The above shot was hand held between 2-3X magnification and
stacked from 5 images - click on it for actual file
A Focus Stacked Photograph is one that is a combination of 2
or more images that were focused at different points and
combined with software that keeps the sharp parts of the
goal of focus stacking is to acquire more depth of field.
The images below are stacked
from two or more images, just click on the file to open it.
(Please be patient as some of the files are quite large).
But first what is - A Good Stack
A good stack is a series of properly spaced images with
about 30% overlap so there will be no bands that appear
unfocused. The shots should be equally spaced and there should not be shots at a little different
of angle so that part is still aligned but another is not.
And finally they should not be rotated. They need to go from
front to back a small equal step at a time. If mounted to a
rail or changing the focus on the lens you should not have
to worry about overlapping or rotation.
When shooting a stack you have to move at the same angle
the camera lens is at without twisting it side to side.
The camera must move at the exact same angle the lens is
at. This is not an issue when changing the focus with the
lens or a rail provided the rail is not moving a tripod
head attached to a camera. in other words, do not put a ball head on a rail and
then move the rail. The rail gets attached to the camera.
There are numerous methods to shoot properly aligned,
focused and spaced images for stacking. Method one is you place your camera on a tripod,
focus, take the shot, turn the focus ring on the camera and
take the next shot. The issue with this method is that it just needs to
be changed a little and it is very easy to overdue it with a
However, instead of manually refocusing you can
electronically do it depending upon your equipment. For
instance with Canon they have their EOS Utility that will
allow you to tether your camera to your laptop, take a shot in live view, refocus the camera by
using their software and then take another shot. Helicon offers
software that takes it a step further by analyzing your
camera settings, (lens, aperture etc., you set the closest
focus point and the furthest point and it automatically
refocuses the camera at the proper interval and takes the
shot. (there is a discount code on the left side of
this page for their software). Helicon also has an application for an Android
Phone that will allow you to shoot a stack. The difficulty
is in doing this outdoors with live bugs.
The second method is to use a focusing rail. You focus, take
your shot and then move the camera via the rail closer to
the camera and take another shot. This process can also be
automated by a product from
Cognisys called the StackShot. The StackShot moves the
camera, takes the photograph and then moves to the next
position and repeats the process. It can be controlled via a
little controller that comes with it or with software.
In a nutshell you look up your magnification to get your
step size, (so now you know how far you you will move with
each step). focus, and enter enough steps to travel from the
front to back. Like the first method this takes time to
setup and is not suitable for a wide variety of bugs.
Helicon's software can also be used with the StackShot.
The third method is to hand hold the camera and take the
shots. it can be done as the photo on the top of this page
was shot hand held and stacked from 5 images. I shot the
first image, closed my eyes and shot the next four images.
Below is a training manual called
"Shooting Blind" which contains one method of hand
holding a focus stack. There maybe more methods but this one
works for me when shooting at 1:1 to 3.5:1 magnification. I
focus, take the shot, move the camera closer and repeat the
process, usually I close my eyes after the first shot of
the stack. So you can be assured that there is a trick to it
as I can shoot evenly spaced images with my eyes closed.
Naturally there is a catch, always is, the bug must be on
something that does not move, and the bug cannot be moving
as well. So you are not going to get a bee on a flower as he
is busy working his way around the flower. Nor are you going
to be able to shoot one on a leaf in the wind. Ideally you
are looking for a bug on a post, wall, table really anything
solid or one that is on a plant/leaf that is close to the ground.
The bug needs to stay around for about 5-10 seconds for you
to take the shots.
A Manual on how to Hand Hold Your Camera and
Shoot a Focus Stack
purchase "Shooting Blind" without reading this
Shooting Blind is a short manual on how to hand
hold your camera and shoot a Focus Stack. It is only
a few pages long and it provides exercises that if
practiced will allow you to hand hold your camera
and shoot a near perfect stack every time.
way to think of it is like a magic trick as that is
what it is, only it is not magic it is just a trick. However, like a
magic trick some people can pull it off better than
others. It is easy to pull off a stack of 5 to
10 images, more requires a lot more practice. A
magician practices his tricks, this is
something that you need to practice. You can easily
practice it anywhere and really anytime, you just
need your camera. However, initially to do the exercises you
will need a laser pointer. I got mine at the Dollar
Store but they don't always have them. Once you get
down the basic exercises you will then practice with
You must fully accept the risk that you may not
be able to do this as there are no refunds - others
have used this and it works for them, so it is not
the manual it is you. Like a magic trick it should
not be shared, you purchased it, have others
purchase it. If it is a friend, take the time to
teach it to them - be a good person. In other words,
now that you can do it don't post online how it is
done. Also when you first master it, don't
tell others how you did it, tell them you dropped a
grand on a new lens with great DOF - mess with them
- have fun in life, it is short.
In order to pull off a hand held stack you will need
a flash with its head mounted at the end of your
lens with a fast recycle time. I strongly suggest
you purchase either eneloop or PowerEX batteries.
They have a very quick discharge time, I'm sure
there are other good ones but these I know are not
good, but great.
You will receive a link that will
allow you to download
the manual as a PDF. You will not receive a hard