Image focus stacking

Have you ever looked at images that appear to be of very small objects and wondered how that image is created? For exmaple, this biro ball point pen taken below:

A stacked focus macro photograph of a biro pen. Copyright Tom Oswald

A stacked focus macro photograph of a biro pen. Copyright Tom Oswald

The detail is clear enough so that ink splatters can be seen on the ball itself, as well as the weld used to join the writing parts of the pen together. You can see how the photo is taken here.

The image is actually a series of shots, this is neccessary because when taking pictures of such small items the depth of field is extremely small. In fact at 5 times magnification using the Canon MPE 65mm macro lens the depth of field is a mere 0.269mm! so a shot like the one above is often made up of over 100 images. These are then stacked using a piece of software called Helicon Focus (which does have a free trial) Below is a video of a cocktail stick showing the assembly of the image:

You can see the software analysing each image in turn and adding it to a depth map to the right. Once this is completed then it adds all the images ontop of each other and the finished product is a complete stacked image of a tiny object!

Why not add your macro photos to our free photo hosting website ClickASnap?


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  • Reply
    Frank Styburski
    November 14, 2017 at 4:10 am

    I’m not much of a macro shooter, I’m afraid. Makes a lot of sense, though, to make multiple exposures. I’m reminded of Edward Weston’s Pepper #30. He shot it at an exposure of 4-6 hours @ f240, to get enough depth of field to keep everything sharp.

    • Reply
      November 14, 2017 at 10:23 am

      wow, that is interesting!

  • Reply
    Jean B
    November 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    My question is, how do you manage to change the focus JUST the right amount over 100 images? Manual yes, but even so…. (I want to know how to do it without buying some expensive gadget, please)

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