How to do Photo Stacking (My Way)

Stacked Gerbera

I am always trying to learn new and interesting techniques, not that the techniques themselves are necessarily new, just new to me. One of these is Photo Stacking, I had tried a while ago with some night time photos I took, without actually knowing what I was doing, I tried, unsuccessfully to import all images into one image, blend them together in Photoshop. I was sort of on the right path, but not quite. The photo was not a success!

But recently I had another go with some Macro images. This time I had done a little bit of research on line, isn’t the internet a marvelous tool?! Anyway I had taken some photos of some flowers (I actually used the final image in a challenge a little while ago). I could not get the focus correct on all the images, I remembered about photo stacking and though I would give it a go.

Technique – The Shoot

So putting the camera on a tripod (maintains the same distance, etc for each shot), I arranged the flowers in a good patch of sun (without too much) and set the auto focus as a test shot. Once happy I then switched to manual focus and focused on the petals on the left, closest to the camera, took the first shot. I then focused on the center of the gerbera, took another shot and then focused just behind the stamens on the gerbera. That’s it 3 shots (plus the test shot), I did not want to complicate things. I know some photographers use more images, but I wanted to keep it simple.

Technique – Post processing

I then imported all three images into Lightroom, I could have adjusted all levels as a set, but didn’t, again I didn’t want to complicate things. P.S. In thinking about it you could just open all 3 images directly into Photoshop and bypass Lightroom altogether……would simplify even more!

1 –Β Dragged all 3 images onto one, using different layers (I had that part right), then select Edit > Auto Align layers………just in case there was some slight movement.Stack_1

2 – Crop if required as there may be undesirable areas once blendedStack_3

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3 – Then Edit > Auto Blend layers. This will take a few minutes and once complete you will have 3 different layers with layer masks on each, each with a slightly different areas masked out.Β  Β 
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4 – You can then proceed to touch up any areas, that you feel need fixing, adjusting. Crop as necessary (If you had not already cropped above).

Stack_5

Stack_3

5 – You can make any adjustments here as well, exposure, color, brightness, levels, hue/saturation etc or simply save back into Lightroom……..make sure if you go back into Lightroom you are working on the correct edit.

Voila! you have a composite stacked images of 3 different focal points on the one image.

You can make it as simple or as complicated as you wish, and it doesn’t have to be a macro shot of flowers, you can work with landscapes, adding depth to an image, creating a sort of HDR effect. You can use this on night skies to add strength to stars as well. Just make sure all shots are taken approximately the same time, in exactly the same spot, hence the tripod. Also if you change any other setting apart from focus, it will muck up the shot too. So set up ISO, shutter, speed and aperture etc before you start to shoot; that way they are all the same – you are just changing the focus.

Until next time, happy snapping and have fun creating your next work of art

– Julz