Hi everyone. On this week’s episode we’re
looking at focus stacking. This is a really powerful way of making your
photos look super sharp. Without getting way too technical, focus
stacking is the process of blending multiple images together to make one
image that’s sharp from the front to the back. So, let’s go out into the field to
see how this works. I used this technique when I was recently in Ireland at a
place called the Slieve League Cliffs. It’s in the County Donegal along the
Wild Atlantic Way. If you haven’t been to Ireland before, the Wild Atlantic Way is
on the west coast of Ireland. It’s absolutely beautiful – lots of beautiful beaches. There’s one place I went to that’s actually called
the secret beach which is sort of hidden away. Therre are lots and lots of beaches. Lots of cliffs. Absolutely stunning. So, let’s make our way to the Emerald Isle. Good afternoon everybody or good morning or good evening or good night wherever you
happen to be in the world. Here I am along the Wild Atlantic Way at the
Slieve League Cliffs. I think that’s how you pronounce it. Please correct me in
the comments below if that’s not quite right. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I was at
The Cliffs of Moher two nights ago and I would say The Cliffs of Moher have
nothing on the Slieve League Cliffs so if you are travelling along the Wild
Atlantic Way this is definitely worth checking out if you’re heading up to
Northern Ireland, up to see the Giant’s Causeway or places like that. For me it
was only about an hour or so out of the way. I’m on on my way in
a few minutes to the Fanad Lighthouse which is going be a little bit of an
adventure because I don’t really have a great map to get there. Anyways, I’ve been
enjoying doing some photography along here this morning and early this
afternoon. What I’ve been doing on this scene right here and I’ll flip the
camera around. This is sort of one of those epic seascapes with the
crashing waves against the waters you can see there and also I can pick up
some of the smaller details people might not always notice like this green moss
here and some of the lichen on the rock, a little bit of pink that’ll probably
come out quite nicely in the photo. But it’s not really
possible to get this mossy area in focus and those middle rocks there and sort of
to infinity to to be in focus so what I do is something called focus stacking.
If you follow me on social media or on Instagram
you’ll know that long exposure photography and and also focus stacking
are two things that I quite enjoy. So, it’s really quite simple. All you do on your
camera is – I’m using the A7Riii so I’ll just turn this on just for demonstration
purposes. I already took the photos but if you can see here what I would, what I
would do is I often just do a symbol like this in front of my lens so that
when I take the photo all you see are my fingers there and obviously that’s not
for you to see. That’s for me to see in post-processing so when I bring these up
in Lightroom if I see this symbol I know oh that’s the beginning of three or four
photos and I’m doing focus stacking. If I’m doing panorama I usually, for
whatever reason, do that symbol. Those are my own symbols and
they work for me. So, anyways getting back to focus
stacking – what I would do in this shot then is I would hope (the screen went
off) I would just touch there. It puts a little square and then I would take my
photo. And then to take the next picture I would
focus here by touching the touch screen on the Sony A7Riii or something similar if
you’re using a Nikon or or other cameras as well take the photo and then usually
just do three photos. And, in this case, I focused on the on the flowers and the
moss there on the rock. So, I think that would come quite nicely and then all I do is bring that back into Lightroom and I do the focus
stacking technique that you might have seen me do before on this channel. Anyways, it’s a great day out here. I would highly recommend you visit the
Slieve League Cliffs here along the Wild Atlantic Way on the
west coast of Ireland. That was such a great trip. You can tell that I really
loved the Slieve League Cliffs, maybe even more than the Cliffs of Moher. I got to spend
days and days exploring the coastline. Before we continue, if you find value in
this video I would really appreciate you clicking that subscribe button and the
bell so that you can be notified when I post a new video. I post every week –
usually Mondays and my goal is to give you easy to understand and really
valuable tutorials and tips to help improve your photography and to inspire
your creativity in making photos. In a moment I’m going to show you how I post
process those focus stacked images from Ireland starting in Lightroom and then
sending those photos into Photoshop. But before we do that I want to share with
you a general guideline for this type of photography. I’ve narrowed down focus
stacking for shooting landscapes down to just nine easy steps. So, number one: place
the camera on a sturdy tripod. That’s an absolute must. Number two: frame the
subject and compose the shot. Number three: determine the exposure for the
scene and set the camera to manual mode to ensure that the exposure is
constant for every image that you take. Number four: set the camera to live view
and aim the focus point on the nearest object desired to be in focus. Use the
camera zoom – the plus button – don’t turn the lens – and zoom in to preview through
the live view. Then, switch to manual focus and use the focus ring to
fine-tune for sharpness if it’s necessary. Number five: take the first
exposure. Number six:without moving the camera or adjusting any settings move
the focus point to an object about midway through out the image and refocus. Number seven: take the second exposure. Number eight: again, without changing
anything refocus on an object at the farthest point of the intended image. And
lastly, number nine: take the third exposure to capture landscape.
