The right way to Focus Stack Panoramic Pictures

Over the years, focus stacking has gained wide popularity amongst digital photographers and is the handy technique you can use to obtain crisp images. However , just how can a photographer use concentrate stacking when shooting panoramas? Digital panoramic photography frequently requires three, five, or even more images to be stitched collectively in order to produce the desired outcome. When combined with focus stacking, the challenges suddenly become bigger. This article explores these challenges and recommends techniques for successfully creating a focus piled panorama.

Table of Contents

Concentrate Stacking Digital Images

The purpose of this post is not to explain what focus stacking is and how it really is done. It assumes that you simply already know how to do that along with single-shot photographs.

However , to recap briefly, focus stacking is the process of photographing the exact same scene with the exact same camera settings along with multiple shots. The only distinction among those shots is the concentrate setting of the lens. The purpose is to capture multiple photos where some focus on the particular foreground, others on the center ground, and yet others for the background of the scene. These images are all blended collectively afterwards with software to be able to contain only the sharpest parts of each image. Thus, the outcome is a photograph which is within perfect focus from the nearest to the furthest objects.

This article also assumes that you know how to do simple panoramic photography , both in field plus photo stitching in post-processing.

Problems with Panoramic Focus Putting

Although focus stacking is not simple, it is pretty straightforward once the desired final result will be an individual 2×3 image. The reason is how the only blending necessary is the fact that of identical shots, with the exception of their area of focus.

Let’s take a simple example. Suppose you capture a landscape of a forest with some leaves in the foreground, trees in the middleground, and much more trees in the background. To help keep things simple, also suppose that you can get away with simply three shots for a focus stack. Meaning, you focus one image on the nearest ground leaves, the second to the middle of the forest, and the last on the trees in the back again. Shooting and processing this particular image would not be too hard:


Today imagine a similar scenario, yet this time you want to shoot the leaves and the trees in the 3×1 format panorama. You could use the technique above after which crop the image. However , in order to be able to print it really big, having a high-resolution image is important. You’ll need to pan your own camera to take multiple overlapping images in order to produce the particular panorama.

Let’s do some math. Suppose that you need a total of five overlapping images from a horizontal skillet in order to produce the breathtaking stitch. Now you want to add focus stacking on top of that in order to get a sharp image from front to back. Therefore , for each of the five overlapping images, you have to have 3 different shots, focused on different parts of the terrain. You will at this point end up with a total of fifteen images. That means they have to end up being blended both horizontally and top of each other. Have you been starting to see the complexity? What can you do? Keep on reading.


Considerations in the Field

The background knowledge you need in order to take a focus stacked panoramic image is to understand:

  1. How to take ordinary focus stacked images
  2. How to get ordinary multi-image panoramas

If you know how to do the above two, now it is time to blend these two techniques together.

First, though, a quick note on weather conditions. It is very hard to do even ordinary panoramic pictures with moving objects. Add focus stacking on top of that, plus it becomes nearly impossible. For these reasons, you need to attempt this with static scenes.

Nevertheless , even with static scenery, situations in nature can change. Hence, it is important to be aware of the weather problems in the field. Do you have fast modifying light? Do you have moving atmosphere, wind, etc .? The less movement, the better.

Going by the example through earlier, let’s say that you should take 15 shots. This might take a minute or two, depending on how experienced you might be and/or how easy you should use your camera and tripod setup. Being aware of the weather plus working as quickly as possible are important when trying to snap 15 different shots in a short while. In other words, you need to ensure that the view will not look drastically different from the moment you started, till the time you hard pressed the shutter button for your 15th time.

Focus Sequencing

A technique I use to gain speed is what We call “variable focus sequencing”. This is how it works:

  • Structure 1, shot 1: concentrate = foreground
  • Composition one, shot 2: focus = middleground
  • Composition 1, chance 3: focus = history

[Pan the camera]

  • Structure 2, shot 1: concentrate = background
  • Composition two, shot 2: focus sama dengan middleground
  • Composition 2, chance 3: focus = foreground

[Pan the camera]

  • Structure 3, shot 1: focus = foreground
  • Composition 3 or more, shot 2: focus = middleground
  • Composition 3, shot 3: focus = background

[Pan the camera]

…and so on.

