Sunday, March 6, 2011

Focus Stacking Tip

First Solitary Bee of 2011
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
After a long four month break from photography I’m finally getting back into the saddle, and in my limited free time I’ve also started perusing macro related forums. I think it’s great that there are a lot of new shooters getting into the discipline, but it seems a lot of them are having trouble with focus stacking their images. So I thought I’d give you my best tip to make the technique easier to use:

Don’t focus stack.

Right about now the focus stacking community is getting ready to burn me at a stake, but before you light the match hear me out. Macro photography is one of the toughest photographic disciplines to get into and it has, without a doubt, one of the highest learning curves. Mastering focus is tough enough, but with focus stacking you have to nail it several times for what’s going to be a single frame. I’m seeing too many new shooters trying to learn macro only to get frustrated and quit because they are under the false impression that you have to focus stack. I blame the experienced photographers who are still pushing absolute image sharpness as the only measuring stick for a good macro photo.


I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with focus stacking, or that you shouldn’t use it –it’s just one technique of many and anyone can learn how to do it. But what I am saying is that composition, lighting, and story telling (the aspects that separate a snapshot from a photograph) are infinitely more important than getting a razor sharp image or more depth. I don’t focus stack, not because there is anything wrong with stacking but because I simply don’t think it’s necessary. Instead of taking multiple frames for a single image I’d rather spend what little time the critters give me to look for different compositions.

If you’re new to macro then learn how to properly compose and focus a single frame before you take up focus stacking, and be patient with yourself. Don’t get frustrated and quit!
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