Use focus stacking to manipulate more than sharpness?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by russellcbanks, Oct 1, 2021.

  1. I've been doing some focus stacking on some outdoor scenes, blending 3-4 images, and it occurred to me to see if I could "break" the technique by reversing it to make the background go even MORE out-of-focus than normal.

    I think that would require masks that blend into one another, instead of the hard-edged masks that work when you just want to keep the sharpset parts of each layer. I'd probably start with those hard-edged masks and somehow give them gradients.

    And if I could make masks that blend into each other, I could also manipulate color and tonality progressively as the distance increases.

    Have you had any experience with techniques that might be relevant? Could Photoshop actions or scripting help here?

    This is barking up the tree of some "computational photography" techniques, but I want to use full-sized Canon 6D images, instead of the phones that are leading the charge here. Do you know of any dedicated Mac applications that work in this area?

    I know about Photoshop's new Neural Filters, but for now I'm holding out for the next generation of M1 Mac Mini that I'll need to run that version of Photoshop.



  2. Focus stacking software creates layers with masks. You can adjust the masking and turn layers on and off. If none of the shots have the background in sharp focus, stacking won't change that.

    Photoshop has some very sophisticated new masking tools, including options to de-enhance the background.
  3. I hadn't heard of "de-enhancing." I Googled "Photoshop de-enhance" and found nothing about this. Where would I look in Photoshop? Thanks!
  4. Been doing background de-focussing for years.
    • Step 1. Create a duplicate layer.
    • Step 2. Switch to the bottom layer and blur/desaturate/darken it to your desire.
    • Step 3. Switch to the 'normal' top layer and use the eraser brush (at low opacity) to reveal the manipulated background where needed.
    • Step 4. Carefully outline your subject with a tiny eraser brush - it usually doesn't matter if you smudge hair or ears slightly.

    Steps 3 and 4 can be interchanged if necessary.

    Any automated or manual masking usually leaves a hard outline that stands out like a sore thumb. Hair, fur or foliage is almost impossible to mask realistically and needs blurring into the background anyway.

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