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Extended Depth of Field

Lesson 5 from: Innovative Techniques for Outdoor Photography

George Lepp

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Lesson Info

5. Extended Depth of Field

Sometimes it’s important to have objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background all in sharp focus. Learn about various software programs and techniques to achieve extended depth of field photography.

Lesson Info

Extended Depth of Field

So we're going to talk about extended depth of field as you might know depth the field is never enough on I also want oh quickly say here that that everything doesn't need to be sharp from front to back there's wonderful very creative images out there where you have one small slice of the image sharp and everything else is beautifully undone and bright colors and whatever without it being sharp so what I'm talking about here are those cases where you really want that depth of field it's really necessary to get the foreground the middle and the backgrounds to be sharp and we have three types of software that will help you do this and then we have to shoot in a certain way and we'll cover that but adobe photoshopped has an auto blend layer which will do stacking is it's not in my opinion the very best way to do this there are other software's which I think do a better job but you can't if you already have photoshopped whether it be I think starting with about cs four on on up lucius c c ...

fifteen that we're twenty fifteen that we're on now you can put these together so you don't have to go out and buy anything all you have to do is put it in your brain shooting in a certain way and you've got it it's most of the software that we're talking about here is actually brain software there's a program called helicon focus and another one called serene stacker, and these air, the two very best software, is out there that will take care of stacking where you shoot a siri's of slices of of depth of field. Now we can use stacking in landscape photography. Everybody thinks of stacking is something just to do for macro photography, too, because that's, where you have the least amount of depth of field, but there are situations in landscape where you really would like to get the foreground and the background to be sharp. This is in the white mountains of california, the sierra nevada's are in the background, and we've got these bristlecone pine a beautiful old logs that are thousands of years old, and the wood is just gorgeous, and what I'd like to do is I'd like to have the sierras and this would to be perfectly sharp. So what I've done here is I've focused on this front would this very beautiful area here that's one picture now the next picture, we're all sharp in this area, we've now lost the foreground, but we have this sharp all the way out to here. We still don't have the mountains, the next shot is the mountains or sharp, but we've lost they would completely now you put these together and you get magic everything is sharp from the very close to spot all the way out to twenty some miles away, which are the sierra nevada mountains. So if you have an area a type of landscape shot that is so important that the foreground as in the wood here is and then you want something that is important to the mountains in the background you can stop your limbs down to f sixteen the f twenty two and it probably still won't be enough or and you will find out that the image is not critically sharpe is not critically sharp because of the thing called the fraction when you get to f twenty two on your lens you have lost click quite a bit of your sharpness if you look at the people that do these tests on lenses will get kind of give you a curve where the best sharpness that starts kind of low at that wide open and then a cz you goto the one stop two stops uh stopped down it gets a lot sharper. Your lenses always get a lot sharper and then all of a sudden you start to get to a compromise and up up in this area of about eleven or somewhere in that area at sixteen it starts to come down a little bit maurine it f twenty two you're back down here maybe not nearly as good as you were at the beginning but its overall, not sharp, so in this case, we can stay wide open, sharp as we can and take a number of shots, here's an example, we've got all of his shots of the flower, and if you look closely here, this is completely out of sharp there's, no sharpness here it all and in the last image here were sharp at the front, but not at the back, so we've got six images, which are zones of sharpness, and as we focus on the on the image, we focus, take a picture, move a little further, we move that zone of sharpness through the image, but they have to overlap as we do it. So you have to sort of know in your mind how much you're going to get. You can use your depth of field preview button, or you can just use the example that you see in the viewfinder, because your lens is showing you what everything is wide open and it's going to be a lot better than that, because you're going to stop down at least a couple of stops. So in adobe photo shop, you would end up putting these all into one folder you will then go and into, uh, you would actually go into the file area you would let's see, I think we're actually in in the rock amber in the rock and murder here and we can actually go from the rock and verger goto go to the images and go to photo shop and then put all of the images into the same layer make layers into into photo shop itself. So that's one way of doing it, it's in the notes that we've got, I give you the step by step by step, as it is to do it here. Helicon focus it's a simple matter of you bring all of the images in there. Over here on this one side, you highlight all of them. You press a button here that says, do it and it doesn't, and you watch it happen in front of you, it's almost it's, almost as if you were, you know, people talk about doing darkroom work where they saw the image come up in the developer, and people always talk about how wonderful it was that things were happening in front of them, and this is almost the same thing. You watch the image, the image over here on the left is the image that's being worked on at that moment. The image over here on the right is the building top of the image, and it just keeps getting sharper and sharper and sharper as it goes through the as it goes through so here's your end result and this was a twenty four to one o five standard kit lens on the camera on a tripod and I'm walking along I see it and I just focused it and just did a series of focus is at one hundred five millimeters and the end result is a nice complete depth of field throughout the whole subject it's up here it is worrying you just make the stuff happen and again if you've already got photoshopped you've already got the software you just do this and take it home and try it out and these other software as I mentioned helicon focus and serene stacker you can use them for free for thirty days so it will hook you and there's no question at the end of thirty days is oh I want to keep this so you gotta pay for it it's a really great way of sucking you into some of these things like this so serene stacker is the other software and this one is out of this actually out of the state of washington uh gentlemen sort of in central washington but he's come up with this wonderful program now here you can see I have four images that I shot of this orchid and this is orchid is in hawaii it's on the trail and I did have a tripod with me but I didn't want the background to be sharp so even though I just did small amounts I put the lens almost wide open and when I got to the back of the flour over here this is now out of focus the background is still out of focus I don't want everything it gets too busy so you can actually do ah selective focus using of stacking you just know have to know when to stop so here's the rain stackers you put them all into one area bringing drop him into place a dragon drop hit the button at the top and it does once again this is the shot it's working with this is the composite that's happening and it just builds and when you're doing like thirty or forty images if you just watch it slowly move through the image and it's just pretty pretty fantastic and here's your end result the orchids are all perfectly