What usually goes wrong during a focus stack

By July 30, 2016All, Bugs & Insects

Focus stacking is a powerful technique to achieve 100% depth of field through each plane of focus from the front to the back of the image. In a focus stack, the focus is incrementally moved forward by just a hair through a sequence of many shots. All of the images are then stacked in software that detects the in-focus plane in each photo and merges them into a completely sharp composite image. It produces startling details with razor sharp clarity. Of course, performing such an amazing operation in the field with live creatures has a high failure rate. For a perfect focus stack to occur there must be no movement whatsoever while the stack is being shot. Quite often, just when you’re nearing the end of the focus stack and all seems well, the wind blows or the insect moves, ruining the sequence.

Below are bloopers showing how most of my focus stacks end up. For every “perfect” stacked photo that ends up on this website, I’ve probably attempted around 6. I’ll add GIF’s as I shoot more focus stacks. Because most of my focus stacks are composed of 15-100 back to back shots, they act as movie frames and can easily be turned into animated GIF’s. Not only is this an excellent way to demonstrate what a focus stack actually is, but it also shows the funny ways in which they go wrong at the last minute.

insect macro photography focus stacking

insect focus stack animation ambush bug