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01-03-2020, 08:41 AM   #1
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Giving focus stacking a try

Been trying the free Combine Z stacking program. It works well, especially for a beginner. However, there are always areas in the image that need fixing. Do any of the paid stacking programs require less clean up? Which is easiest to use?
Thanks,
barondla

01-03-2020, 09:19 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I've been curious about this for a while too. I did a small stack in Affinity Photo which I was happy with but I have no idea how it might handle 10+ images.
01-03-2020, 10:08 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I've also used Affinity for stacking and the results were less than stellar some of the few test images I tried. The issue was excessive ghosting around the high-contrast edges. I've done several stacks with Zerene stacker (the cheapest version is good enough) which has 2 stacking algorithms that work better in different circumstances. Even if you don't use Zerene, their website has a wealth of information about focus stacking that is worth reading.

If you want some samples of Zerene stacks, check out my flikr page, and look for the African Violet, Osteopernum (2 of them), and L. Camara. These were in the neighborhood of 5-20 images stacked.

I've seen examples of people stacking with Zerene into the 100s of images.
01-03-2020, 10:13 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Why not try the demo of Zerene Stacker comparing the results from your best Combine Z stack

stacker [Zerene Stacker]
and

Helicon Focus

Helicon Focus - Helicon Soft

I have tried both and find them excellent.

01-03-2020, 10:32 AM - 2 Likes   #5
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While I don't do much focus stacking these days, I've done quite a few with Zerene. Getting the best results has a significant learning curve; in my experience this nearly always involves editing the raw stack by "retouching" to fix ghosting etc. In retouching a problem area you find the sharpest single image for that area and manually "brush" it in. Zerene has an excellent retouching suite, but as I said, but it takes some practice to learn to use it well.
01-03-2020, 11:16 AM - 1 Like   #6
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I've done some rudimentary focus stacking in Photoshop CS4. Can anybody say how that compares with newer versions of Photoshop or the products mentioned above?
01-03-2020, 11:37 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Iíve used the latest Photoshop for some basic stacks but only using three or four images. For example, a seaside picture stacked to get the close pebbles and the distance, and a chocolate Nikon FM that I received for Christmas a couple of years ago! Worked OK I think; Photoshop shows you the sections of each image that itís used.

The chocikon did not last long...
01-03-2020, 01:08 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Here is an old thread on macro focus stacking. Hope it might be of help:

Focus Stacking Tutorial - PentaxForums.com

And you probably have found this website, but if not, lots of information plus some great photos:

Extreme Macro Photography

01-03-2020, 02:06 PM - 1 Like   #9
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I use the latest version of Photoshop for focus stacking with pretty good results. I have stacked up to 9 layers in PS. I use it where I want an entire object in focus, but not the background, using a F stop wide open or close to it. It requires the use of a tripod and live view.
01-03-2020, 03:34 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wingincamera Quote
I use the latest version of Photoshop for focus stacking with pretty good results. I have stacked up to 9 layers in PS. I use it where I want an entire object in focus, but not the background, using a F stop wide open or close to it. It requires the use of a tripod and live view.
Like Wingincamera, I have also used Photoshop for focus stacking quite often, however, the results are not always consistent. I think I have stacked up to 10 images successfully. I agree with Wingincamera about using a tripod.
01-03-2020, 11:58 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sir Nameless Quote
I've also used Affinity for stacking and the results were less than stellar some of the few test images I tried. The issue was excessive ghosting around the high-contrast edges. I've done several stacks with Zerene stacker (the cheapest version is good enough) which has 2 stacking algorithms that work better in different circumstances. Even if you don't use Zerene, their website has a wealth of information about focus stacking that is worth reading.

If you want some samples of Zerene stacks, check out my flikr page, and look for the African Violet, Osteopernum (2 of them), and L. Camara. These were in the neighborhood of 5-20 images stacked.

I've seen examples of people stacking with Zerene into the 100s of images.
Thanks for the info. I've viewed images made with 100+ stacks, and they are incredible. The higher the magnification, the more stacks needed. Will check out your flikr page and the Zerene site.

---------- Post added 01-04-20 at 01:06 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by clickclick Quote
Here is an old thread on macro focus stacking. Hope it might be of help:

Focus Stacking Tutorial - PentaxForums.com

And you probably have found this website, but if not, lots of information plus some great photos:

Extreme Macro Photography
I've visited the Extreme Macro Photography site and it has fantastic photos, equipment, and tutorials. Thanks for the the tip.

