Critique Focus stacking attempt

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It's a miserably cold, windy day here in Idaho. But, my African Violets are blooming which brings me joy. I haven't tried focus stacking for many months. I though I would give it a go today on my pretty blossoms. I had the width set to 8. I ended up using 9 of my 15 shots. I stacked them in photoshop. If any of you notice problems or have suggestions on how to improve, I would be happy to hear them. I have a lot to learn about this.

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This looks great, Terri!

Seeing that you used step size 9 and f/3.2 makes me wonder if the step size matters nearly as much as Nikon's published information makes it out to be. As an example, I typically would have used step size 3 and f/8 on this photo if I had been indoors. Yet I'm certain the results wouldn't have been better at least when viewing the image at this small size.

One theory is to use an aperture that is one of the sharpest settings on the lens being used. Consider determining that setting for your macro lens when using that aperture would be practical. (Wind may not have made that a practical choice in this case.)

You may get to an image for which Photoshop's stacking capability simply doesn't work. It has happened to a couple of us. In my case, the subject was literally not recognizable. If that happens to you, check out Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker, which seem to be the two most commonly used stand-alone focus-stacking software applications. I tried both, didn't see any difference in the results, and settled on Helicon Focus. I've made nearly 150 photos using it and have used the default settings for all but two or three of the photos. Recently Binnur noticed a small artifact in one of them that would have been easy to fix. Other than that, it has been problem-free for me.

One last tip I learned just last night when making a photo: If you are using flash, it will fire only on the first shot if the focus shift setting, First frame exposure lock, is set to On. I think that's the default setting. I always use Manual exposure when using focus shifting, so it didn't matter whether that setting is On or Off, or so I thought. It actually does matter in that situaion but only because flash is being used. In that case, make sure that setting is Off. Be aware that when saving settings to the memory card, unfortunately, focus shift settings aren't saved.

Sorry for the long post!
 
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That looks very good Terri, but somehow I think it could be sharper and more detailed.

Have you checked out Steve Perry's information on Focus shift photography in his book? He takes a lot of the mystery out. And this article is nice also.

Steve uses step size three for everything, both closeups and landscapes. That's what I've been doing for most of my stacking and I haven't been disappointed.

So if you feel inclined to try again, I would suggest f/5.6 and step size three. And don't hesitate to use overkill on number of shots; you can always delete those that are out of focus.

Pretty yucky day here today also, so I plan to do some focus stacking on tulip blossoms in a pot.

I also highly recommend Helicon Focus.
 
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I think it could be sharper and more detailed.

It's really easy to overdo the sharpness and detail with flowers because doing so can lose the soft texture of a flower. I would much rather err on the side of being a bit soft than being a bit too sharp with flowers. This one works really well for me because it makes me feel as if the pedals are soft to the touch.
 
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It's really easy to overdo the sharpness and detail with flowers because doing so can lose the soft texture of a flower. I would much rather err on the side of being a bit soft than being a bit too sharp with flowers.

Then you probably don't like my flower photos. I prefer tack sharp. Different strokes for different folks!
 
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Then you probably don't like my flower photos.

When I view photographs, I think more about whether it is evident that the photographer accomplished his or her goals more than whether I like the particular style. As an example, I enjoy all styles of flower photos but some will speak to me more than others. I don't remember that your flower photos appear overly sharp.
 
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Messages
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Idaho
This looks great, Terri!

Seeing that you used step size 9 and f/3.2 makes me wonder if the step size matters nearly as much as Nikon's published information makes it out to be. As an example, I typically would have used step size 3 and f/8 on this photo if I had been indoors. Yet I'm certain the results wouldn't have been better at least when viewing the image at this small size.

One theory is to use an aperture that is one of the sharpest settings on the lens being used. Consider determining that setting for your macro lens when using that aperture would be practical. (Wind may not have made that a practical choice in this case.)

