Product Photography Focus Stacking

Product Photography Focus Stacking

Product Photography Focus Stacking GIF

Bring your Entire Product into Focus…

Focus stacking in product photography is sometimes required to capture a product fully in focus from front to back. This holds especially true when shooting small items (ex. jewelry) with a Macro Lens due to their shallow depth of field. While the option of decreasing the Aperture size (increase Aperture value) can allow for greater depth to be captured, image sharpness and quality can be severely hindered due to lens diffraction. Focus stacking bridges this gap allowing users to use an optimal ‘sweet spot’ Aperture while being able to create a fully in focus image.

How Focus Stacking Works

A series of images are shot at different focal points (focal depths) then stacked over top of one another to create a master image. The good ‘in focus’ parts of each image shot during the capture process are essentially cut and the sum of these image portions are combined on a single frame to create the output – a fully in focus image.

Automated Still & 360 Product Photography Focus Stacking 

The focus stacking process can be tedious, time consuming and typically requires many specialized tools and software. Iconasys Shutter Stream Product Photography Software completely automate the focus stacking workflow – enabling users of any skill level to easily and efficiently create high quality, full in focus still and 360 product photography. The Focus Stacking plugin will be required to enable focus stacking shooting mode inside the Shutter Stream Software. The focus stacking plugin will work with compatible Canon & Nikon cameras.


How it Works: Product Photography Focus Stacking

When using the focus stacking plugin with Shutter Stream and Shutter Stream 360 Software, the software will automate image capture, processing and stacking. For focus stacking image capture, users simply define the front and back focal point (using the focal arrows in the software), select the number of frames to be captured during the stack, the hit ‘Start’. The software will automate this capture process in an adjust focal point, snap, upload process and repeat until the set of images has been captured. After capture, the images are combined into a single frame using user defined Focus Stack Render Settings (Method, Radius & Smoothing). In addition to the final focus stacked image, users can have access to the the individual frames used in the focus stacking set (optional).

Product Photography Focus Stacking Video

Focus Stacking in 360 Product Photography

Shutter Stream 360 Product Photography Software supports different turntable shooting modes and automates the 360 image capture, processing and output workflows. When working with an Iconasys computer controlled 360 product photography turntable, users have the ability to automate Focus Stacking in 360 product photography. The workflow is similar to the still product photography focus stacking and simply requires users to define a front and back focal point and the number of frames to use during the stack. Instead of outputting a single frame, the software will integrate this into the 360 shooting workflow. User will define number of frames to capture over the 360 rotation (ex. 72 frames would be 1 capture every 5-degrees) and at each turntable position, a stacked image will be captured. The workflow will be capture sequence of images to be stacked by automating capture and focal depth, upload, compose the focus stacked image then turntable will move to position 2 and repeat the focus stack process.

The 360 Product Photography example to the right uses 36 frames, each stacked using 4 images. View the non-stacked 360 photography example here.


Focus Stacking in 360 Product Photography Disclaimer

  1. When shooting product photography with focus stacking, the image capture workflow becomes a lot more time consuming. Typically, capturing 36 product images (1 capture every 10 degrees) takes about 1-2 minutes pending what turntable is being used. When shooting a focus stacked 360 product image, the process time is amplified in the capture process, becoming a lot more time consuming. For example, a 360 view with 36 frames typically takes about 1.5 minutes to shoot. Think in the case, shooting a 360 view composed of 36 frames with each frame being composed of 5 focus stacked images – that’s a total of 180 frames captured. In addition, the computer processing time (stacking X images into a single image) adds to the overall process time. While the 360 Product Photography with Focus Stacking process is entirely automated, users should expect a significant time increase in the 360 product imaging workflow when using Focus Stacking.
  2. When controlling focus stacking using the lens mechanics (adjusting focal point on the camera lens through any software) there will be cases of ‘focus drifting’. This is caused by imprecise measurements/movements of the cameras focal distance (ex. focal point adjustment is off by a fraction of a millimetre, as you shoot a large number of frames (ex. >36 frames), this small increment gets magnified and can cause issues in the final 360 result).
  3. If shooting with your camera tilted at a downward angle (ex. 25-degrees or greater), you may experience ‘lens creep’. This is more common in heavier lenses and is caused by small vibrations (ex. the mirror & shutter opening and closing) assisting gravity to ever so slightly adjust (pull) the lens’ focusing element. Pending lens being used, a lens band (ex. elastic or tape) can provide a direct mechanical link between the focusing ring and the focusing elements to help prevent movement of the lens elements. We also include features in the software such as ‘Leave Live View on After Capture’ to help minimize the amount of movement in the camera.

There are additional ways users can achieve an acceptable level of focus when shooting 360 product photography that doesn’t require focus stacking. Please see our ‘Macro Photography: Depth of Field Explained‘ article.

For those considering Iconasys for 360 Product Photography Focus Stacking, included with purchase of our Shutter Stream 360 software is a trial version of our focus stacking plugin which will allow users to test before purchase.

Focus Stacking is a sure way to help create better quality images. While the process can be more timely than capturing a still image or standard 360 product photography, it is completely automated through Shutter Stream Software and is easy for users of any skill level. While Focus Stacking can be used for any type of product photography, we typically only see this required in Macro Photography (ex. still and 360 jewelry photography) due to shallower depth of fields (as objects are much closer to the camera).

The Shutter Stream Focus Stacking Plugin is available as an optional purchase.

Questions about Focus Stacking, Macro Photography or our line of Product Photography Automation Tools? Contact us