sharp and what we've got here is the background stayed out of focus so you can control it it doesn't just blindly shoot a whole bunch of pictures and it just does whatever it's going to do you still have some control over that image so this was from g two for simple focus stacking do you require any special equipment for simple focus stacking know there's two ways to do focus stacking one of them is to take the barrel of your lens you're focusing part on the lens and you just make slight movements within the focus and this is for subjects that little bit further away when you get into focus stacking for something closer you need to move the camera but you need to move them perfectly so then a slider of some sort or a focusing rail would be necessary for that type of thing but for generally for this landscape thing that I was talking about there there's no equipment of any sort extra needed because you're just going to do it by the focusing ring on the camera and so from rt verb than is it better when doing macro shots is it better to refocus the lens or move the whole camera with fixed focus for this man really macro you have to move the camera macro meaning one x or closer close up photography you made there is a point where you can still do like a one eighty macro or a one hundred millimeter macron's there are you could still do a little bit of the focusing within the lens but the minute you get within that very close distance here then you don't have that range within the lens to do it and you need to be slower just very slight movements and a focusing rail is your best answer for that or the stack shot which we'll get into when we come back from the break great okay and then from edwin connote a d use spot hearing to create images for stacking the type of meeting you use for stacking is probably not that critical spot mentoring may be the perfect example. The main thing is that all the exposures are going to be the same if you have an area on it, this fairly neutral and you wanted that needs to be where your exposure is and spot meeting would be just fine. Generally, I would say that overall monitoring is fine, and if you're going to use flash and in trying to get beyond one x, you're going to probably using flash than teo on checking it on the back on you lcd and checking your history, graham are going to be the ways that you're going to determine if you're correct great. So me during depends on the scenario where you are just as exactly ok, great now somebody a couple people were. Could you talk again? What you mean when you're saying one x and five s? It's good that's, a good question, okay, one x is the subject you have let's, say, it's a dime and the sensor we take a picture of it and on the sensor, and in the past that was film, it could still be film. In fact, it is the same size on that sensor or on that film as it is in real life. If you looked at that sensor and you saw the image on the sensor or incense on the back of your lcd, it would it would actually be the same size as the diamonds that is one x it's, also known as life size or one to one so there's three ways of saying that. So if it's two x, the diamonds this big in real life, it's going to be twice that big when it's on the camera and maybe you're not getting the whole dime in there when we started getting to five extra, so like that, now you're just seeing a very small part of this little subject that's on, um, I think that explains it to a large degree, but you also have the settings on the camera on the lens. If you're using a macro lens, they'll say one no one wanted to, so you can actually pre set the camera toe one to one and move in and out until you get that one the one if that's what you're looking for that's, another way to do it. I also will shoot a millimeter ruler at times and knowing that I have a full frame sensor, which is twenty four by thirty six millimeters, as what film was, I can count them the number of millimeters on that and divide that to find out what my what my exes in the sense that sometimes you're like six or seven or eight x, you've got a bunch of gear put together, you have no idea what you're getting here, you just can see it, and if you could see it, you can take a picture of it and then I'll shoot a picture of the ruler, and then once I get in the computer, I can blow it up and I can count the millimeters and I could know it with seven x, right? This question came out when we were showing the multi cameras, the multiple cameras, and this is from sports shots and has several votes on it. How do you trigger all the cameras all at once? We're supposed to talk about that when we were when we were doing that, I have made up any number of ways of plugging in all the cameras, and I've rewired into one into one place you can also take and do one of these electronic wireless set ups and you what you do is you put receivers on all two or three of the cameras, and when you fire that when you fire the button, all three go off and I've done it both ways the easiest way and the way to be absolutely sure it's gonna work is to rewire to get a couple of handheld getsem, inexpensive remotes rewire them, cider them together and when you push one button, it fires all three cameras at the same time. That was a good question. Why here's here? Okay, so another question about the multiple camera bodies when using multiple camera bodies and lenses mounted to the same plane to create a panorama, will the a f of the out of focus fine tuning have any effect on the image when they're not the same for each camera? Can you talk a little bit about what that means? And the rig that we I had sitting up there was an expensive rig from really write stuff which is in made in california and not everybody is gonna have this big bar with each of these methods, which actually have a rotation on him and everything else you can have three tripods and a cz long is there really close to each other? And as long as they're in the same line? Uh, but manual focus now, if you're doing the thing with the flying birds and so forth, if you have them all set at auto focus at the same time, it may very well work and it's a crapshoot there's there's no there's, no question about the the ocean waves that was easy I mean, they're all out there, you focus each individual camera and when you have the picture you want you click it when you have the flying birds going up you pretty much again have an area out there that you're focused on I put it on manual focus and then expected to follow subjects and something like that that might be a little more difficult it's not impossible nothing's impossible we can figure it out in one way or another if we mess with it long enough that's good. So experimenting this's all I mean the techniques that I'm showing you know the example we have appear on the screen was an accident we take the accident we say whoa, how did that happen? And when you figure out how that happened we now make it work on purpose and then we make it better okay? So I'm actually not familiar with this term of focus breathing and the question is from wit duncan when focus stacking are there certain lenses that you recommend with minimal focus breathing or do the programs that you recommend correct the focus breathing issues? I'm not sure the word focus breathing I have not heard I'm not I can only guess but the main thing is tohave enough overlap okay to be absolutely sure that when you take again we're doing zones of focus and they have to overlap and the more here's the rule for stacking and we maybe get more into this little later but stacking you khun you khun easily take not enough images, but you can't take too many pictures. The main idea is to make sure they overlap, and if you just barely move and each one of them one of my biggest mistakes I made when I first started working with, with stacking and this program of came out trying to remember that that was not serene stacker, but the other one. Helicon focus. When it first came out, it was very rudimentary, and I was blown away by this possibility, and the biggest mistake I made was not doing enough shots. There was not quite enough overlapping, and there was not as much. Sharpness is I expected. So if you're not getting as much sharpness out of your stacking as you expected, it's, because you're not taking enough images.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

