Why You Should Perform Focus Stacking in Your Next Product Photoshoot

Why You Should Perform Focus Stacking in Your Next Product Photoshoot

In my previous article, we talked about the technique and tips for performing focus stacking for e-commerce shoots. In this article, we will further expand into discussing the advantages of using focus stacking techniques, apart from the obvious reasons of getting the entire product to be in focus. There are a few more logical reasons and advantages behind focus stacking.


1. Increased Depth of Field Compared to Stopping Down

So you have been taught to always stop down your aperture value to increase depth of field. But they still do not usually provide sufficient depth of field especially when you are shooting with a longer focal length and a close-up subject. This ultimately leaves you with only one solution which is to focus stack your images to achieve the desired amount of depth of field in your shoot. 

2. Reduce Lens Diffraction

Lens diffraction is the phenomenon of light waves bending or spreading out as they pass through a lens. The diffraction effect becomes more pronounced as the size of the lens aperture decreases or as the wavelength of light increases. In layman photography terms, it means softening the image. As the light wave passes through the lens, it diffracts and interferes with one another, reducing the ability of the lens to resolve finer details of the subject. Do note that different lenses and different camera resolutions will have a different diffraction effect, therefore it is recommended that you experiment and know the limits of your lens before your shoot.

3. Shooting at Optimum Lens Aperture

The optimum aperture for lenses is usually around f/8 to f/11 on a full frame sensor camera. And yes contrary to what you might believe, lenses do not perform best at their widest aperture, which is what we normally pay for. At least for now, the technology is still not there. By using focus stacking, we will be able to take our shots by using only the sharpest apertures.

In the example image below, they were shot at f/16 to give enough depth for the entire bottle side to side and this will allow me to reduce the amount of work and complications during the stacking process.

4. Greater Image Clarity and Details

By only using the optimum aperture, you will be sure to get an image with higher clarity and detail. And since shooting at such an aperture will not provide you with enough depth of field, our only solution is still to perform focus stacking. This is highly recommended for product shoots with complex and fine textures such as fabrics, jewelry, and watches, so that all the finer details are able to be resolved correctly onto an image.

5. Flexibility in Composition and Added Creativity

With focus stacking, you are not limited by the focal plane in how you compose an image. You are also able to selectively choose which part of an image should remain in focus and which part should not. This will be crucial to remove distractions in your frame by creatively blurring out certain parts of your image that draw the eye. This flexibility in composition will also allow you to compose an image of your product in a more attractive way that stands out from the generic style of shot that every photographer is doing.

Final image outlook after focus stacking.


While focus stacking does bring a ton of benefits to your work, do note that it will also cause you some additional work in the post-processing. Weigh your options carefully with the benefits above and adopt this focus stacking technique when the parameters of your job permit. The advantages that you gained from focus stacking will definitely bring your work to the next level which makes this technique valuable.


Zhen Siang Yang's picture

Yang Zhen Siang is a commercial photographer specialising in architecture, food and product photography. He help businesses to present themselves through the art of photography, crafting visually appealing and outstanding images that sells.

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I agree with most of what is said here. Most of my images are using strobes, mostly one. I start by setting up the first exposure and then focus stack 10 images of that same exposure and repeat for 5 exposures or what I think is enough, but many times its 5 exposures. Then they are stacked and then loaded as layers in Photoshop, and then the real work begins. I would expect that many people would think that this is too much of a process, but, I get good results, plus I really enjoy doing post work.

Thanks for sharing! Well if it works for you why not? Also it will be your kind of niche if most shy away from the amount of work that is involved into creating your kind of art.

spot on! hahaha

This is a process that has value, but with the amount of images done exclusively for the web and how much is viewed only on cell phones today, one has to think about the client's realistic expectation and return clientele. I have done it a few times, but I think it could cost 25-50% more to the client if I did it on repeat large shoots. When I did jewelry, there were no apps for stacking and I would have used stacking with no hesitation back then. I stopped doing jewelry due to insurance cost vs frequency or irregularities of the shoots on a calendar year.

Yes, weighting the option between the cost and productivity plus client demand is crucial in deciding whether focus stacking is a viable option. If clients do appreciate the effort and knows what they are seeing then it will be extremely beneficial to do it