Three images are generally all that is necessary to create sharp focus stacking
images but it’s completely fine to take extra images to make sure that the
entire scene is covered. A rule of thumb would be to add more images for longer
focal lengths. Be aware though that extra photos will take longer to process in post-production. I would recommend
shooting more than you think that you need especially the first few times you
try it. Like I was saying, that trip to Ireland was absolutely fantastic.
I would love to return again and especially revisit along the west coast,
along the Wild Atlantic Way. So, now I took those photos, we’re back here in my
home studio. Computer in front of me. I’ve got Lightroom open as you can see and
a little trick, well maybe a little nerdy trick, so you’re probably wondering, ‘why is my hand stuck in front of the camera like that’? I put my hand in front of the
camera, in front of the lens like that, when I’m about to do a focus stacking
series. You’ll see that I’ve done the exact same symbol at the tail end of
that sequence of photos so I know that the focus stacking sequence is done. You
might be wondering, ‘why did I skip over this image here?’ That is because that is
one that I was playing around with editing. That is a TIFF file so we are
only going to look at this one: number one, number two and number three and
number four right here. When I talk to people online about focus stacking I can
see them sort of just nod their head or go ‘oh, yeah that’s not something I’ve
done before’ and they get a little bit scared of what’s really
involved in it. What I would say to you is that it
sounds complicated but it”s really super easy. There are more complicated ways
of doing focus stacking than what I’m showing you here today. And there
is a technique using masking which I think probably is slightly superior to
the method I’m showing you but if you just want to get in there and get this
done and still have a really impressive image that would still look great and
to put up on your wall at home this will work for you. So, step number one is really
simple. Just choose the photos that you took. Okay, so now that you’ve selected
all the images that you used in the focus stacking sequence I’m just going
to right click with my mouse. Go up to edit and go down to ‘open as layers’ in
Photoshop. Don’t make the mistake and choose ‘Edit in Adobe Photoshop’ because what that will do is open up the four separate images, four
different files, you don’t want to do that. You want those as layers. So, click
on ‘Open as Layers in Adobe Photoshop’. I’ll have some coffee while I’m waiting I guess.
There we go. Now that you have the four layers selected, go up to edit and go
down to Auto Align Layers. Click on this and you’ll see several different
projections. Just simply click on ‘Auto’. Click OK.
So Photoshop is doing its magic now. It’s aligning each of the layers. Hopefully
there isn’t a lot of work to do here because I had the camera obviously on a
tripod so each frame should be pretty well exactly the same. And now it has
aligned them all hopefully. The next thing to do is go down to Auto Blend. It gives you a
couple of options here. Do not choose panorama. Click on ‘Stacked Images’ and
optionally, you can also check ‘Seamless Tone and Colors’ and also check
‘Content-aware’ and ‘Fill Transparent Areas’. I do that each time. Keep in mind that this
will add a little bit of extra time in your processing but I think it’s well
worth it. So click on those. Click on OK. It’s going to blend each of those
selected areas based on the content within those images. Now, if you’re
thinking, ‘oh my goodness! How many more steps are there?’ Hey, we’re almost there.
The next thing that we need to do is really just flatten the image so that
you can take it out and do some other editing, some fine tweaks.
What I often do is I’ll take this from here and go into one of my favorite
photo editors, the photo editor Luminar, which is by Skylum. i’ll put the link
down below. Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for
for Luminar so I do get a little bit from each person, from each click that
you make, but it definitely helps pay for some of the setup here that I do
and I really do appreciate it. So I think we’re pretty well set and you’ll see
along here I won’t spend much time looking at this but it’s actually
created the mask in each of these layers and has blended them all
together. The next thing we’re going to do is we are
going to do is we’re going to flatten the image. So, how do you flatten the image. It’s really easy. Just go up to file. Go down to Scripts and go down to ‘Flatten all
Layer Effects’. Okay, so now that the file has been flattened and you can see up
here in brackets in the file name that’s added ‘merged’ and it is in TIFF format. So,
like I said, you can now take this image and you can do some editing
right here in Photoshop. You can open it back up in Lightroom to do some
editing, or like me, I’ll probably send this over to Luminar and play around with it. I think what I’d like to do with this is make this sky look a little bit more
dramatic, maybe add a little bit more lighting along these cliffs along here
and I really think, to make this photo pop, I need to bring out some of the
colors. A little bit of light where these flowers are as well. I would love to go back to this location and do some long exposure
photography and and really flatten out the ocean here as well but that will be
for another trip. I hope this has made focus stacking seem just a little bit
less scary for you. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button so you can learn
about different photo techniques that that are uploaded to YouTube every
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now, no worries. I just hope that you enjoyed this video. Thanks for watching
and I’ll see you next week.