HOW TO | fo­cus stack im­ages

Mac Format - - IMPROVE | MAC APPS -

1 Set up your scene

First set up and take your pho­tos. We’ve ar­ranged some chill­ies on the lid of a Mac­Book Air, and propped up a white en­ve­lope in the back­ground to form a back­drop. We’re shoot­ing out­side, partly to make use of the sun­light. If you’re in­doors, you might need to use a flash.

2 Take the pho­tos

Once your cam­era is fo­cused on the back of the com­po­si­tion, take a shot, then grad­u­ally bring the fo­cus closer, tak­ing a shot ev­ery time the area in fo­cus changes. A tri­pod or other sup­port is es­sen­tial, since any move­ment be­tween the frames makes it im­pos­si­ble to stack them.

3 Im­port

Open your pho­tos in El­e­ments. Pick the one with the fo­cused ar­eas fur­thest back for the back­ground, then paste im­ages in as new lay­ers, let­ting the fo­cused area come for­ward, so the top layer has the front in fo­cus. Save as a PSD file. Click the eye icons in Lay­ers so only the bot­tom two show.

4 Layer mask

The layer mask is es­sen­tially a hole that al­lows the layer be­low to show through. Se­lect Layer 1, and click the rec­tan­gle/cir­cle icon. A white rec­tan­gle with a cyan bor­der ap­pears. Click­ing the pic­ture thumb­nail moves the bor­der across, and your ed­its af­fect the im­age it­self.

5 Paint!

Se­lect the Brush tool and make your fore­ground colour black. Use the eye icon to com­pare im­ages, then paint over ar­eas that are sharp on the lower layer but out of fo­cus on Layer 1. If you paint over a bit you don’t need, swap your colours to paint in white, and go over it again.

6 More lay­ers

Un­hide Layer 2 and re­peat the process. This can take time if the im­ages aren’t aligned to take into ac­count the change in view caused by fo­cus­ing. A lit­tle depth of field isn’t such a bad thing, and the tip of the green chilli on the left has changed po­si­tion a lot as we’ve re­fo­cused the lens.

7 Even more lay­ers

Do the same with lay­ers 3 and 4. As you move up the lay­ers, the work it takes to mask off un­sharp ar­eas should de­crease. Pop­ping lay­ers in and out of vis­i­bil­ity, and dis­abling layer masks, al­low you to see ar­eas that could be sharper, and work out which layer should be show­ing through.

8 Flat­ten and ex­port

Once you’re happy with your cre­ation, save the PSD file one last time, then se­lect Flat­ten im­age from the Layer menu. You can then use Save As from the File menu to ex­port your im­age as a TIFF or JPEG. Keep the PSD for ref­er­ence, or for touch­ing up again at a later date.

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