You’ll notice that I’m “snaking” the focus – starting within the foreground for one composition, and after that in the background for the next, switching back and forth each time.   Why do I do that? It’s all about speed. This method enables me to maintain the same concentrate when changing my structure to the next shot in the vistas. Ultimately, it minimizes the number of times I must refocus the lens.

The alternative method is to reset concentrate to the foreground for every chance of the panorama. Although this could be more convenient in post-processing, additionally, it consumes precious seconds through the in-field process. Therefore , I favor to work as efficiently as you possibly can out in the field, so that I can capture the best image I could with the least chance of movement ruining the image.

If you follow this technique, you need to remember that you did it if it is time to post-process your masterpiece. That way you won’t end up being confused when focus stacking. This leads to the next section – how to process a focus stacked panoramic image.

Considerations inside Post-Processing

There are two main ways of processing a focus stacked panorama. I call them “Stitch & Stack” and “Stack & Stitch. ” Although this may seem like a play on words, it is not. Let’s examine both methods. Again, assume the situation from above – five horizontally overlapping images, with three focus overlapping shots.

1 . “Stitch & Stack”

The way you do this method is:

Step one

  1. Stitch the panorama of all five foreground-focused images
  2. Stitch a vistas of all five middleground-focused images
  3. Stitch a panorama of all five background-focused images


You now have three panoramic images, which should be nearly identical to one another, except their areas of focus:




The only step left is to use your preferred concentrate stacking software to mix them together and get your own final result.


This method is a little faster than the other and is my preferred method. Another advantage, if you are using Adobe CC for your image digesting, is that Photoshop’s Adobe Digital camera Raw now creates natural panoramic files. This means that you should have three panoramic files with different areas of focus, but they will all be raw data files. Therefore , if you need to go back and make adjustments in natural later, you will not lose all your changes. Here are the procedures:

  1. Stitch the fifteen files into three separate raw panoramas with different parts of focus
  2. Rasterize them and do the focus stacking
  3. Perform any additional adjustments as part of your post processing

If you get to step 3 and you realize that you forgot to apply changes in the raw files, you only have to repeat steps 2 plus 3. In the section beneath, you will see how the Stack & Stitch method is more limiting in that regard.


Panoramic stitching software program rarely is 100% consistent, even with almost identical starting images. In this case, the three sewed panoramas may not line up flawlessly with one another, and the focus stacking process may end up carrying out a poor job. I have noticed this especially to be the situation if you have straight, horizontal lines in your panorama, such as a good ocean horizon, a connection, and so on.

2 . “Stack & Stitch”

This really is basically the reverse of the earlier method:

Step 1

  1. Concentrate stack the three shots that will represent image 1 of the vistas
  2. Focus stack the three shots that represent image 2 of the panorama
  3. Focus stack the three shots that signify image 3 of the panorama
  4. Focus stack the three game that represent image four of the panorama
  5. Focus stack the three shots that stand for image 5 of the vistas

Step 2

Now you have five focus stacked individual images. The next step is to blend them together horizontally in order to produce the final result.



Unlike the previous method, you will only be carrying out one panoramic stitch process here with the five stacked images. Therefore , the software might be more successful in stitching and blending the five images together.


This is a more time-consuming procedure, which will especially matter if you wish to make raw file modifications after you have started your last panorama processing. Let’s stroll through the steps:

  1. Focus stack the 15 files into five separate images
  2. Stitch the five data files together into a single panorama
  3. Execute any additional adjustments as part of your article processing

If you get to step 3 and you also realize that you forgot to apply changes in the raw files, at this point you have to repeat all three steps again. The reason for this is which you have pretty much passed the raw file phase after step 1, unlike the Stitch & Stack method. However , for trickier stitches where the earlier method doesn’t give you good results, it’s good to have this particular second technique available.


While each panoramic stitching and focus stacking are very useful plus fun techniques, doing both together in a single photograph includes its challenges. It can be done, but takes more effort and understanding of the entire process. Therefore , it is important to understand different factors which play a role in the final result, and perhaps to begin with simpler scenes (totally nonmoving, just a three-image panorama and three-image focus stack) before moving on to more complex subjects.

The other thing to remember is that there is no perfect process. Every scene, every image is different and unique. Sometimes it takes some experimentation in order to achieve a great focus stacked panoramic image. I hope this article helped give you a good starting point.

Thank you to Lazar Gintchin for sending this guest post to Photography Life! We recommend visiting Lazar’s website here   to check out more of his amazing  panoramic photos or purchase a high-quality print.

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