Quick Start with Focus Stacking and Helicon Focus

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Focus stacking is NOT rocket science. You simply need to photograph a stack of images and then process them with Helicon Focus. Below you can read about
the four simple steps you use to create photographs with an extended depth of field. You can also watch our video tutorial "Helicon Focus 5: Quick start with focus stacking."

Step 1. Create a Stack of Images

Demo stack, image 1 Demo stack, image 2 Demo stack, image 3 Demo stack, image 4

Either create a stack manually or use Helicon Remote to control your camera and automatically create a stack. (Automation lets you get much higher quality results.). Watch a tutorial about using Helicon Remote here. In certain situations, you can't use Helicon Remote — for example, if you photograph live insects that don't stay stil long enough to create a stack. In these cases you can create a stack manually as follows.

  • Set your camera to manual focusing mode (very important!!) and set the focus to infinity.
  • Note: manual mode (shutter speed and exposure) is also preferable to avoid fluctuations in brightness.
  • Adjust the lens to make the closest area of the object sharp.
  • Take a shot.
  • Focus a little farther away in the image.
  • Take a shot.
  • Use small, roughly regular steps while adjusting the lens and taking shots. It's better when sharp areas overlap.
  • Take shots until you reach the farthest part of the scene.
  • Copy the images from the camera to your computer.

Step 2: Open the Stack of Images with Helicon Focus

  • Start Helicon Focus using the menu, quick launch or desktop icon.
  • Browse the folder containing the stack. Note that you can select multiple files using the "Open File" dialog. Click on the first file and Shift-click on the last file to select all of them.

Helicon Focus supports JPEG, TIFF and various RAW formats with 8 and 16 bits per channel.

Step 3: Render the Resulting Image

  • Before rendering an image, you can change the following parameters: rendering method, radius, and smoothing. In most cases, the default values
    will work well. But in some cases, you can improve the result by adjusting the parameters. Read more about parameters and how they work here.
  • Press the "Render" button to start the calculations.
  • View the resulting image and then run the calculations again with new parameters, if necessary. You can view and compare the results by selecting
    the images in the "Outputs" list.
  • You can improve the resulting image by retouching if neccessary. To do so, switch to the "Retouching" tab. To learn more about retouching, read
    the Helicon Focus help section or watch the video tutorial about
Retouching mode

Step 4. Save The Resulting Image

  • On the "Parameters" tab click on the image that you want to save from the "Outputs" list, move to the "Saving" tab, and press the "Save to disk"
  • In the "Save" dialog select the file format (JPEG, BMP, TIFF, JPEG2000, PSD) and type in the name of the output file.
Outputs list Saving mode

If the input files have 16 bits per channel, then output TIFF file will also be written with 16-bit quality.