You may get to an image for which Photoshop's stacking capability simply doesn't work. It has happened to a couple of us. In my case, the subject was literally not recognizable. If that happens to you, check out Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker, which seem to be the two most commonly used stand-alone focus-stacking software applications. I tried both, didn't see any difference in the results, and settled on Helicon Focus. I've made nearly 150 photos using it and have used the default settings for all but two or three of the photos. Recently Binnur noticed a small artifact in one of them that would have been easy to fix. Other than that, it has been problem-free for me.

One last tip I learned just last night when making a photo: If you are using flash, it will fire only on the first shot if the focus shift setting, First frame exposure lock, is set to On. I think that's the default setting. I always use Manual exposure when using focus shifting, so it didn't matter whether that setting is On or Off, or so I thought. It actually does matter in that situaion but only because flash is being used. In that case, make sure that setting is Off. Be aware that when saving settings to the memory card, unfortunately, focus shift settings aren't saved.

Sorry for the long post!
Lots of good info, Mike. I first tried a smaller step size and did 30 photos, but Photoshop messed up on the blending of those. Hence I tried a larger step size and fewer photos. I was going for a blurred background; that is why I used f 3.2. I'm going to try a bit more experimenting with a more stopped down aperture. As far as wind....this was taken indoors. There are no living things blooming in Idaho outdoors right now. We are a frozen wasteland!! I will be sure and check out Helicon Focus.
 
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That looks very good Terri, but somehow I think it could be sharper and more detailed.



Steve uses step size three for everything, both closeups and landscapes. That's what I've been doing for most of my stacking and I haven't been disappointed.

So if you feel inclined to try again, I would suggest f/5.6 and step size three. And don't hesitate to use overkill on number of shots; you can always delete those that are out of focus.

Pretty yucky day here today also, so I plan to do some focus stacking on tulip blossoms in a pot.

I also highly recommend Helicon Focus.
Thanks for your observations, Jim. I'll try again using your settings and see how it goes. African Violets are hard to photograph as the leaves are pretty smooth without a lot of detail. Maybe I should go purchase a tulip to practice!
 
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
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Location
Idaho
It's really easy to overdo the sharpness and detail with flowers because doing so can lose the soft texture of a flower. I would much rather err on the side of being a bit soft than being a bit too sharp with flowers. This one works really well for me because it makes me feel as if the pedals are soft to the touch.
Thanks, Mike.
 
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Messages
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African Violets are hard to photograph as the leaves are pretty smooth without a lot of detail.

I'm sure that is true. I don't think I've ever tried African violets.

Maybe I should go purchase a tulip to practice!

Our daughter-in-law gifted us with a seasonal subscription for bulbs in a pot which grow and bloom within a week or so after you receive them. These tulips I've been photographing are for Valentine's Day. Back around Jan. 1 we had amaryllis, etc.
 
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Great result Terri

I like how you have controlled the saturation, these I feel would be a difficult subject to get right.

Cameras and software have come along way over the past few years which make focus stacking enjoyable to do, and it can be addictive.

I look forward to seeing more of your focus stacks.
 
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
21,601
Location
Idaho
When I view photographs, I think more about whether it is evident that the photographer accomplished his or her goals more than whether I like the particular style. As an example, I enjoy all styles of flower photos but some will speak to me more than others. I don't remember that your flower photos appear overly sharp.
I'm sure that is true. I don't think I've ever tried African violets.



Our daughter-in-law gifted us with a seasonal subscription for bulbs in a pot which grow and bloom within a week or so after you receive them. These tulips I've been photographing are for Valentine's Day. Back around Jan. 1 we had amaryllis, etc.
Perfect gift for you!! You can enjoy and photograph the flowers!!
 
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
21,601
Location
Idaho
Great result Terri

I like how you have controlled the saturation, these I feel would be a difficult subject to get right.

Cameras and software have come along way over the past few years which make focus stacking enjoyable to do, and it can be addictive.

I look forward to seeing more of your focus stacks.
Thank you, Richard. I have a lot to learn. We nearly always have wind or at least a breeze here so focus stacking is only really feasible indoors.
 
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