Developing an Image – part 2

The focus stacking process

Welcome to the 2nd installment and follow up to the Develop an Image – part-2 post from a couple of weeks ago. As a reminder, we were working on the intriguing image of rock formation in Gold Butte National Monument and had completed processing in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR):

ACR work is done

One quick note is that ACR can be invoked as a filter in Photoshop, which is an option that is fun to explore as there are some great presets in the Camera Raw Filter.

Next we take the 5 images and open them in Photoshop by clicking on the Open button. This opens the 5 files individually, so we’ll have to bring them into a single Photoshop file. I do this by going to using the first file that is open as the Background layer; then I go to the remaining files and select the image with a Command-A, copying it to the clipboard with a Command-C going to the background file tab and with a simple Command-V bringing the image in as a layer. That provides the following layers:

Focus Stack layers

Select all 5 layers and in Photoshop’s Edit menu select Auto-Align Layers… and use the Auto option; this ensures that any slight shifts between the shots are fully aligned. Then select Auto-Blend Layers… from the Edit menu, and the following dialog pops up:

Auto-Blend Layer options

The choice here is to Stack Images; I use the smarts of Photoshop to let it ensure that Tones and Colors are blended seamlessly and I trust its Content Aware Fill algorithms (they are good!). After some compute cycles, your layer panel will look as follows:

Auto-Blend Results

The magic is in the masks that Photoshop generates for each of the layers, as it uses the focal distance of each shot and selects that which is the most precise focus to composite the resultant focus-stacked layer.

At this point, all we have left to do is make the final adjustments, which I will cover in the next installment. In part 3, I’ll introduce you to some of the other tools in my Photoshop arsenal to help unleash some of its power without having to master all the complexities.

Author: jansenphoto

A Fresh Perspective Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment. Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael. My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals. Universal Connections My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation. This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections. Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client. And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!

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