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Focus Stacking Macro Photographs — Photoshop Tutorial

In my previous post, I explained about ‘4 things you should do before focus stacking a macro photograph’. I would like you to read it for a better understanding of this tutorial and getting good results. This post is a step by step photoshop tutorial on focus stacking  macro photographs. I would recommend you to use Adobe Photoshop CS4 (or higher version), Helicon plus.


I use both Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Helicon plus for focus stacking. But it’s very simple to stack the images in cs4. I will explain with an example.

Input image for focus stacking
Source image 1
Second input image for focus stacking
Source image 2
Third input image for focus stacking
Source image 3
Final image after focus stacking the source images
Final output

In the above example, two subjects are encountered in both foreground and background. So, focus stacking is required to apply since I  could not bring both the subject into focus. So, three images were taken at different focus points (Analyze the source images to find out the area of focus in each one of them)

EXIF data of the input images:
Shutter Speed: 1/400
Aperture: F/12
ISO: 200
These settings were applied on all the three images but in different focus area (I have explained more about this in my previous post). Below are the steps for focus stacking photos in Photoshop (please click on the images to enlarge)

Photoshop tutorial on focus stacking 

Step 1: Save the images to be focus stacked in a separate folder to avoid confusion in choosing the images. Now choose File->Scripts ->Load files into stack and Load layers dialog box will be appeared.

Step 1 of focus stacking workflow in photoshop
Step 1. Load layers into stack

Step 2: In load layer window, click browse button and choose the images to be stacked from the corresponding folder.

Step 2 of focus stacking workflow in photoshop
Step 2. Load the layers

Step 3: Select all the layers and choose Edit->Auto Align Layers.  Now, Alignment will be done automatically based on the number of layers.

Auto align the layers
Step 3. Auto align the layers

Step 4: Now, Choose Edit->Auto –Blend layers and then dialog box will be appeared.  Select Stack Images option from the dialog box and click OK button. After few seconds, final image will be produced

Auto blend layers in photoshop
Step 4. Auto blend the layers

Step 5: After stacking the images, final image might be unaligned. So, cropping is required to improve the frame. So Enter ‘C’ for cropping tool or choose Image > Crop from the photoshop .  Crop the image according to the alignment.

cropping the image in photoshop
Step 5. Crop the image if it is not aligned properly

Step 6: Now, the three source images are processed and merged by photoshop. Right click on the top layer (see the image on step 5) and click Flatten Image. Then save the focus stacked image. Final image can be used for further stacking to get better details of the subject.

Final step of the workflow
Step 6. Save the final image

I hope you will find this tutorial useful. I would suggest you to follow this for focus stacking the macro photographs. If you have any questions, please drop them as comments.

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Srivatsan Sankaran

I'm Srivatsan Sankaran from Chennai.I have been pursuing my passion for photography for the past 3 years.. I began with Sony DSC-S600 and used it for landscape, portrait, etc. After 3 years , I transitioned to Nikon Coolpix and used it for 6 months. I learned a lot through a dedicated lifestyle for understanding the very nuances of photography.Currently I’m using Canon Eos 500D with kit lens and Macro lens.

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  1. Thank you for the tutorial on focal stacking. It worked very well. As a side note, I see you live in Chennai, India. I’m in Washington state, USA, but have gone on three mission trips to India, two of the trips to an orphanage in Chennai. What a small world we live in.

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