Blend shots with varied focal points using Helicon Focus to get the deepest focus
Photo: Paul Dolkos
Lately, it seems like the idea of focus stacking—combining a set of focus-bracketed images to create a single, deeply focused one—keeps coming up. Paul Dolkos, whom we profiled in our March issue’s I, Photographer column, and whose picture we’re featuring here, uses this technique. And in our April issue’s You Can Do It, photographer Bruce Peterson, who shoots a lot of macro, recommends focus stacking as well, particularly for larger macro subjects.
Shooting a series of focus-bracketed images can be simple, though it does get more complicated as your subjects get tinier; at the microscopic scale, special gear is necessary for fine focus adjustment. But at the scale of these model trains, Dolkos is able to shoot with a tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T1i and an 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS kit lens. He simply sets the camera to manual and adjusts the lens barrel between shots to capture the requisite number of in-focus images. Focus stacking allows him to stop down to f/8 for better image quality, yet still create an image with both the forground and the background sharp.
Dolkos uses standalone and plug-in application Helicon Focus to create his focus-stacked model train photos. Here’s how to get your images ready for the program, how to use it, and what to do once they’re stacked.