Macro lenses and focus stacking

We have had quite a few posts on the free photo hosting site ClickASnap’s blog about Macro photography, from Mike Brownes guide to macro reversing rings through to WeeklyImogens introduction to macro photography using her 100mm L series lens. So now we are going to delve a little deeper into this fascinating world.

As has been mentioned previously, and as macro users are well aware, the depth of field when using a macro lens is incredibly shallow, so shallow in fact that the focus plane can easily only be a few hundredths of a millimetre thick. This is especially apparent when using really specialist lenses such as the Canon MPE 65mm. What does this mean? Well below we have a single frame taken of a circuit board with a capacitor on it:

Capacitor macro canon mPE 65mm

It, as a standalone photo is actually quite nice, however the only thing that is in focus is the ‘100’ at the top of the capacitor. What happens if we want to get the whole thing in focus? This is where focus stacking comes in. The camera is mounted onto a tripod with ‘Z’ table, in this case a Velbon Super Mag Slider, a Canon MPE 65mm with ring flash and some strong lighting to illuminate the subject during the focusing stages, and finally, a remote shutter release to ensure there is minimal vibration. Step one is to focus into the highest or lowest point of the photo (it doesn’t really matter which) In this case it was the top of the capacitor, then take a photo, turn turn the dial to the next focus point take a picture, and so on until you have a series of photographs that show every detail of the subject literally from top to bottom.

Once that is complete you need to download a piece of software called ‘Helicon Focus‘ (it’s free for 30 days so gives you a chance to try it out without having to spend any money) The software is super easy to use, just install it, insert your photos and press the ‘Render’ button. You then end up with this:

Save your image and below you can see our completed, fully focused, stacked image! All you have to do now is upload it to ClickASnap and start earning money for your photos!

Biro ballpoint magnified
This is the ball of a Pilot V Ball. It required 165 separate images to compile this image. Photo credit Tom Oswald
Focus stacked macro photo of Star Anise
Focus stacked macro photo of Star Anise. Consisting of 137 separate images. Photo credit Tom Oswald
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 laser focusing array of a CD player. This is 177 stacked images
The laser focusing array of a CD player. This is 177 stacked images
CD player Lens assembly
CD player Lens assembly. 155 focus stacked images. That green hole is 1mm in diameter

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