If you do some product photography, one technique you need to master is certainly focus stacking. While you can stack the images in an image retoucher manually, it's a lot faster, and often gives you better results too, to have a software do it. In this realm, there's not much-used Photoshop, Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker. In this blog post, I’ll explore a newly discovered (for me) software : Zerene Stacker.
It's an image stacker with a simple user interface. There's two way that Zerene Stacker stitches your image together : PMax and DMap.
PMax is very proficient at finding and keeping details and doesn't make the dreaded halos that no one likes. However, it can alter the colours (although I haven't seen that in my testings) and can add some noise and contrast (I've noticed the latter). DMap analyses each image for its depth of field and takes the best out of it. Thus, it's not as good at finding details but keeps the colours the same and doesn't add any noise. You can tweak some settings for each in the Preferences (Zerene's website is full of helpful tutorials to help you get the best out of it). I have found myself using PMax most of the time and if I could give you a tip it would be to not sharpen your images beforehand (in the program you use to tether your camera to the computer). You should wait until you see the final photo in Photoshop and decide on the amount you still (or not) want to apply.
Aside from sharpening, Zerene Stacker aligns your images so that it can get the best results. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with the output when the shots were too misaligned. That results in ghosts images over the actual one. There are also a few other smaller features that could be explored in another blog post.
All in all, Zerene Stacker is very easy to use. You just import your files (or you could have them exported from Capture One directly into the stacking software). Then, you just select which stacking method you want (DMap or PMax) and let it do its thing. You're then presented with a final output image, which you can save.
I would definitely recommend you to check it out.