We are getting ready to start our next round of macro classes, and I wanted to mention a class favorite; Helicon Focus Lite. This software performs focus stacking, which radically increases depth of field in your macro image. Imagine photographing a columbine, a flower with a lot of depth. To get critical focus through most of the flower, you would need to combine multiple images. With Nikon cameras you can just set up the Focus Shift in your camera. If you don’t have this, you can manually change the focus and get the same effect. Start with the part of the subject closest to your lens, and change focus points going deeper and deeper into the shot. For this columbine flower my settings were 20 images at F8 with a distance set to ‘5’ in my D850.
I’ve blogged before about combining images in Photoshop, so why would you want to use third party software? Simply because you have more control on how the images are combined, and most importantly, speed! Helicon Focus is way, way faster than Photoshop when combining images. Process speed is greatly affected by your file quality, with RAW files taking the longest. I’ve started using JPEGs for my focus stacking to speed things up. With RAW files from my D850 it was taking around 40 minutes on a souped up iMAC to combine 50 images. With 20 JPEGS in the image above in Helicon Focus it took 10 seconds. I also really like the threshold view Helicon shows as it combines the images (see image above). You can watch where focus is being added image by image. This makes it easy to see if you missed an area in your final shot. You only need Helicon Focus Lite to combine images. It runs $30 for a year license, or $115 to own it. If you shoot a lot of macro and focus stack, you are going to really like this program. The speed increase alone is worth it. If you are interested in some really fun online learning, we just posted some new June macro classes. Come join us!