Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Focus stacking for incredible detail and depth of field with the Nikon D810

Yesterday was a still life day in the studio. My friend, Oren, had suggested adding a  wine and cheese still life image to my portfolio of super-detailed stacked food stills. Good idea, so we got right on it. The planning and prep work took over a week of research and propping to acquire all the right elements, including the antique wine implements. The photo itself took most of a day to shoot, assemble, and retouch.

Focusing stacking means taking a lot of photos of the scene from multiple focus points covering the entire length of the subject from front to back, manually moving the focus a fraction of an inch each time until the whole subject has been covered. The natural camera choice was the Nikon D810 for its extremely high resolution. The lens was a 60mm macro set to f/5.6, which I have determined from prior shoots was an ideal aperture for this type of assembled image.

Sixteen photos were needed to cover the distance. The software used to assemble them into one stacked image was Helicon Focus. The latest version of this program has been much improved for speed and quality.

This image is comprised of 16 separate photos each focused at a different point progressing from the white cloth in the foreground to the distant branches in the back. The images were assembled using Helicon Focus into one photo with extreme resolution and depth of field that even a tilt-shift lens and small aperture could not achieve. Click here to download a high res version of this photo.
I have been taking these complex still life images of various food groups to mimic the still life look of old master painting. They are all done with available window light, just as they would have been set up in a painters studio. The table is set up in front of the window with a large, black card behind. This is not quite a back-lit situation as the window light comes up and over the black card and I can control its intensity by raising or lowering the card. There is no fill used in the setup because I wanted deep shadows.


  1. I'm in awe of your images. I have never, ever said that to ANYONE in my life (I'm 57) but you not only are freakin' creative, but also technically oh so proficient.
    As we've talked before, I shoot stock as well...
    Do you offer any workshops? I'm very curious... Thanks for posting. Again: your images are just fantastic...

  2. Thanks for your nice comment. Workshops? Hmmm...currently I am not doing any, but it is worth a thought. Any particular subjects you would have in mind? - t

    1. One thing: What seems to be one of YOUR specialties - LIGHTING. It's killer.

  3. I read all your posts but rarely comment, but yes, your work is very creative and inspiring. I'd love a workshop on a lifestyle shoot.