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Focus stacking is a technique usually associated with macro photography, tripods and precision. But you can use it with a 400mm lens, handheld, and come out with some nice images. And to make things even more difficult, the same image also is a vertical panorama. Let’s see how it’s done!
This image is the result of a focus stacking technique. It could not be done in a single shot. Read further on to know why and how it was done.
Taking multiple pictures these days is often associated with HDR photography, but there are other times and reasons for taking several pictures of one subject. In HDR, it is usually because you need to go further, in terms of exposure, than the sensor can cope with in a single shot. You take a series of shots at different exposures, and mix them to get a final image with properly exposed highlights and shadows.
With a 400mm lens handheld, at 1/1000, f/9 and 400 ISO, the three frogs could be kept in focus, but not much else. And choosing a smaller aperture would cause diffraction and problems with the shutter speed used with this lens.
To achieve focus stacking, you do a series of pictures at the same exposure, but change the point of focus between shots. It is a well known way to get the most depth of field within a single image without using a small aperture.
Focus stacking lets you extend your depth of field beyond what you can achieve by normal methods . Some might think that choosing a small aperture will do this, but sometimes not even f/16 or f/32 will be enough to get everything in focus. The other problem is that the more you close the aperture the more diffraction shows up, and the end result may be an image with sharpness loss.
Depth of field is reduced as your subject gets closer to your lens. That is why this is a very useful technique for macro photography.
Once you include a frog in the background it becomes evident that there are limits in terms of depth of field. As the shutter speed can not come down much, this is a situation for focus stacking. Handheld!
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