Have you heard of Focus Stack. My guess this isn’t the first time… or the last you’ll hear of it. I have heard a lot about it… and have a lot to learn, but it is all the rage in photography. It’s a method employed by professionals and amateurs alike. It’s what wins contests today. Forget about setting your camera on a small aperture, f22 and getting everything from foreground to background in focus. Today, that method is passé, and yields softness or blurry portions in the photograph, dependent on where you focus.
There are a number of free Focus Stack softwares out there that will automatically analyze a series of photos and merge them together such that everything is tack sharp. You take several photos, one focussing on foreground, one focussing on middle ground, and one on background… select them all and the software does the rest. It’s magic… truly!
So I thought I’d give it a go using just Photoshop (without the Focus Stack software…. no doubt that will be a later experiment). Matt Kloskowski demo’s this method in his terrific new Mt. Rainer landscape class (http://www.mattk.com/my-new-mt-rainier-landscape-photography-class-is-live/).
So I pulled out a couple Barlett lake pix out of my archives.
The first has the cactus in focus, but the foreground flowers are out of focus.. (and mostly absent).
The second photo has the cactus blurred, but the flowers are more prevalent and in focus:
Using Photoshop I open both pix in one file creating 2 layers. I then select both and Edit-Auto Align Layers to make sure both layers are directly on top of on another. I then add a mask to the second photo (with blurred cactus and sharp flowers) and Command-I (inverse) to blacken out the whole photo. Then using white, and the brush tool, I paint the sharp flowers (second photo – mask selected). What happens is I paint the sharp plentiful flowers through to the 1st layer, painting over the blurred flowers of the first photo.
I must admit, I’ve not done a lot of this sort of composite work in Photoshop… but seeing how powerful it is, I know why it is so popular. Amazing!