Macro focus stacking software mac

On the left is a single focus image, next is a stacked picture of the Diatom from 13 images using Helicon A weighted average stacking method, next is Helicon B method where the software uses a Depth map to stack, and finally C where the images are stacked using a Pyramid stacking method.

In this series of stacks Helicon's B method provides the best quality picture. The A method of stacking computes the weight for each pixel based on its content and then forms the weighted average of all pixels from all source images. This method works better for short stacks and preserves the contrast and colour. The B method of stacking selects the source image containing the sharpest pixel and uses this information to form the depth map.

This method imposes strict requirements on the order of the images - it should always be consecutive from top to bottom or bottom to top. It perfectly renders textures and smooth surfaces. The C method uses a Pyramid stacking scheme which gives good results with complex objects intersecting objects, deep stacks , though it may increase contrast and glare.

Photo-Editing Tutorial: Focus Stacking for Macro Photography

In addition to the different stacking methods, two of the methods A Average and B Depth map offer additional features which can be modified during the stacking - radius and smoothing. Radius controls the size of the analyzed area around each pixel. Setting the radius lower e. A high radius setting minimizes halos or other artifacts along object edges. Smoothing is available with the A and B stacking methods. When analyzing the stack, the most sharply focused areas of the source image are found to be combined in the the output image. For "A" stacking method smoothing defines how the sharp areas will be combined.

Low smoothing values produce sharper images, but the transition areas may have artifacts. High smoothing values will provide a slightly blurred image. Below are a series of stacked images of a Diatom where I varied the radius and smoothing parameters. Diatom in phase contrast X magnification. In this series of experiments the best stacks were produced by the B and C methods. Setting the smoothness to 1 in figure 6 seems to result in the best image, though most of the images look good and could be further improved through sharpening with unsharp mask in Photoshop.

Photoshop does not offer more than one stacking method and does not offer any variables to tweak the stacking process. Note that some of the rows of dots are not completely smooth, they appear to be artifacts caused during the stacking process that are not seen in the Photoshop stack photo which I show in colour higher up the page. In addition to stacking images, Helicon also makes 3D images, stereo images and animations from the stacked pictures.

Once you stack the image you can rotate it and view it from different angles. In the example below, the stacked image suggests the diatom is a sphere inset top left , but the 3D map bigger picture shows that the Diatom is recessed in the center. The three D, stereo and animation features make this program attractive.

What is Focus Stacking?

Top left a stack of 20 images of a Diatom. The 3D map of the same Diatom shows that the central region is a depression and that the diatom is not a sphere. I liked this feature and can see how it could be useful to anyone studying Diatoms and other microscopic organisms.

The software can also export 3D obj models which can be further manipulated in 3D software - I will plan to explore these features further in the future. You can see the central depression or groove raphe in the 3D image. Click here to view 3D animation in new window. The ability to create 3D models and animations from stacked photos is a feature I liked. Photoshop can import and work with 3D object files but it can't create 3D images from stacks. Zerene stacking software is able to make stereo pairs and rocking gif animations with the assistance of other software.

Zerene screen shot showing the interface and a stacked Diatom photomicrograph on the right. This software program is available for PC Win, Mac and Linux and uses two stacking methods 1 PMax - which is a pyramid method good for low contrast subjects and subjects with small hairs. It tends to increase noise and contrast of the image.

Zerene does not support RAW files, one loads. It blends images about the same speed as Helicon and Photoshop, but doesn't offer many features to modify the stacking process. I was able to achieve some good looking stacks with this program. Some photographers report great success with it. You can view more sample stacking photos created with Zerene stacker here.

Zerene also offers some retouching tools and outputs a synthetic rotation to make multiple images that can become a stereo pair, a rocking animation, even rocking stereo. Different stacks will need different shits to make a good looking stereo pair. Diatom - stereo pair produced in Zerene from 13 image. You can make animated stereo pairs as. The rocking image animations are nice for web presentations.

Helicon Focus - Quick Start on Mac OS

Note the artifacts wavy lines in the D-Map stacked image on the right. In this instance the PMax stacking method worked best. Stacking images can be used for landscape photography to provide greater depth of field and it is a powerful tool for both macro and photomicrography.

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Photomicrography is the most demanding as the depth of field is only a few microns 0. I have been looking at photographs by some of the best macro and photomicrographers and many of them use stacking software Helicon and Zerene , and some photographers stack as many as images. Some photographers report that stacking images in Photoshop results in edge artifacts e. Ldislav , though I generally see good results and most artifacts can be fixed with retouching tools. I will continue to use Adobe Photoshop for stacking, but I was impressed with the flexibility that Helicon Focus offers and the additional 3D features.

