Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Using twenty two photos to create one flower image

A focus stack of 22 images!

Self-assignment parameters:

1. Photograph Tiger lily, capturing detail in all parts of the flower.
2. Hint at the form of the rest of the plant, but keep all other aspects of the background unobtrusive.
3. Make the perspective and balance of forms pleasing.

Here is how I went about it:

1. I chose a lens that would cover the field that I wanted to include - a mature flower, and an incipient bloom for contrast - from a nice distance, a meter or so. Not where I'd put my nose to sniff the aroma, but where you might stop to admire a fresh flower. My choice was a 135mm f/2.

2. I set the aperture wide open at f/2, to soften the background as much as possible.

3. With the camera on a tripod, I arranged my composition and focused on the part closest to the camera lens. Here is that first shot:

4. After the first exposure, I shifted the focus rearward by a very small amount, and shot another frame.

5. I repeated the process until I had an image with the focus on the most distant part of my primary subject.

6. After making basic adjustments to the first raw file (in Adobe Lightroom), I applied those settings to all 22 image files, then loaded them into Adobe Photoshop as one multi-layered document.

7. Selecting all of the layers, I used Auto-align (in the Edit menu) and then auto-blended the layers to use the sharpest, most detailed renditions of each area.

The result is a nice crisp image of the Tiger lily and its coming cousin, with a soft background that complements them.



  1. This looks 3-D!

    1. Color contrast and contrast of sharp against soft can strengthen that illusion. :-)

    2. Is there a camera out there that is both inexpensive and easy to use that would create such an illusion in a single shot?

    3. I'm afraid not. If computing power grows enough, I could imagine software that would take an overall sharp image, recognize background areas, and blur them. Indeed, we've been able to do this for several years, but it takes a fair amount of careful time on the part of the human involved, and the end result still looks unnatural to me. The thing about the quality of blur ("bokeh", as it's known) in a shot like my example is that there is a smooth transition from in-focus to out of focus, and even within the very blurred background areas there is variation that directly corresponds to distance.

      If you wanted to create single shot photos like the first one shown - I don't know if this qualifies as inexpensive, but you could use one of the Canon Rebel series and the EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro. Let me know if you're interested and would like more details or free advice (worth every penny).

  2. I love it when I learn stuff before 10am. :-) Not for the first time, I say, "Wow, Jess!"


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