(Nancy Kaufman) #1

Stack and stitch

James Paterson focus-stacks a flower in several segments,

then stitches them together for a super-detailed close-up

One of the most appealing things
about macro photography is the
way it lets us see a tiny world in
fantastic detail. But what if the
detail straight-out-of-camera just
isn’t enough? In this project,
we’re going to look at how to
combine two camera techniques
that enable us to expand depth of
field and our image’s resolution.
This will result in a level of fine
detail that simply wouldn’t be
possible with a single frame.
Depth of field is one of the main
considerations with close-up
photography. When the subject is
very close to the lens – as is
usually the case with macro shots

  • the depth of field can be

incredibly shallow, even when
using narrower apertures. As
long as our subject is stationary,
we can get around this problem
by shooting a focus stack.
This involves taking a series of
shots while adjusting the focus
point in order to capture
sharpness in different parts of
the subject – in this case a pink
gerbera. Once done, the in-focus
areas from each image can be
combined to create a completely
sharp image. Focus stacking can
be done by hand, but for greater
precision you can use software to
do it for you. Here, we’ve made
use of the excellent Helicon Focus
and Helicon Remote. The latter

allows us to incrementally shift
the focus point, then we can
automatically combine the set
of images in Helicon Focus.
For our flower, we shot it in
three segments, shifting the
camera position slightly to the
side in each. You do this in a
similar way that you would to
shooting a panoramic landscape.
This effectively lets us triple the
resolution of a camera’s sensor.
Each segment consists of 40
shots, so the final image you see
here is made up of 120 frames!
Once combined, the result is a
wonderfully detail-rich close-up
with a huge pixel count and
front-to-back sharpness.


Projec t^ Seven:^ The^ big^ pro

jec t





  • Use a combination of
    focus stacking and
    panoramic stitching for
    a high-res flower photo


  • Two hours

Skill level

  • Advanced

Kit needed

  • Macro lens

  • Tripod

  • Flower

  • Helicon Focus (free
    30-day trial available)

  • Photoshop CC

Free download pdf