If you want to focus stack images, there are really two ways to do it: either by hand with layer masks and the like in Photoshop or have a software do it. While Photoshop itself has an algorithm to stack your images, it’s not that great. In the focus stacking field, there are two main softwares: Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker. The latter is the one I’ve been using recently and I wanted to share with you how I stack images using this software.
First off, you need to make sure that your images are proper. They should cover the full front to back with different focus points, be well exposed and be as noise-free as possible. The program needs something to work with. I like to export my images in three separate folders; one for the “before stacking” images, one for the stacked files and one for the final retouched and ready to ship photos. Once the images to stack are shot, I tweak them in Capture One and export them into the first folder. From there, I’m ready to open Zerene Stacker.
Once that’s done, you can just drag and drop all the files needed to have a focus stack for one photo in the upper-left hand box named “Input Files”. Then, go up to Stack and click on Align & Stack All (Both). You could choose the PMax or DMap options only but I like to select both as I will be able afterward to choose the best result of the two. When you have clicked the button, the software will align all of your images and produce two output files. You will see those files in the “Output Files” box in the lower-left section of the screen. You can click on each one to see what the file is and decide whether you like the DMap or PMax version better.
Then, you are ready to export your files. To accomplish so, go up to Files and to Save Output Image(s). You will be prompted with a window asking you to choose the settings you want applied to your files. I always go for the best quality in order to keep maximum data for the retouching later on. Finally, you can choose the location you want your files saved to (the second folder, in my case).
That was the basic workings of Zerene Stacker. The program can do a lot more and can allow you the have better control of your images than what we saw today.
Have you used Zerene Stacker before? Do you like it? Tell us below!