How to do Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

What is focus stacking in photography?    

Focus stacking in Photoshop CC is a technique that can make your photos pin-sharp from back to front. It’s done by combining a group of photos into one image. What you need is a DSLR, a tripod and of course Photoshop. I’ve created a video to accompany this tutorial below.

Why would I use focus stacking in Photoshop CC?

If you want to get the whole of the image sharp, front to back and the image will become blurry if you use too low a shutter speed then focus stacking in Photoshop cc is the answer.

Taking the photos

Find the scene you want to take a picture of. Set up the tripod take photos of the scene with different focusing points. Then, focus at the front of the picture and take a photo, in the middle of the picture and take a photo, and at the back of the picture and take a photo.

Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Taking the Photos – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

If it’s a photo with lots of detail you might want to take a couple more in the mid-front of the scene and at the mid-back of the scene. How many photos you need is kind of based on experience but if in doubt go for more rather than less. I take anywhere between three and nine photos to get it all pin sharp.

Of course to prevent blurring take your photos at the fastest possible shutter speed. In the video that accompanies this how to focus stack article, you can see that I’ve used ISO 100 and F-stop 3.5 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second.

Shutterspeed - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Shutter speed – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Top tip

I use my camera on the tripod with a two-second self-timer. That way all the vibration of me pressing the button has stopped before the photo is taken.

Import into the computer

When I take a series of photos to be combined what I do is put my hand in the photo at the start of the sequence and at the end of the sequence as can be seen in the screenshot. That way, when it comes to importing photos into photoshop I know exactly where the sequence starts and ends.

Sequence - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Sequence – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Highlight all the photos you want to import. If you don’t know how, click on the first photo hold down the shift key, and then click on the last photo that will highlight all the photos in between.

Import into photoshop.

Open photoshop and go to file-scripts- “load files into stack”.

Loading photos - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Loading photos – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

The box will pop up entitled ‘load layers.’

Click on the browse button and navigate to your photo sequence is.

And it’s just a case clicking on the first one, pressing and holding shift, clicking on the last one and pressing ok.

This will put all the files in the load layers box. While in the load layers box towards the bottom tick the box that says ‘attempt to automatically align source images’.

Automatically align layers - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Automatically align layers – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Then press ok.

This can take quite a bit of time depending on the number of photos you have and the speed of your computer.

Once photoshop has finished importing the images it will put them in the layers box on the right-hand side.

import as layers - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Import as layers – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Auto-Blend Layers

Then it’s just a case of highlighting all the images in the layers box then go to edit-auto blend layers.

The auto blend layers box will appear. Also, tick the box for seamless tones and colours and tick the box for “Content-Aware fill transparent areas”. Then press ok.

Auto Blend layers - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Auto-Blend layers – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

This will take a little bit of time but the result will give you a merged image in the layers box on the right.

You’ll be able to see which photos have made up the specific image is next for your individual photos you’ll see a black and white image of which bits photoshop is used to make up the image which is left behind.

Layers - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Layers – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

You may well have to crop your image slightly if there is been minute movement in the photos. You know this if photoshop as per the white line anywhere on the merged image. But that’s just a case of pulling down the crop box and when you happy with the result click on the tick on the toolbar.

Crop Tool - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Crop Tool – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Now is just a case of saving your image in your preferred file format whether that be a JPEG or PNG or whatever.

Save the file in the best possible quality.

There, all done. We can leave it there. But Personally, I open my finished image in Lightroom and apply any filters I wish to and then do a bit more work on the sharpening.

Lightroom

In the sharpening box on the right-hand side, I move the amount slider to the middle then pressing and holding the alt key, I slide the masking tool with the mouse.

Lightroom - Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

Lightroom – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

You’ll see the image go black-and-white on the screen. As you move the masking you notice the image get darker. What that means is anything in white will be sharpened in anything black will be left the same depending on the amount of sharpness or whether you just want the edges sharp depending on your subject adjust this to suit your taste.

Then when I am happy with the masking tool I’ll bump the sharpness amount up just to make those white areas as sharp as possible.

The Final Result – Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

And that’s pretty much it! As you can see below, the photos not great. After all, you can see the tripod and camera shadow in the picture but hopefully, I’ll give you an idea of how to focus stack in Photoshop you can do your own images.

how to focus stack in photoshop cc

How to Focus Stack in Photoshop CC

The video which accompanies this tutorial is on Youtube will give you a visual representation of the process involved. And, if you want to subscribe to my YouTube channel, you get notifications of new videos. There’s a subscribe link at the end of the video.

Happy focus stacking!

Below is a list of my most popular tutorials on photography.

How to do Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC

How to do Focus Stacking in Photoshop CC Tutorial

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