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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Unlimited Depth Of Field

A revolutionary software package redefines what’s possible for you to achieve with sharp focus in a photograph

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Macro is ideal for Helicon Focus, but you need to take care that the subject isn’t moving or is moving only very slightly. This insect stayed still for Lepp.
First and foremost, you need a quality tripod. The camera must stay in position throughout the series of images. A focusing rail on your tripod head can be useful. The photographer needs to determine which areas of the image are to be rendered in sharp focus. The foreground or background can be blurred or not—you have this control. Choose an ƒ-stop that gives the best compromise between sharpness and the area of focus to be used in each image, normally ƒ/11 or ƒ/16, or choose a larger ƒ-stop (ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/8) to maintain an out-of-focus background, keeping in mind that it will take more images to achieve the sharp effect in the desired area.

Once these technical and creative decisions are made, you can shoot a series of captures, slightly changing the focus in each frame. Each image must overlap the depth of field of the previous frame for a smooth transition through the desired area of sharpness. You’ll want to give the software plenty of information to work with. Too few images are more risky than too many.

The Helicon Focus program, both Mac- and Windows-compatible, is user-friendly. Bring the files into the program, follow a few prompts, and you’re good to go. Excellent documentation can be viewed on screen as you’re working. Available in Pro and Lite versions, we suggest using the Pro version because it allows you to make subtle corrections to your final composite in case of blurs caused by movement or the blooming of foreground elements. The program can handle RAW, TIFF or JPEG formats equally well. You might prefer to convert your RAW files in either Lightroom or Photoshop before processing them in Helicon Focus. These converters are fast and allow equal optimization of all the images before they’re combined. There seems to be no limitation to the amount of data the program can handle, but the final composite will equal the size of only one of the original captures. Once the composite is completed within Helicon Focus, it’s saved and then brought into image-editing software and treated as a single image.

The Helicon Focus interface shows your original exposures. Using the software controls, you fine-tune which elements of each exposure will be combined into the final photograph
What’s complicated about Helicon Focus is the way it obligates us to reconsider our photography. Free of the limitations of depth of field, we can approach every subject with a new set of interpretive options. In virtually every kind of photography, this software gives us more control—and more decisions to make. For some photographers, these choices will be confusing; for others, they will be liberating.

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