Thursday, May 14, 2015

Photography Using An Image Stacker | 0 Comments - Click Here :

This is what the camera can get when focused on the nearest cable of the turntable and then adjusted with an image stacker. The foreground is just 10" from the lens and the engine is 14 feet away. No way to get this type of clarity across the entire layout any other way.
    Scott Betts - (Hint: Clicking on the images will open them full size) As any of you will know who has ever taken a picture on your layout or of a model, the biggest issue we face is lack of "depth of field". The short distances and close camera position make getting everything in the shot to be in focus impossible. I experienced this with recent shots of my 120.3 scale layout and saw mill.

    Well, while cruising around on an astronomy website, it talked about using a program called an "Image Stacker" to increase depth of field in digital photos. This looked interesting, so I researched it and there are such programs. Mostly used in micro-photography, but can be used in any situation were you need the foreground and all areas behind it in sharp focus in a single picture.

    There were several programs I read about, but one offered a free 30 day trial and had excellent on-line support. It's called Zerene Stacker. I downloaded the trial and scanned some of the support information. Then I just tried it (no need to waste time on instructions!).

This is the best photo I could get before. Notice all the foreground and background past the figure are out of focus.
This is what the software can do on my first try.  I did nothing to adjust the settings  or lighting to get the best quality.
    So what is image stacking? What you do is simply take a series of pictures making small adjustments to the focus (using manual focus mode) from front to back. The program then "stacks" them in order and aligns them. It then processes each one and picks out the "in focus" elements in each picture and builds a composite of all in a single picture. You can actually watch the program do this in real time. It appears it uses some form of edge recognition technique as the halos from the lights caused it some problems. I took about 30 pictures in sequence for this first trial. I just used my feeling to make very small changes in focus each time. You do need to lock the camera down on a tripod. The program looks bullet proof. It doesn't require a high end camera, processes regular JPEG formats, doesn't care how many pictures it uses (though more gives better definition) and appears to not be very finicky as to how precise each focus step is.

    Again this is the first picture I tried. I just went out and tried it. I'm sure with a bit of fiddling I can improve the quality. Like most digital photo software, it appears to have a lot of power and ability to manipulate images, do retouching and will operate with other photo programs like Photoshop, Pixelmator ect,  Much to discover!

This pic is just the one above I did as a b&w for an "old timey " feel.  This program is great for models and I want to experiment on layout photos.
Here is a reference photo of my 120.3 layout that is just the best the camera can do as a single shot.
    This is the stacked photo.
    Ok, so I'm a bit of a geek. But isn't it cool? I thought some of you might be interested and want to try this. It includes a free 30 day trial of software. The purchase price is about $90. Not that bad if you consider the price of Photoshop is hundreds of dollars.

Scott Betts

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