I’ve been a macro photography fan forever. It’s an awesome frontier of photography with literally limitless options for creativity and subject matter. I’ve got the 105mm Micro Nikkor f/2.8 and it’s been a phenomenal workhorse of a lens, especially when paired on the D800 (or any newer super-mega-pretzel sensor). One thing that was missing from my macro photography was the ability to stack images and make one ultra-sharp, hyper-focal image. When you’re shooting macro, it’s impossible to get everything in focus the way you want even stopped way down to f/7Billion.
Enter the wonders of Photoshop. I never used to use it. I had a stand alone version Lightroom that I kept using forever because I didn’t want to move to Adobe’s
RIPOFF subscription system. However, when I upgraded to Mac OS X Catalina (the WORST version of Apple software I’ve ever used and my biggest regret in computing), it upgraded to only 64-bit software so my old 32-bit version of Lightroom was no good no mo’. I was forced to upgrade to the subscription from Adobe and I got Photoshop for the first time. I had always used open source software GIMP which was great, but it didn’t have the auto-magic image stacking ability like Photoshop does. Having a computer do all the layer masking stuff for you is the best thing ever.
There’s lots of elaborate guides on how to do this on the internet but here’s how I did it. You bulk edit your macro photos in Lightroom to normalize colours and whatever else you want, then:
- Export the files to full-size JPEG
- In Photoshop, go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar, choose Scripts, then choose Load Files into Stack.
- In the Load Layers dialog box, set Use to Files, then click Browse. Navigate to your images on your computer, select them and click Open.
- Back in the Load Layers dialog box, select Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images, then click OK.
- In the Layers panel, click on the top layer, then Shift-click on the bottom layer to select all layers.
- Go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choose Auto-Blend Layers.
- Crop the image with the Crop Tool to remove problem areas around the edges.
And that’s it! You get a glorious product in the end that is sharp and detailed all the way through your intendedly sharp region of the photo. It’s pretty slick.
So that’s it. If you ever wondered how people got those incredibly sharp and detailed macro photos, this is how. I always remember seeing macro photos of bugs that were razor sharp all the way through and wondering what manner of sorcery it was! But when you look up the magician’s sleeve, it’s not that tricksy after all. 😎
I haven’t been shooting much Macro Photography as of late. And there is no greater bang for your photo buck than a macro lens. It is super versatile! But I do really like it as a genre. I find it very relaxing (in a Shaolin Monk balancing on one finger kind of way). It’s a very precise art form. It varies considerably from taking photos of people. There is a similarity in the patience and preparation needed to get a great shot. My Mom gave us a bleeding heart plant and we put it in our front garden. Every year it comes back and blooms these beautiful little flowers. I’ve been meaning to photograph it for a few years now and never got around to it. So last night I went for broke and got these two shots I was happy with.
Here’s a behind the scenes iPhone photo of how I made the images. I was using a speed light in an orbis ring flash for the main light. For a kicker on the top image I used an OLight S1 Baton. That little extra bit of light really adds to the 3D quality of the image. The bottom image was just the orbis from above instead of on axis to give the shot a more “studio” quality light feel.
No, this post isn’t about dental work. 🙂 Extraction is a concept used by many landscape photographers when they want to shoot not only the over all scene but also zoom in and “extract” parts of the landscape. Such as a plain with a cabin in the foreground, a wall of trees behind it and some mountains behind them with the sun sneaking up over the horizon. The photographer could extract the glowing mountain ridge, a close up of the cabin, the trees, etc. Extraction is taking a picture from within a picture, so to speak.
The same concept applies to Macro photography. Regan did a class at the family centre on making flower arrangements. She did an excellent job and the end product was beautiful! An arrangement like this provides tons of Macro photography opportunities. Using extraction, you eye up the over all “landscape” of the arrangement, and extract photos from within it. Macro lens do especially well at this because of the shallow depth of field and the closeness with which you can focus to the subject.
PS: Phoebe is here because she’s cute. 🙂
I went out to my friend’s farm today trying to get some shots for our Photography Club assignment. The month of March was to be pictures of “pets.” So, I wanted to get some pet picks. What better place to nab pet pics than down on the farm?!
I was able to get some pretty cool action shots of the cats in the primordial battle with the dogs, fangs gnashing, claws swinging. Very cool stuff. Of course, I didn’t help matters by hissing and trying to get the dogs fired up. But hey, anything for a picture right? 😉 All the shots in the slideshow are either from my 70-300 f4.5-5.6 or my 105mm f/2.8 Macro.
It was a beautiful day with all kinds of glorious light!
Recently on an episode of Fro Knows Photo, I watched the Fro & Greg edit a RAW file of some girl posed in a sitting position on a concrete ledge with a forest type background. At the end of the show, they were critiquing the shot such that it had been taken with a 50mm f/1.8 Canon. The general gist of what was said was that the bokeh on the 50mm 1.8 was not as pleasing as it could have been had the portrait been taken with a 70-200mm f/2.8.
Now, I happen to love 50mm primes. They are almost the perfect portrait lens on crop censor cameras, producing a sweet 75mm on my D300s. In fact, my new 50mm f/1.4 G lens should be arriving any day now. So while I wait, I decided to borrow a 70-200 f/2.8 lens from Jocelyn, setup my own miniature wedding photo shoot for John & Marsha and do a “which has better bokeh” test. 😉
There are two main things going on that we need to be aware of: Bokeh & Compression. Bokeh is the Japanese word for “stuff that is out of focus in a photo.” Compression is described as an effect produced by a long lens (longer than 35mm) that smooshes and flattens backgrounds. It gives the effect of even more buttery bokeh. There are some people who contest this as a myth though.
For simplicity’s sake, longer telephoto lenses *should* produce more pleasing bokeh because it is “compressed” in addition to being out of focus. This is where Greg was coming from on the Fro episode. So, let’s check the results of my mini-field test and you can make up your own conclusions.
The situation was that John and Marsha surrounded by background and foreground elements (pineapple, spiderplant, gerbs and a happy face flower resting on two toddler chairs and a brick wall). This simulates a wedding couple in a park area with some trees & shrubs and thick forest behind them. The lenses used were Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 105mm f/2.8 VR macro, and a 50mm f/1.8. All the lenses were mounted on a D300s on a tripod using mirror lock up and a cable release with VR off. Light levels and ISO remained constant. Distance was slightly changed to try and maintain similar perspective.
Here is a gallery of the results:
What do you think? Which lens has the most pleasing Bokeh? Which lens produces the most pleasing portrait? 🙂