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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Unleash Unlimited Depth Of Field

Use stacked focus to create images that overcome the bounds of optics for your macro shots and more

Capturing the images:

The capture process for the subject is identical to that of a close-up in which we want overall depth of field. However, we stop making captures once we reach the back of the subject (not the back of the composition). Often, this only takes two or three captures, depending on the magnification and depth of the subject. In my example, I made two captures, one focused on each of the flowers.

Whenever possible, I remove the subject from the composition prior to making my capture of the background. The reason I do this is that the blur of the subject, if left in the frame, would extend outside the border of the sharply rendered subject and eventually need to be cloned out.

Here's the step by step for processing the images:

1 Process the stack of subject images in Helicon Focus, then open the saved output image in Photoshop.
2 Open the background image in Photoshop and drop the subject image onto it.
3 Add a layer mask to the subject layer and make a selection of everything but the subject.
4 Fill the selected area of the mask with black to reveal the soft background image around your subject.
5 Adjust the mask edge as needed in the masks panel.

Processing Stacked Images Using Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is more limited than Helicon Focus for working with stacked images, but it allows you to experiment with the technique, and in some cases, Photoshop does a fine job. If you want to try Photoshop, here are the steps:

1 Process the entire stack of RAW images with your normal editing software, making sure they're all processed identically.
2Select images in Bridge, then go to Tools > Load Files into Photoshop Layers.
3Highlight all of the layers in the Layers palette.
4Go to Edit > Auto-Align Layers.
5 Go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers.
6 Check Stacked Images and Seamless Tones and Colors in the pop-up menu.

When output, all images in the Layers palette will have a mask that's partly black and partly white, controlling which area of each image is used. If needed, you can retouch masks to correct for areas of skipped focus.

See more of Craig Blacklock's photography and find out about his books and workshops by visiting his website at www.blacklockgallery.com.

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