Using stacks and single-capture images for flowers etc

Started 1 month ago | Discussions thread
Montanawildlives Regular Member • Posts: 491
Re: Using stacks and single-capture images for flowers etc

gardenersassistant wrote:

Montanawildlives wrote:

gardenersassistant wrote:

Montanawildlives wrote:

Going for the stacked wide aperture blurred background for today's hike....

Lovely, subtle colours

Oops, I forgot to oversaturate for once !

and fine micro-texture in the subjects. Very attractive images.


I'm seeing overlap halos at normal viewing size in the second and third; the bane of my life with plant stacks.

Definitely. I would say helicon is a thousand times better than Photoshop in this regard. And in many other regards. I didn't even really look at these closely because I knew I was just running Through the day's pictures in Lightroom and trying a bunch of stacks.

When you say normal viewing size what do you mean exactly?

I use a screen that is 1440 pixels high and I prepare my images 1300 pixels high because they fit nicely on the screen and are large enough to get a decent look at the image (I look at them from a distance roughly that of the image diagonal. I did them 1400 pixels high for a while but I prefer the slightly smaller ones now.) If I want to show something closer in I prepare another image, either with a bigger crop or using one that was shot closer in.

I viewed your images with the browser not quite filling the distance between the taskbar along the bottom of the screen and the top of the screen. I clicked on the image rather than Original size and (not going to full screen) viewed the images in the dpreview image browser. They would have been around 1050 pixels high.

Not quire sure I understand but it seems like you are basically using a "fit to screen" approach. My monitor is also 1440 pixels high (WQHD I guess). When you say that you prepare your images that way, you mean your own pics? Like, when exporting your jpeg, you set the height to 1300 pixels. Then on your screen or on your website, they fit nicely with a bit of black around the edges).

With such an exported jpeg image, viewing at 100% would be equivalent to "fit to screen" I guess.

I have not done anything similar...I don't reduce the size of my images when exporting or posting on my site, but I know there are a lot of excess pixels that are not being seen. I guess I've followed the (silly) idea that it's better to have a few million extra pixels than one too few....

Anyway, I think I get the idea and if you can see haloing in this scenario, it is a problem for me--I'd want my pics to stand up to that kind of moderate scrutiny.

I have spent a lot of time retouching in helicon in the past but then on my website or when I email or text pictures to someone there's really no difference... Usually. I kind of stopped checking so much although if I was going to do a nice print I would. In my thinking it's kind of like pixel peeping and would only be noticed by someone who's really looking for it but when you said you noticed it at normal viewing size it made me wonder a bit. Of course sometimes you can see it easily in helicon just by zooming in but if you have to zoom in to 100% which on my monitor is like a print something like four feet by 3ft... viewed from 18in no less... to even notice it.. then I just don't worry.

For mine, if I can't see problems at my normal viewing size, or if I can see them if I look really closely but they don't trouble my eye, then I regard that as good enough. (I take a similar approach to my non-stacked images, none of which look pretty if you look at 100%. Especially with invertebrates I process them (push them) just as far as I can for acceptable to my eye viewing at 1300 pixels high.)

Makes sense.

That is one of the reasons I'm doing single shots as well as stacks - sometimes it is simply impractical (or just would take more time than I'm prepared to put into it) to get rid of that sort of halo. Impossible sometimes depending on the availability of suitable clone sources.

Yep sometimes it just plain doesn't work. Other times you look and there would be so much retouching required that it's not worth it. Or a really special picture or if I was going to print something and hang it on the wall I would definitely take the time but usually I just do a quick check to see if there's anything horrific and if not I move on.

How are you doing the stacking? The reason I ask is that I've found that using different stacking methods and/or different stacking parameters can sometimes reduce the visibility of that particular sort of halo (and get rid of some other sorts of halo completely).

I usually try all three methods in Helicon at the default setting levels. One usually looks much better than the others. If I happen to notice a bunch of haloing I might redo it with different parameters but usually not.

I tend to prefer depth mapping, possibly just because I love the idea that some computer program is able to do a depth map from a two-dimensional picture!

I sometimes do two stacks and use one of them to retouch the other. For example I might use Method C to get a version where the overlap halos are more diffuse than with B or A. I then might use A, often with a very large, maybe maximum Radius, if the background has gone horrible with noise or posterisation, which happens sometimes with C. Or I might use B with a fairly large Radius (30 or more) to get rid of some other types of halo. I might then use the A or B version as the master and paint in the subject (apart from the very edges) from the C version. Or I might use the C version as the master and paint in the background from the A or B version.

I'm going through your other dpreview post on this from today on the other thread. I've shied away from increasing the radius because I think it hurts detail (my initial understanding) is often the case maybe it is just a trade off for the halos.

