerG9atBlackForest (Apr 12, 2013)

See http://www.heliconsoft.com/
Their software Helicon Remote is a utility that automates focus and exposure bracketing. The program sends commands to camera via USB cable to change focus distance with regular steps and takes shots.
I understood that it can do the job for Nikon and Canon and Android.
Hermann

2 upvotes
tomservo33
By tomservo33 (Apr 12, 2013)

Great article, and I agree with bobbarber that a P & S camera can be perfect for this kind of work. Lightweight, super shalow DOF, in particular, the Olympus XZ 1 and 2 are quite well suited and have sharp fast optics and good color. The issue is always taking even a few photos of the various regions of the insect before it moves, very frustrating, but pulling back or using a tripod can keep them calm; also good to have the magic hour afternoon sun at your back, blinding the creature to your advantage, works great with some furry ones.

0 upvotes
Scott Birch
By Scott Birch (Apr 12, 2013)

So good to see articles like these. Much more informative than press releases ;)

0 upvotes
dennishancock
By dennishancock (Apr 12, 2013)

Great article. Stunning results. Would be great to see these images in 3D.

2 upvotes
chai1491
By chai1491 (Apr 12, 2013)

dslr not main for marco,because it costly,i can do what i want with my 24-1000mm
not pro,but fun

Comment edited 38 seconds after posting
1 upvote
ryansholl
By ryansholl (Apr 12, 2013)

What?

8 upvotes
Joetsu
By Joetsu (Apr 12, 2013)

Oh, to be rich enough to go on a teaching field trip with you!

1 upvote
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Apr 12, 2013)

I agree! It is agonizing to be on a tight budget right now, thinking of such incredible opportunities. Oh well, there is always my local flora and fauna to shoot in the meanwhile!

1 upvote
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (Apr 11, 2013)

i know how focus stacking works.
i use zerene stacker.

but what i don´t know is how you keep the critter still while your shooting.

i suspect many insects shooter use the fridge to cool down their subjects...

5 upvotes
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (Apr 12, 2013)

Not fridge, but L2N or similar stuff. Or glue.. I think both are very ugly things to do.

But in reality, what you need is reasonably high ISO, lens stopped to f4 or so and camera with high FPS. For example Canon 1D series was pretty good for this + manual focus lens on tripod.

Or if you have like 180-200mm macro lens, you can simply stay far enough to not disturb critters at all.

Macro photos doesnt need to be made with "true" macro lens..

Truth to be told, sometimes Im amazed how they pulled of such shot. :D

3 upvotes
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Apr 12, 2013)

Well, I've always said that you are better off with a high-end compact for this kind of work. The deep depth of field pays off in macro. Since everybody thinks you need a $3,000 camera on these forums, I've been pilloried for that point of view. Some people agreed with me. Try macro with something like an Olympus XZ-1, Samsung TL500, Panasonic LX7, etc. Much easier than wrestling with larger formats.

10 upvotes
bed bug
By bed bug (Apr 12, 2013)

Dear Bobbarber, 15 years ago when I was using a Sony FD97 or more recently a Panny Z20, I would have agreed with you, however these days I use a 7D and a 5DIII, and now have a very different opinion. The quality of an upper end DSLR produces vastly superior images, particularly when enlarging to a metre or more in width (I did this with a recent exhibition of mosquito images). Compacts can not cut it as the images lack the clarity particularly if high ISOs are employed. These images also can not cope with post processing as much. Additionally, I love the small DOF of the 5DIII which can isolate the subject very effectively from the background. Having used both ends of the digital spectrum, the $3K camera wins by a country mile and I will not be going back.

5 upvotes
bed bug
By bed bug (Apr 12, 2013)

FWIW, I do quite a lot of image stacking on mosquito larvae and small amounts of movements are usually not a big drama; it is possible to manipulate/distort a layer so that it appears natural.

Regards
Stephen

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Apr 12, 2013)

Bobbarber, the trick of compact camera macro is the wide angle rather than DoF. You may be surprised how thin DoF actually is in your shots. The visual difference is due to the weak relative background blur, not DoF. You can achieve the same with a wide DSLR lens on a short extension tube, with the aperture stopped down a lot (DoF equivalence). The remaining advantage of compacts is that in macro the smaller sensor gets by with LESS ambient light; to counter stopping down the aperture, one has to bump ISO much that the sensor advantage is wasted, and still ends up needing longer exposures.

1 upvote
jorg14
By jorg14 (Apr 12, 2013)

I have been shooting macro for the last 5 years and have many photos in publications throughout the country. I use mostly the Canon G series, and recently the Nikon P7700 compact. While DSLR's might give me some advantages, they also have a lot of problems, mostly related to size, weight, time to change lenses and time to get the shot. I'm on the run most of the time needing to get shots quickly. Show me a small DSLR that can take in landscapes from 27 to 200mm and then do a 1:1 macro all without changing lenses in dusty environments and I might consider it. The important issue here is that my photos are seldom printed larger than 8x10 for online or magazines. If I wanted poster size prints that people looked at with a magnifying glass, then yes, a DSLR would be the ticket. It's the right tool for the job that counts.

0 upvotes
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Apr 12, 2013)

BedBug,

You are arguing for shallow depth of field in an article about focus stacking. The entire point of this article is about how to use exotic techniques to achieve greater DOF, since the shallow DOF of DSLRs is a disadvantage in macro photography.

As far as IQ goes, I'll take your word for it. I don't enlarge to a meter or more. I'm not familiar with the compact models that you named. I was specific about high-end compacts, which these days would be something like the LX7, XZ2, TL500, etc.. It is easy to avoid high ISO on these high-end compact models in macro photography, because you don't have to stop down the aperture for DOF reasons. Also, many of them have apertures of f2.0 or wider, but still good DOF for macro.

I think for the vast majority of users, few of whom ever print larger than 8x10", let alone a meter, a compact is a much better choice for macro photography.

1 upvote
bobbarber
By bobbarber (Apr 12, 2013)

_sem_

aperture stopped down (DOF equivalence) = slow shutter speed = tripod.

You can carry a compact in the field and get nice macro shots handheld, because shutter speeds and DOF are adequate without stopping down or raising ISO.

I agree with most of what you say.

Comment edited 55 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
jorg14
By jorg14 (Apr 12, 2013)

Furthermore most people like me shoot during bright daylight, so often it's more of a problem stopping down enough rather running out of f stops on the wide open end. Now if they would only come out with focus bracketing on my compact with an option to stitch in camera...

0 upvotes
_sem_
By _sem_ (Apr 16, 2013)

@bobbarber
I did say compacts work better with ambient light.
However, DSLRs can be used handheld with flash, and this may not always be considered too cumbersome. My Tamron 60 macro lens has 10cm working distance at 1:1 (24mm along the long edge of the frame) and works fine using the pop-up flash and an inexpensive pocketable collapsible diffuser. Reversed wideangles work fine even at 3:1, also with small flash diffusers.

@jorg14
CHDK works on many Canon compacts.

0 upvotes
rusticus
By rusticus (Apr 11, 2013)

thank you!!!

2 upvotes
Total comments: 24