Focusing for Landscape Photography: Focus Stacking

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In the modern world of digital imaging, landscape photographers are pushing the envelope, getting lower and closer to the scene in order to make the image exaggerated and larger but still perfectly sharp. These are extreme, wide angle compositions where you may run into problem issues such as depth of field, hyperfocal distance, and field curvature. In this session, Ian Plant gives you tips on how use an extreme, wide angle lens to capture a sharp, near-far composition. This technique is called focus stacking.

The Basics of Focus Stacking

Focus stacking consists of taking multiple exposures of the same scene but at different focus points. Later in post production, you blend these exposures together to achieve your final photograph. From a very low angle, Ian composes an image of a colorful rock formation in the Badlands of South Dakota. Using live view, he starts his focus stacking on the lower corners of the composition, then, with each subsequent exposure, moves the focal point further out from near to far. He brackets eleven exposures at these various focal points. To avoid diffraction, he prefers to shoot each one at f-11.

Next, Ian takes you into the edit suite and blends all his images together through focus stacking. Although Adobe Photoshop offers a stacking software program, Ian uses a dedicated software called Helicon Focus. He imports the eleven exposures into the program, and the software blends them together through mapping and figures out the sharpest zone of focus for each image. Ian adds a few simple retouching techniques, then brings the blended file into Photoshop for careful checking. The final result is a remarkable landscape photograph in perfect focus from foreground to background. Join pro shooter Ian Plant and discover how to create a wide angle landscape image through focus stacking.

See all videos in our Landscape Focusing Mini-Course: