If You Want Razor-Sharp Images Every Single Time, You Have to Use This Technique

There are many different techniques for getting consistently sharp images, but I think this one is the best of them all. Take a look to find out why.

The great thing about the internet is that you can get so much information at the click of a search button on Google that the hardest thing to do is work out which information is most useful. That's also the case when you search for the best techniques on getting tack-sharp images. You might get a 10-point listicle that espouses things such as using a tripod, holding the camera a certain way with your elbows tucked in, or focusing a third of the way into the frame (if you're a landscape photographer). But which technique is consistently the best?

That question brings us to this great video by Mike Smith, in which he walks us through the technique of focus-stacking. If you're not sure what this is, it's the process of taking a number of shots where you focus on different elements in the frame — like one in the foreground, one in the middle, and one in the background — and then stack all the shots together in post-production software like Photoshop. To see the entire process in action, give the video a look, and let me know your thoughts below.

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chris bryant's picture

Or use m43 at f/8 on a wide angle lens and have everything sharp from toes to horizon in one frame.

See, I said that in about ten seconds and not a 20min video.

Jan Steinman's picture

I prefer the Scheimpflüg technique.

Just how did that mountain peak and the sagebrush both get in focus, and the stuff in-between is blurry? With no "post processing?"

That's how we did "focus stacking" in the film days!

Bert Nase's picture

Can you please explain how you took the photo using Scheimplug, which lens?

Jan Steinman's picture

Linhof Super Technika, with a Schneider-Kreutsnacht Super-Angulon 90mm ƒ/8. I had to use full-tilt toward the subject. (Haven't mastered view camera lingo — I think they use different words for "tilt toward" and "tilt away.") I combined this with shift up to keep the sweet spot of the image circle in the centre of the ground glass.

It's dicey using a lens that wide. You need a recessed lens board, and the lens support was right on the ends of the rails. I think this was shot wide open, or nearly so, because I *wanted* to blur the area in-between.

john ferguson's picture

FWIW, Orson Welles achieved astonishing depth of field and motorizing the focus so that it oscillated between near and far at some interval which may have been lower than the frame rate on the camera. Next time you watch Citizen Kane, pay attention to some of the interior shots.

EDWIN GENAUX's picture

I have never understood the need for focus stacking. First if you just use the 2 maybe 3 stops above wide open for day time, yes you may have to keep your sensor clean and only change a lens inside a plastic bag. Now the little known light fact is a lens wide open even a 1.4 will be super clear from toe to horizon at night if focused on infinity like on stars, I have been capturing milky ways since '14 with many lenses and cameras and that has been true looking at 100% or200% digitally. For day just set up a chart some distance for the mm of lens and increase f/ and view at 100 or 200% you will find the happy spot. Now for that DOF thing always focus on subject with the small square and wide open, eyes will be infocus tip of nose and ears not, I do with the 24-240 at 240 on some animals across a pasture getting great bokeh.
Also it is not about lens mm a 12mm at the Grand Canyon will be sharp to the far side also I used a 10mm at Horseshoe Bend and was sharp from toe to horizon, you are at the same height as the other side and mountains are at the horizon.
Lastly It is Software today that is the biggest tool.