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Thread: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

  1. #1
    Jeff S's Avatar
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    First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Recently I began reading about stacking and thought I would try my hand at it. The photos are numbered in the order that I took them. I used a tripod for all three images. The first two were made on a relatively calm day; the third one was made on a relatively windy day. I would appreciate any comments or critique you might care to make. My own observations are that No. 1 looks a bit artificial, perhaps over-sharpened, and No. 3 could benefit from a little more detail/focus in the back/center of the flower. Is there something I should be thinking about to improve photos that are stacked?

    1. First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated


    2. First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated


    3. First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

  2. #2
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    Re: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Jeff,

    The stacking appears to have worked pretty well. The main issues I encounter in stacking--assuming that the subject is not moving around--are a few artifacts. The most common is halos from parallax, which occurs when an edge in the image is formed by surfaces that are not close to each other (front to back). this causes a problem because as you change focus, the size of the image changes. For the most part, I don't see much sign of that in your images, although it is hard to tell at this very small size. However, I see something that might be halos in the last image. Look at the top right. There is a yellow petal in front of a green leaf that is not close to it. you have a crisp edge on the pega, but there is a featureless yellow area above it that appears to obscure the detail of the leaf. That is what stacking halos look like.

    What software did you use to stack? To some degree, you can repair this by selecting areas from the image in which the affected area is clean. Zerene, which I use, has a retouching tool that makes this fairly easy. However, when the problem is bad, it is often impossible to clean it up entirely.

    Re sharpening: I think all of the images are too sharp, at least for my taste. The first is the most extreme, the third least.

    Re how far back to keep in focus: this is a matter of taste. When I started, I almost always tried to get everything in focus, but that does not always give the nicest result. For example, here is a deep stack with everything in focus:

    First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Here is the version I display:

    First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    It's all personal preference, but I prefer the second because I find that the detail in the petals is unimportant and distracting. BTW, to get the second, I had to retouch. There was no image that had both the back of the center in focus and the petals out of focus. So, I used Zerene's retouching tool to select the petals from the front-most image in the stack.

    Dan
    Last edited by DanK; 7th August 2013 at 12:32 PM.

  3. #3

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    wm c boyer

    Re: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Let me add to DanK's spot-on comments...generally, I do my focus stacking at the kitchen table shooting tethered...no wind that way.
    Technique used is found on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U5ChSrMpMw
    Overlap of focus will only add to a positive outcome, heed your f/stop concerning DOF (consult the tables).
    Adding lighting sources is beneficial but, I don't use flash...prefer shooting in manual mode.

    Having said all that...this is one, hand held, when I got extremely lucky, lots of light, no wind, and vegetation pruning.

    First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Yeah, I broke my rules by shooting hand held in the field, I like the delicate appearance, but...
    it did require a lot of repair work on a pixel level due to the artifacts that Dan mentioned.

    BTW...heed your exposure as you have some blown-out areas in #2 & #3

  4. #4
    DanK's Avatar
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    Re: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Chauncey,

    that is a great shot. Flowers like that are particularly hard to get in the field because they are so sensitive to wind. I also do most of my flowers indoors.

    Dan

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    Jeff S's Avatar
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    Re: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Aloha Dan and Chauncey,

    Thanks for your excellent replies. I want to acknowledge both of them. I'm at work now, so I will have to take a look at this and the links you mentioned in more detail this evening and follow up as appropriate. Dan, I did the stacking with photoshop CS6. I'll have to look into the software you each mentioned. The photos you both posted are incredible.

    Jeff.

  6. #6
    Jeff S's Avatar
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    Re: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Aloha Dan and Chauncey,

    I spent some time with your comments and the youtube and Zerene sites. Excellent help. I really appreciate your comments and third-party sites. I'm pretty stoked to continue with this type of photography. Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Re: First Attempts at Stacking - Comments and Critique Appreciated

    Jeff,

    A pretty good start at stacking.

    You ask "Is there something I should be thinking about to improve photos that are stacked ?". Apart from getting the technical technique and result right one of the things I always considered was the amount of detail that needs to be sharp in the aim of improving the overall visual appearance of the image.

    Your three examples give a good demonstration of these variations, from everything sharp to a bit of mystery as well.

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