About 50 shots each .. Maybe 80 for the bee pic...

I have some detailed questions if you are minded to share some thoughts.

Does you camera do focus bracketing?

Yes thank God. I used to do it with my camera set on interval shooting maybe every 5 seconds and then try to adjust the manual focus within each interval


It was bad but perhaps not as bad as it sounds. I was (and sometimes still do) using a old Nikon 55 mm f/3.5 macro lens (.5 magnification) and so I would just adjust the focus one knurl between shots. worked ok for static subjects and that lens is SHARP (IMO). I think it is sharper than my Fuji 60mm which I also really consider very sharp.

but I'm so glad that now I have a camera that doesn't automatically. I use a Fuji xh1 or xt2. This way I can take camera movement out of the equation and with mirrorless and electronic shutter also there is no Shutterstock or mirror slap. Only subject movement to worry about.

Much better.

Hand-held, tripod, monopod?

Almost always on a tripod. I've been able to do it a couple times handheld but if I'm going to go to the trouble I would usually just use my tripod.

I've come to the conclusion that using a tripod doesn't make any difference I can see for what I'm doing. I might be wrong about that, but I'm happy enough with what I'm getting (when it works!) And I'm much happier working hand-held - I find it makes it much easier for me to explore alternative angles, which I do quite a lot of, and also easier to get at awkwardly positioned subjects, some of which aren't possible at all with a tripod. And it is much quicker of course.

Interesting. I've been into photography for only about five years but in the past year I have given in to the tripod, for "serious" landscapes and non-bee macro.

How still was the air?

Not very! I would say before starting each stack I would wait one or two minutes for seemingly still air. But even so there was movement.

That sounds very, very familiar. The need for patience is something I don't see discussed much in relation to stacking captures out in the field.

H elicon really aligns the images very well in my opinion. That probably contributes to the haloing though.

I think overlap halos probably arise from the physics of the situation. Other types of halos though, quite possibly. And other problems too when parts of the subject move relative to one another rather than all moving together. Helicon seems fine with coherent movement of the subject.

Yep. It is miles above Photoshop in my opinion (and takes about 1/10 the time) but halos are a consistent issue for sure.

The bee must have been retouched (well, presumably - the ones I see move around a lot while feeding). Did you do much retouching apart from that?

Actually the bee was sleeping! No retouching on that picture or any of them.

Oh! Surprise! I hadn't even thought of that possibility.

It was a cool mid-morning and I was taking pictures of the flower and I happened to notice something dark in there. At first I thought maybe the flower was just past its prime but then I saw the bee and I was able to unfold one of the pedals to get a good look at him. Then I frantically started shooting out of fear that he would wake up and move.

Nicely done!

Thanks. Usually I see my job being just to be proficient enough to not screw up the beauty of nature.

I think that it probably took maybe 15 seconds to get my 80 frames.

One of the things I like about using video rather than stills to gather the images for stacking is the 30 fps rate of capture. I think that makes hand-held a lot more practical than focus bracketing, which only operates at around 4.5 frames per second on my cameras. Yours is a bit faster.

Never thought of that. Reduced resolution I guess but much MUCH faster frame rate. Actually I think 15 seconds to get 80 shots is on the long end. For some reasons I haven't entirely figured out, sometimes my Fuji whips off 10 or so FPS, other times maybe half that. I think maybe if the shutter speed is long (1/15th or so), that slows down the focus bracketing substantially.

I am really kind of addicted to stacking now. Pretty frequently I will do individual pictures but the sliver of in Focus area on a macro shot is just not doing it for me when I know that I can get the whole dang thing in sharp Focus, and with a wide aperture I can soften the background pretty substantially, in a way that I can't with a single shot at a narrower aperture.

I had a period of several months where I did stacks almost all the time. I've come back to single shots now though, using a mixture of single shots and stacks depending on ... well, I would say depending on which technique I think will give the best result, and that is true sometimes. I had a session just now when I was using aperture bracketing most of the time but did stack captures for a couple of them because I thought single images wouldn't be at all to my liking. To be truthful though I think it has to do with the mood I'm in as much as anything. Sometimes I just like the speed and freedom of doing single (aperture bracketed) shots, and not having to wait around for the breeze to die down.

I've never tried aperture bracketing but will. Is that just to give you a choice of DOF later?

I'm interested to know what you think. Thanks for your interest!

That works both ways!

Yes, these exchanges are great for me. I'm going to start a thread on halos in the coming days and I'll appreciate your thoughts (and I already appreciate your work in that other thread, here for others who are interested:


-- hide signature --
 Montanawildlives's gear list:Montanawildlives's gear list
Fujifilm X-T1 Nikon D500 Fujifilm X-T2 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +9 more
Post (hide subjects) Posted by
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow