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by Aaron Jors on Mon Nov 14, 2022 9:14 pm
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I've started using Helicon Focus at times for focus stacking.  It seems to work pretty good when stacking photos of the same exposure settings.  I've not had good luck however when trying to combine focus staking and exposure blending.

The stacks at each exposure interval never line up when I bring them into Photoshop.

Just curious how others handle this.  Most of what I do is landscape photography so I'm almost always exposure blending to increase dynamic range.
 

by Swissblad on Tue Nov 15, 2022 9:33 am
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Not sure if this will work....but have you tried stacking individual exposure blended files...you could save these as TIFFs and then run them through Helicon Focus.
 

by Kerry on Tue Nov 15, 2022 10:21 am
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Can you describe your workflow--both in-field and post-processing? When you say "exposure blending," are you referring to HDR or manually blended composites? For the focus stacking part of the in-field process, are you using an automated in-camera technique or are you going about that manually (i.e. adjusting the focus ring by hand)?

I'm trying to get a better feel for exactly what it is you're trying to achieve and how you're going about it
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by E.J. Peiker on Tue Nov 15, 2022 3:34 pm
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I'm with Kerry, please describe exactly what you are doing :)
 

by DChan on Tue Nov 15, 2022 5:15 pm
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Swissblad wrote:
Not sure if this will work....but have you tried stacking individual exposure blended files...you could save these as TIFFs and then run them through Helicon Focus.


I think Swissblad is on to something. I'd deal with the focus first then the exposure. I guess either ways should work though. I don't know about a program that deals with focus stacking and HDR composite at the same time, or that there is a camera that can do both in one go either.
 

by Aaron Jors on Wed Nov 16, 2022 9:15 pm
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Kerry wrote:
Can you describe your workflow--both in-field and post-processing?  When you say "exposure blending," are you referring to HDR or manually blended composites?  For the focus stacking part of the in-field process, are you using an automated in-camera technique or are you going about that manually (i.e. adjusting the focus ring by hand)?

I'm trying to get a better feel for exactly what it is you're trying to achieve and how you're going about it


Manually blending composites using bracketed exposures and manually adjusting the focus ring to change focus.  

So for example in the field I'll take a 3 shot bracketed exposure to use for manually blending (let's call these 1a,1b,1c).  Then manually adjust the focus point and take another 3 bracketed exposure (lets call these 2a, 2b, 2c), the adjust focus and take another 3 shot bracketed exposure (3a, 3b, 3c) and so on if needed.  So in this example I end up with 3 - 3 shot groups of images, total of 9 images.

Post processing my hope was to use Helicon Focus to first focus stack images (1a, 2a, 3a/2a, 2b, 2,c/3a, 3b, 3c) to output 3 focus stacked images at each exposure level.  Then take those 3 images at each exposure level and manually exposure blend them in Photoshop.

Helicon does a good job of focus stacking each set but then when I try to align the output images in Photoshop they don't align properly.  I know manually adjusting the focus changes the alignment slightly but I'm seeing alignment much farther off than just that.  In photoshop I'm using the Edit>Auto Align Layers.

I did find this You Tube video that offers a solution which seems to work.  However they are manually blending the images for the Focus stacking part and I was hoping automate this portion using Helicon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJZKnOs3RqI&list=PLbdbPuJ6Bk_oZGHXQOZq4x99jjaB_qMq6&index=1
 

by DChan on Wed Nov 16, 2022 10:49 pm
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Aaron Jors wrote:
Kerry wrote:
Can you describe your workflow--both in-field and post-processing?  When you say "exposure blending," are you referring to HDR or manually blended composites?  For the focus stacking part of the in-field process, are you using an automated in-camera technique or are you going about that manually (i.e. adjusting the focus ring by hand)?

I'm trying to get a better feel for exactly what it is you're trying to achieve and how you're going about it


Manually blending composites using bracketed exposures and manually adjusting the focus ring to change focus.  

So for example in the field I'll take a 3 shot bracketed exposure to use for manually blending (let's call these 1a,1b,1c).  Then manually adjust the focus point and take another 3 bracketed exposure (lets call these 2a, 2b, 2c), the adjust focus and take another 3 shot bracketed exposure (3a, 3b, 3c) and so on if needed.  So in this example I end up with 3 - 3 shot groups of images, total of 9 images.

Post processing my hope was to use Helicon Focus to first focus stack images (1a, 2a, 3a/2a, 2b, 2,c/3a, 3b, 3c) to output 3 focus stacked images at each exposure level.  Then take those 3 images at each exposure level and manually exposure blend them in Photoshop.

Helicon does a good job of focus stacking each set but then when I try to align the output images in Photoshop they don't align properly.  I know manually adjusting the focus changes the alignment slightly but I'm seeing alignment much farther off than just that.  In photoshop I'm using the Edit>Auto Align Layers. [snip]



That's what I (probably Swissblad as well) thought you were doing.

Have you tried using other HDR program such as Photomatix to merge the exposure-bracketed photos? I think you can try it for free.
 

by Kerry on Wed Nov 16, 2022 11:38 pm
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I see why reversing the process (i.e. blending first, stacking second) isn't an option.  You'd have to essentially blend each exposure set separately (and, for all practical purposes, identically...which would be difficult bordering on impossible) and then stack them.

I have--many, many times--done exactly what DChan suggested, and used Photomatix for this purpose (usually faux-HDR, but I've done some true HDR work via this method), using multiple blend and/or tonemap modes, then worked them up (identically) in PS, then run the series through Helicon Focus to create a stacked TIFF that I optimize back in PS.  But that's not the same as doing manual exposure blending.

The implication of what you're saying is that Helicon is not processing each of the exposure sets you're feeding it identically.  That, for some reason, it's applying its algorithms different to the different sets.  (I'm assuming that you're using the same stack options for each set you feed through it, correct?)  I find that interesting.  Manually adjusting the focus ring shouldn't matter, as each one of your exposures from each focus setting (e.g. 1a, 1b, 1c) is produced from the same spot.  Any movement caused by adjusting the focus ring would impact the stacking of each individual focus set (e.g. 1a, 2a, 3a), not the stacked set (e.g. 1abc, 2abc, 3abc).

Assuming you are using the exact same HF settings for each stack, this implies that there's something about the different exposures that's causing HF to treat each exposure set differently, because compositionally, the stacks should be identical.  Each frame of the exposure sets should be the same.

Have you looked into Helicon Remote as a possible solution?
Kerry Leibowitz
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by Swissblad on Thu Nov 17, 2022 4:26 am
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Perhaps this is of help: https://fotographee.com/focus-stacking/
 

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