Focus stacking is a popular technique for macro photographers. But did it ever occur to you to try it with landscapes? No? Nor me. But it makes a lot of sense, depending on the look you’re after. Although landscapes are often shot with ultra wide angle lenses, they can also be made at much longer focal lengths. I like to do this myself with a 70-200 f/2.8, but that means you start to see the effects of depth of field.
This video from photographer Mark Denney shows us how to use focus stacking techniques to get infinite depth of field for landscapes with any lens. Mark also goes over some shooting tips to help you get the best source material to work with, regardless of whether you use manual or auto focus.
The process is fairly straightforward. Unlike shooting macro, though, where you’ll often have your camera on a rail, sliding it gradually forward between each shot, adjusting focus is the key here. Essentially, you set your camera up on a tripod, focus on the foreground, keeping the nearest part of the image in focus, and take a shot.
Then you refocus with the front edge of the depth of field overlapping slightly with the far side of the first image. Then you keep repeating this process until you’ve covered the entire depth of your scene.
Once in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw), the first step is to process one image to give you the final look you’re after. Then copy those settings and apply them to the rest of the shots. With the images processed, right click them and “Open as layers in Photoshop”.
Then, even though you used a tripod, you want to use Photoshop’s “Auto Align Layers” feature from the edit. This helps to ensure that any issues caused by focus breathing or slight movement of the tripod are eliminated. With all the layers highlighted, choose “Auto Blend Layers” from the edit menu. From here, you get two options. Panorama or Stack Images.
Not surprisingly, you want to choose Stack images, and hit OK. Photoshop will then process each of the layers. It masks out what it believes to be blurred from each image. Then, it spits out a final result that’s sharp and in focus throughout. Here you can see how the final image builds up from each of the four layers in this example.
So, it looks like focus stacking is pretty useful for more than just macro.