Mastering Photo Focus Stacking

What is Focus Stacking?

In the world of photography, capturing every detail of your subject is something we all seem to love to do, especially when it comes to macro, landscape, and product photography. For myself and the example given in this blog, it will be all about when the technique is applied in Landscape photography, my speciality. 

Achieving impeccable focus throughout the entire image can be a challenge, but thanks to the technique of focus stacking you can create stunningly sharp images that leave a lasting impression on your audience. In this tutorial, we’ll explore the process of focus stacking using Lightroom and Photoshop as these are what I use for my day-to-day editing, two powerful tools that can help you achieve impeccable focus and depth in your own photos.

What is Focus Stacking?
Focus stacking is a technique used to combine multiple images taken at varying focus distances to create a single image with an extended depth of field. This process is particularly useful when you want to capture a subject with both foreground and background details in sharp focus. By blending these images together, you can overcome the limitations of your camera’s depth of field and create an image that is sharp from front to back.

In some real-world examples shooting a tighter aperture may not be viable due to light levels, thus creating excessive movement in the shot.

Or you may just be shooting something very close in the foreground that you want to maximise the detail in, whilst still retaining the detail in the background of the shot, such as some rocks on the beach and some sea defences further back.

The need for when to use focus stacking comes up from time to time and it really is a great tool to remember that you can use to preserve details in your work.

Step 1: Capture Your Images 

Begin by setting up your camera on a tripod and ensure it will not move whilst you take your images, I find firmly pressing it down so it settles into the sand or vegetation helps, using things such as the 3 Legged Thing Stilettoz helps to ensure your camera does not move. 

Frame your subject and take one image of your hand as a marker for the next shot being the start of your series of focus stack images, then shoot a series of shots, gradually adjusting the focus distance from the nearest to the farthest point of your subject.
It’s essential to maintain the same exposure settings and Focal length across all shots to ensure seamless blending later.
There is no rule on how many images to do, but you will need more than 1 and I typically find around 3-5 is what I shoot for a typical landscape scene.
Once you have finished shooting your scene, take another image of your hand so you know that was the last image in the series.

It is worth considering that things do not move in the shot too much, such as rope swaying in some water, cars moving too much, people trying to sit still or the wind blowing trees. Basically, the more things in the subject that stay still the better, for those who shoot long exposure images, it is much the same considerations you need to give for that.

You can use the images that I use in this blog via this link, just give them a few seconds to open up as they are large GFX files

Step 2: Import and Organize

In Lightroom Import your images into Adobe Lightroom. 

Open the Develop module as if you were going to edit your images. Select the entire series of shots for the focus stack by holding CTRL/CMD + LMB (left mouse button) and select each image that needs to be in the stack. 

Since Lightroom does not have built-in focus stacking capabilities, you will now need to take the images to Photoshop to let the magic begin. 

Personally, I don’t edit my images prior to opening them in Photoshop, I edit the final file that has the Focus stack applied to it. If you are going to pre-edit your images, do remember that the more the images look the same, the better the focus stack will perform.

Step 3: Send Images to Photoshop

To send your images to Photoshop, ensure all your images related to the focus stack are selected, and right-click on one of the selected images. 

From the context menu, choose ”Edit In” and then ”Open as Layers in Photoshop.” This will open all your selected images as separate layers in a single Photoshop document and will then show each image from Lightroom as a layer in Photoshop.

Step 4: Auto-Align Layers

In Photoshop, please ensure all layers are selected in the Layers panel by holding CTRL/CMD + LMB and selecting each layer. 

Then in the top menu bar, go to Edit > Auto-Align Layers. You will then get a dialogue box open with an option that is preselected as Auto for the projection, leave this as it is and select OK.
Allow the process to take place.
This step ensures that all your images are perfectly aligned, compensating for any slight variations in camera movement between shots. 

Do note that the length of time this can take varies depending on how many shots are being used, the size of the files being used, the file types and the power of the machine.

Auto align layers location

Step 5: Auto-Blend Layers 

With your layers still selected, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers. In the dialogue box that appears, make sure ”Stack Images” is selected, and hit ”OK.”
Photoshop will now examine the focus in each image and blend them together, creating a seamless transition of focus.
Once it is completed, each layer will show what has been included and excluded in the stack as shown in the image below.
You will then also have a new layer added which is the final result.

Step 6: Final Adjustments and Export 

Once you’re satisfied with the focus stacking result, make any final adjustments to colour, contrast, and sharpness in Photoshop.
Then, save your image and export it back to Lightroom for further cataloguing and sharing. All the editing can be done in Lightroom if you prefer


Focus stacking is a powerful technique that allows photographers to capture intricate details with exceptional depth of field.
By combining the capabilities of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, you can easily achieve stunning focus-stacked images that stand out from the crowd.
Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if your first attempts are not flawless.
With time and experience, you’ll master the art of focus stacking and open up a world of creative possibilities in your photography journey.

Final result