Although it doesn’t have an explicit command for accomplishing focus blending, Photoshop CS4 is very much up to the task using its Auto Align and Auto Blend technologies.
Start by taking a series of photos that shift the focus from the front of your subject to the back. Try to minimize exposure and color/white balance variation. Manual focus, manual exposure and a fixed white balance are going to work best.
Once you have your series of images in a folder, follow these steps:
1 – Choose Files>Scripts>Load Files Into Stack (Click on the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” checkbox.)
2 – Select all the layers in the Layers Panel/Palette (click on the bottom layer, then click on the top layer while holding down the Shift key)
3 – Choose Edit>Auto Blend Layers (Click on the “Stack Layers” option and check “Seamless Tones and Colors”)
Photoshop will create a complex layer mask for each layer, attempting to show only the well focused areas. If you need to adjust for a better result, paint on the layer mask using black to hide and white to show.
A 7MB QuickTime illustrates the steps for this technique.
Referenced under a number of terms, this is the style of print where there are wide white borders and the photographer’s name underneath. In this QuickTime video, I cover how to build a template in Photoshop to make it easy to produce consistent prints.
Click on the link below to launch a QuickTime video. It’s about 10MB, so it will take a few moments to load.
I’ve been doing a lot of retouching, paths and selections lately. Photoshop CS4 changes the game a bit in this regards. Features like Content Aware Scaling and Adjustment Panels get lots of fanfare, but there are small changes that save you time throughout the day. First, if you’re not using a mouse because you have a laptop, get one. When creating paths and selections it’s indispensable. Ensure your mouse has a scroll wheel that also moves side to side. If you’re using a Mac, consider the Mighty Mouse. Personally, I’ve gone wireless. Some users don’t like the extra weight, but I am willing to live with it to get rid of the wire. I find the scroll ball faster than a scroll wheel, but YMMV.
The scroll ball will allow you to pan left and right, up and down simply by pushing it around. No need to hop on the space bar to access the Hand Tool to click and push the image. Time saved. Check Photoshop>Preferences>General and disable “Zoom with Scroll Wheel” Personally, I pan around the image more than I zoom. While you’re there (CS4), uncheck the “Enable Flick Panning” option. Great eye candy, but really annoying when you want to move to a specific area of the image.
New feature in CS4 that I’m really loving is the on-the-fly navigator window. Let’s say you’re zoomed in to 100% or 200% to work on a small area of the image. Then you need to move to another area but don’t want to zoom out, move the image, zoom back in. Hold down the H key, left click with the mouse and you will see a rectangle and a full-screen version of the image. Move the rectangle to the area you wish to navigate to. Release mouse button. Cool. Like the Navigator palette but without the extra trip with the mouse. This has been a big time-saver when doing clipping paths. Here’s what it looks like (keep in mind that prior to pressing the H key, it was zoomed in to a small part of the image):