This saves me from having to convert them to DNG. Helicon also offers some image editing functionality. Zerene worked well on. I selected these three programs to compare because they appear to be the most popular ones used by macro and photomicrographers e. There are other tools for automated focusing that may be worth looking into for those that do a lot of this type of photography e.

Canon-Cognisys set up. More and I don't think you will see an improvement in the final image. I have even seen some excellent stacked photos using only images of insects - see below and I have also seen photomicrographs that have used between images. The number of images in a stack depends on the depth of field and the overall subject depth. With insects and other mobile organisms you also have the challenge of taking the shots while the critters hold still! According to some photographers you only get about seconds at most to take your shots with live insects.

Photographing some insects like dragonflies early in the morning is one answer and persistence for other insects and arthropods during the day is another. If you don't have enough focus steps you will see banding in the image regions with no fine detail. There are other Focus stacking programs, some are more expensive and some are free that you may want to consider.

If you already use Photoshop then give it a try first and it might be all you need. If you are a professional or serious amateur macro or photomicrographer it's worth testing a few different programs to find what works best for you. For landscapes Photoshop does the job nicely with 2 images. Free software is nice and I have added some links to several free stacking programs below but have not tested them. I was happy to see that all three programs I looked at offer a free 30 day trial period and they don't put watermarks on top of the images or provide a reduced output size during the trial period.

Based on these tests, I am will continue to use Photoshop for image stacking and I will get Helicon Focus to add to my bag of photo-tools. For stacking images once in a while, I think that Photoshop does a satisfactory job but lacks the ability to tweak the stacking process. The note for CS6 is only to clarify that earlier versions may not support it, but later CC versions will have no issues. I've followed several tutorials, here, and from Youtube I have all the focused frames I need, but for some reason not all of the areas I want in focus are showing up in focus.

I'm afraid I can't explain it better than that. Maybe someone with a bit of experience can ask me some probing questions, to help me figure out what I'm not doing properly?

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Just to help, it sounds as if you have alignment issues which maybe caused by your software having a hard time recognising the photo of the area in focus as part of the master set. Photoshop is convenient but is not as good as Zerene Stacker at aligning a stack and compensating for perspective changes. Another thing that might help is smaller increments between successive photos. But if you have Photoshop already, there's hardly a need to look elsewhere since it's not that hard to perform in Photoshop.

Moreover, if you're on Mac OS X, I imagine you may as well create a folder action in Automator to look and process Step 3 to Photoshop once they're drop in a given folder. Great piece. I've been using this technique a lot on model railroad subjects.


I'd put in an example if I knew how to do it here. Just save your images on the net somewhere. Ed Merrin wrote:. I did a stack of some Revel HO farm buildings I built 50 years ago found when cleaning my mother's garage. This was an experiment done with a Nikon DE, bellows, an El Nikkor enlarging lens, and a home built automated rail system.

A threaded rod is turned by a stepper motor to change the distance between lens and camera body and fire each shot. It is controlled by an Arduino type circuit board that is programmed in C. Zerene Stacker was used to merge the stack. Change the focus setting on the camera. This is best for subjects more than a few meters away, such as landscapes. It will work with closer subjects, but is not optimum for close-ups.

Move the camera towards or away from the subject. This is good for close-up work. Keep the subject to lens distance constant and move the camera body sensor to change focus. This is optimum for macro and close-up work. Shooting a lot of food at the moment. This is going to make my life so much easier in post production.

Thanks heaps. I am quite happy to have seen this blogs, thanks so much for all the great information, I will be pride to pass it onto fellow friends I've tried three different methods of opening them once by opening them in ACR, then in Photoshop; once in Bridge, like the one in the example above; and once by opening them directly in Photoshop and get the same result every time. What am I doing wrong? Sounds like you might be missing Step 3: "Place each image as an individual layer within a single Photoshop document.

‎Focus Stacker on the Mac App Store

I do alot of tone mapping and these functions require all the images to be on separate layers in 1 PS image document. I use in CS4 Image stacking and when I have trouble, it usually means there is only a single layer in the image I am editing. Hope this helps! I have had the same problem.

The trick seem to be to go to the layers window all the way on the right side of the screen and hold the shift key down and click on the first and last layer, to highlight them all in blue. Then it will work. Skip to main content. So how do you do it? Shooting The process of focus stacking starts during shooting. Editing There are a few pieces of software that can handle focus stacking, but here I am going to stick with one of the most common options: Adobe Photoshop CC, which is available in the Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

Related Articles. Tips and Solutions. How to Succeed at a Photographic Portfolio Review. Advanced Time-Lapse Techniques. Items discussed in article. Cameras for Macro Photography. Photo Imaging Software. Thomas P. Reply Reply. John C. Mark C. Joseph S. Clear and easy to follow. It worked!