2020.05.01

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is global and most of us are practicing social distancing to help flatten the curve, that leaves many of us with a lot of downtime. If staying home and reducing virus spread don’t allow you to see the big picture, focus on the small one. We have much to learn from the little things in life and there is beauty to be found in all objects. Macro photography is about shooting small things up close. Surely you have flowers, textured walls, pets, and many other cool things at home to be used as subjects.


Focusing stacking is often used in closeup, macro and landscape photography to create images that are sharp from the foreground to the background. There are two stages to this process, the first is to capture a series of images, each with a different focus distance, then the second is stacking the images to create one shot that has more depth of field than any of the individual images.

I would like to walk you through the basics of focus stacking with Fujifilm X-T3 and how to process the captured images in Photoshop.

Step 1: How to config Fujifilm X-T3 Focus Bracket Setting

1. To display shooting options, press MENU/OK in the shooting display and select the SHOOTING SETTING tab.

2. The first step is to go to DRIVE SETTING —> BKT SETTING —> BKT SELECT and choose FOCUS BKT at the bottom of the menu.

3. Once you choose FOCUS BKT and press MENU/OK and you’ll be taken to the FOCUS BKT SETTINGS page with the following options for your configuration.


FRAMES: Choose the number of shots.


STEP: Choose the amount focus changes with each shot.


INTERVAL: Choose the interval between shots.

For FRAMES, I’ve experimented with anywhere between 10-60. For my example in this blog, I had it set to 50 frames. If you have very shallow subject matter, you can easily get by with less. If you’re trying to show an extremely wide range of focus, you might want to choose a higher number of frames. The max setting is 999 frames. I can’t imagine how long Photoshop would take to process 999 images.


For STEP, 1 is the smallest focus distance difference between frames, from front to back, and 10 is the highest. It’s not an exact number, though. Fujifilm hasn’t provided any specifics on how far this is, so you’ll have to experiment and see what works for you. I would prefer between 5 to 10. For extreme shallow depth of field, you may want to use a smaller number.


For INTERVAL, I just use 0 to leave no gaps between shots., I just use 0 to leave no gaps between shots.


Step 2: Take Your Shots


1. Rotate the drive dial to BKT.


2. To display shooting options, press MENU/OK in the shooting display and select the SHOOTING SETTING tab.

3. Go to DRIVE SETTING —> BKT SETTING —> BKT SELECT —> and choose FOCUS BKT at the bottom of the sub-menu. 


4. Ready for taking your shots.

Once you have your BKT SETTINGS all configured the way you wanted, it’s time to rock the road. I would highly recommend to use a tripod, and you probably want to get as close as possible to your subject. For my shots, I used the Fujinon XF80mm f2.8 Macro lens that will give me the best edge to edge sharpness.


Another alternative is to use one of the Fujifilm MCEX extension tubes. I use the MCEX-16 with a variety of lenses. The general rule is that the wider the lens, the closer you can get, which means the more shallow your depth of field will be. You can have the maximum magnification at 1.27 when paired with the Fujinon XF80mm f2.8 Macro lens.


The shooting technique is to set your focus on the closest part of the image you want to be sharp. For this example, I started with the very front edge of the Orchid flower that you can see in the shot below. I would suggest you set up the Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and White Balance manually. This will deliver consistent exposed images for post processing later on.


You can either focus manually or use autofocus to set your focus point. If you are using AF, I would recommend using Single AF and setting the green focus box to the smallest point for the best accuracy. If you prefer manual focusing, I would recommend using FOCUS PEAKING and FOCUS CHECK that can be zoomed in and make sure hitting the right spot. I use a 10 seconds self-timer to avoid any vibration after the shutter button pressed. One more option is to set the camera to ELECTRONIC SHUTTER. This helps prevent any camera shake that may occur from the shutter slamming up and down inside the body. With the ES, there are no moving components during capture, it’s just individual pixels turning on and off.


Step 3: Stack Your Frames


Once you’ve got all your shots, it’s time to combine them into a single image. The most common way is to load all of the frames into Photoshop.


First copy all your image files into a folder. In Photoshop, go to FILE —> SCRIPTS —> Load Files into Stack… This is to set each frame as a separate layer.

Select Folder from the Dropdown Menu and browse your folder location. Once all files are loaded, make sure you have  the "Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images" box is checked and hit OK. This step automatically adjusts all your frames so that they match with each other, in case there are slight differences between frames. Like if any slight movement in the middle of shooting.

Untitled photo

Next step is to select all the layers on the right, then do EDIT —> Auto-Blend Layers…, making sure you have the “Stack Images” and Seamless Tones and Colours boxes are checked. Hit OK and wait for it to finish. It can take a few minutes if you’re running a lot of images.

When the rendering is done, you will have your stacked image, with all the focus layers combined. Chances are, it will look pretty cool. As the file size could be large, so you can merge all the layers into one.  


Select all the layers from the right,  do Layer —> Merge Layers or Command +E in Mac

You may need to do a slight crop to clean up the edges from when it auto-aligned. After that, you can save or export your final, finished, stacked image.

When Merging Layers is done, you will have your combined stacked focus layers image that will look pretty cool.


You may need to do a slight crop to clean up the edges from when it auto-aligned. After that, you can save or export your final, finished, stacked image.

Final Stacked Image

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