How to get crazy depth of field using focus stacking

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

Video tutorial how to improve depth of field using focus stacking three steps

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How to improve depth of field using focus stacking

Get amazingly blended photos using this technique

Learn this skill to edit amazing photos, using focus stacking to improve the depth of field in your photos!

Nigel Danson shows his step by step tutorial on focus stacking, using different exposure and focus settings blended into one photo to get incredible results.



How to blend focus and exposure: focus stacking

What is focus stacking?

Focus stacking is a creative technique in photography combining different focus points into one image to create a deep depth of field (how much of the photo is sharp and in focus). 

Photos taken with different focuses are merged or ‘stacked’ in editing.

The image becomes very sharp which is helpful when your camera setup can’t quite get the depth of field needed. 

This tutorial includes Lightroom and Photoshop for editing as well as specific understanding of exposure. Check out tutorials on these topics if you need a refresher:

How to improve depth of field with focus stacking


How to improve depth of field Step 1: Taking the right photos out in the field 

You are out on location getting ready to take the photos, and the most important thing is to frame the shot well. 

Set up your composition for what looks the most appealing. 

In Nigel’s example, the path leading to the layers of rocks and sky in the background makes for a visually appealing image.

In order to do the focus stacking, you need to take these specific photos. You will blend these in editing later:

  1. Set the camera focused on the background distance and then take at least three photos with different exposure settings.
  2. Set the camera focused on the foreground, then take three photos at least with different exposure settings.
  3. You can do one focused on the mid ground and take three photos with different exposure settings but its optional

You can use the bracketing, or the setting on the camera that will take multiple photos at different exposures, but you can also do it manually. 

Manual allows you to adjust and set the exposure you like.

How to improve depth of field take photos of one focus point with three different exposure settingsHow to improve depth of field take photos of one focus point at three different exposure settings


How to improve depth of field Step 2: Combining and editing the photos in Lightroom

Open two of the foreground focused shots and two of the distance focused shots. Choose the two best exposures for each. 

Starting with the photos focused on the background, select them both and then right click and choose Photo Merge > HDR from the menu.  

Merge the photos with the same focus point to an HDR and edit


(HDR means high dynamic range which is what happens when multiple focus points and exposures are merged into one photo)

That merges the two exposures with the same focus point into one new image which you can now edit.

Edit this photo as you like now, using the edit panel with sliders on the right. 


Focusing on the background hdr combining to edit


When you are finished editing, hit ‘control shift C’ on your keyboard to pull up the copy settings. In the pop up window make sure everything is ticked and click copy.

Then, do the same HDR merge for the two different exposed photos focused on the foreground. Right click the newly merged image to paste the copied edits you had done onto this new image. (This should hopefully save you time editing!)


Focus on the foreground combining photos and editing


Better depth of field Step 3: Bring it all together in Photoshop

Next, select both of the merged HDR images. Right click, select Edit in from the menu, open as layers in photoshop. Choose Edit, autoblend layers.

You can do some fine-tuning in the editing. 

This should ensure the image is super sharp and has a wide dynamic range. 

Save and close the image from photoshop and go back to lightroom where the final photo will be. 

Combine the photos in photoshop for the final stack and amazing depth of field


Final tip for how to improve depth of field with focus stacking: 

If you have done all of that and after seeing the final image you want to make major editing changes, go back to the original merged image first.

Do the edits there and continue to process from that point instead of trying to edit the final photo for better edits.

Final picture with amazing depth of field using focus stacking


Focus stacking gives you incredibly sharp photos with amazing dynamic range

Now you know the best way to blend different focus and exposures into one incredible picture!

Want to improve your photography skills? Check out this comprehensive guide!

Which of the steps are you going to use to focus stack your photos this week?


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