Expanded Depth of Field Photography: Introduction

“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.” -Leo Buscaglia

The technique of expanded depth of field, also called focus stacking, produces objects and scenes  that are totally in focus from front to back. Generally in photography, single images of close objects render only a portion of the subject in focus. Sometimes this is exactly what is needed. It draws a person’s attention to that limited area. At other times, this limited depth of field of a single image is distracting and  limits the amount of visual information available, compared to what is actually seen by a person at that time.

Our eyes scan objects and scenes, focusing very quickly on many different areas. This gives us a perception that everything is in focus simultaneously. The technique of expanded depth of field also produces an image with the object or scene totally in focus. For this reason, the resultant composite image appears more realistic than any single image can. This also allows people to connect more fully with the subjects, to feel an emotional connection. In this way, the expanded depth of field technique can become a valuable element of photographic art. Effective photography obviously requires more than just technique. However, this  is an aspect of digital photography that is superior to film, in fact , impossible with film.

This is the first of a series  of blog post on this expanded depth of field photography, also called focus image stacking or simply image stacking. This is a technique with which multiple, nearly identical, images are taken of the same subject. The only variable between frames is the depth of field/focus. Importantly, the depth of field must overlap between images for successful results. Then via software, the sharply focused areas of each frame are incorporated into a composite image which is entirely in focus.

Although initially intimidating, this technique can be enjoyed by anyone with the proper equipment and the willingness to take their images with great care.

I plan a series of blogs regarding this technique. My target audience is amateur and professional photographers who are just beginning to use this technique or who have had difficulty getting consistently good results.

I am not an expert; however I have had good success producing dramatic images with this technique. On a typical day I shoot 2-4 sets of images of close up or macro subjects, usually with 35 – 45 images per set. Most of my work, and knowledge about this is close up subjects, although I do some macro work.  To be exact, macro technique requires that the image on the sensor or film be at least as large as the subject itself. For example, a 1/2 inch bee would need to make an image on the sensor or film of at least ½ inch in length. If its image is smaller on the sensor, it is technically a close up image, rather than a true macro image. However, for the subjects that I will be covering, the techniques are essentially the same.

My next post will be an overview/outline of this technique. It will be a “Table of Contents” for my remaining posts in this series. Hopefully I can help other people to get more satisfying results and improve my own technique simultaneously. I invite comments & suggestions.

If you would like assistance with the processing of your images, please check out my website for processing, retouching, enlargements, prints and framing at NaturePhotoRehab.com

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