---------- Post added 01-04-20 at 01:12 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
While I don't do much focus stacking these days, I've done quite a few with Zerene. Getting the best results has a significant learning curve; in my experience this nearly always involves editing the raw stack by "retouching" to fix ghosting etc. In retouching a problem area you find the sharpest single image for that area and manually "brush" it in. Zerene has an excellent retouching suite, but as I said, but it takes some practice to learn to use it well.
Good to know Zerene is a top program. Looks like picture clean up will be required with any of these stacking programs, and the learning curve is steep.
Thanks everyone,
barondla
01-04-2020, 01:40 AM - 2 Likes   #12
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I have only used Zerene, and it works very well.

01-04-2020, 08:08 AM   #13
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Wow, nice shot -- incredible sharpness on the fly. How many shots did you need to stack?
01-04-2020, 09:21 AM - 3 Likes   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by barondla Quote
Good to know Zerene is a top program. Looks like picture clean up will be required with any of these stacking programs, and the learning curve is steep.
Tedious retouching is not always necessary. When starting out (that's how I classify myself) you can make the learning curve less steep by the subjects you choose. For starters, you can avoid situations like this that require more work to get good results:

http://zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker/docs/tutorials/stackselectedfortransparentforeground?s[]=transparent&s[]=foreground


Pick subjects that are relatively flat that don't have lots of overlapping structures to begin with. Then build from there with more complicated attempts.

Here are my examples, all relatively easy subjects to stack (I was at work yesterday, and couldn't get the links).

This was in the neighborhood of 12-14 or so:


I think this was 5:


This was between 5-10:


This was around 12:


Finally, here's my procedure for focus stacking with my DA35 macro, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel every time or mess up some detail and have to go back and re-shoot the stack.

1. Set up the camera on a tripod with remote shutter release and two second delay.
2. Set the camera at ISO 200, f/8, and aperture priority exposure. Set white balance with a white or gray card.
3. Compose the shot at the closest focus distance (ie with the nearest detail in focus). Due to focus breathing the scene will zoom out as your focus further away.
4. Take a test shot with the furthest detail in focus that you want in focus. Check that the background is sufficiently blurred. If not, open the aperture and take test shots until satisfied with the background blur. The best range is f/5.6-8, with the best overall sharpness at f/8.
5. Return the focus to the closest detail you want to be in focus.
6. Meter for exposure then switch to manual exposure to lock settings.
Take a series of shots starting with the closest detail and progressing outward. To do this you’ll be turning the focus ring on your 35 mm macro in a clockwise direction as you’re facing the rear of the camera.

Finally, I stack with 16-bit tiffs for best quality, but I'm not stacking that many files. If you're into the 100's do yourself a favor and stack jpegs.

That's about all I know. Good luck and happy shooting!

Last edited by Sir Nameless; 01-04-2020 at 09:24 AM. Reason: Fix messed-up link
01-04-2020, 09:34 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sir Nameless Quote
Tedious retouching is not always necessary. When starting out (that's how I classify myself) you can make the learning curve less steep by the subjects you choose. For starters, you can avoid situations like this that require more work to get good results:

stacker:docs:tutorials:stackselectedfortransparentforeground [Zerene Stacker][]=transparent&s[]=foreground


Pick subjects that are relatively flat that don't have lots of overlapping structures to begin with. Then build from there with more complicated attempts.

Here are my examples, all relatively easy subjects to stack (I was at work yesterday, and couldn't get the links).

This was in the neighborhood of 12-14 or so:


I think this was 5:


This was between 5-10:


This was around 12:


Finally, here's my procedure for focus stacking with my DA35 macro, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel every time or mess up some detail and have to go back and re-shoot the stack.

1. Set up the camera on a tripod with remote shutter release and two second delay.
2. Set the camera at ISO 200, f/8, and aperture priority exposure. Set white balance with a white or gray card.
3. Compose the shot at the closest focus distance (ie with the nearest detail in focus). Due to focus breathing the scene will zoom out as your focus further away.
4. Take a test shot with the furthest detail in focus that you want in focus. Check that the background is sufficiently blurred. If not, open the aperture and take test shots until satisfied with the background blur. The best range is f/5.6-8, with the best overall sharpness at f/8.
5. Return the focus to the closest detail you want to be in focus.
6. Meter for exposure then switch to manual exposure to lock settings.
Take a series of shots starting with the closest detail and progressing outward. To do this youíll be turning the focus ring on your 35 mm macro in a clockwise direction as youíre facing the rear of the camera.

Finally, I stack with 16-bit tiffs for best quality, but I'm not stacking that many files. If you're into the 100's do yourself a favor and stack jpegs.

That's about all I know. Good luck and happy shooting!
Very nicely explained without a lot of fluff. Thanks a million. I've not yet gotten around to focus-stacking but it is on my short list. Your really nice stacks are encouraging.
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