How to focus stack images in Photoshop

focus stacking landscape photography

Focus stacking is the perfect way to ensure your landscape shots are pin-sharp from the front of the image, all the way to the back. Learn how easy it is to blend focus stacked images together using Photoshop’s intelligent automated functions. This tutorial focuses on blending landscape images together in Photoshop, with a small amount of shooting advice.

A large depth-of-field is an essential ingredient in the vast majority of landscape images, but it’s not always possible to achieve sharpness throughout a scene with a single image. Despite shooting with a narrow aperture such as f/11 or f/16 if there are elements of the scene close to the camera stretching to the horizon, it’s often impossible to get everything pin-sharp. The background may be ‘acceptably sharp’ but not as sharp as the point of focus and the surrounding area. The best was to ensure optimum sharpness is to focus stack your images and blend them together in Photoshop.

Focus stacking images

Here are three images with red gradients to show the area of the frame that’s in focus in each. When focusing it’s imperative that depth-of-field and sharpness overlaps in each to ensure a perfect blend in photoshop.

Focus stacking example focusing

The centre of the gradient in each image represents the point of focus, and the feathered area shows depth-of-field and what’s in sharp focus in each image. When focus stacking images it’s most common to shoot with the aperture at f/11 because this is the sweet spot of the lens. That is, the aperture setting that produces the sharpest image but not necessarily the largest depth-of-field.

Focus stacking in Photoshop

Focus stacking is an essential technique for landscape photographers, and one that will take your shots from acceptably sharp to pin-sharp throughout. The downside of the technique is that you have to take two, three or four shots for a single image, and then blend them in Photoshop. But once you’ve tried the technique and seen the results it’s difficult not to keep using it.

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