George Lepp - Syllabus.pdf
George Lepp - Gear List.pdf

Bonus Materials

George Lepp - Innovative Techniques For Outdoor Photography - Notes.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

R. Hetrick

Amazing class! I particularly loved the macro and how to correctly take panoramic photos sections. George was not only a great teacher but he was super funny too. Would be happy to take any of his future classes.


I watched the entire class, and found it to be a very negative experience - in contrast to all of my other experiences with Creative Live, which had been very good. The problem with this class was the instructor. Mr. Lepp, rather than giving us practical, useful information, and techniques for approaching the subject of Outdoor Photography, instead used his time to show off his seemingly endless array of incredibly expensive and cutting edge gadgetry. For the first half hour or so, Mr. Lepp seemed pleasant and interesting, but it quickly became apparent that this class was NOT about anything relating to the art of outdoor photography. Instead, it was basically a seminar highlighting exotic equipment for the 1%. I have well over $25,000 of photographic equipment, but the arena in which Mr. Lepp plays begins somewhere around the $100,000 mark, and then requires a staggering ongoing budget for chartering helicopters, hiring guides, and constant upgrades to remain on the bleeding edge of gadgetry and accessories. From his gyroscopic mounts to his 40" printer, Mr. Lepp has it ALL and continues to spend, spend, spend. I admire his deep pockets, but I would have appreciated some real insight and technique and useful knowledge on actually getting great shots. (And I must say... Mr. Lepp's work... did not impress me to the degree that other teachers on CreativeLive have.) I believe those giving positive reviews here were more or less wowed by the sheer magnitude of his extensive, well-funded travels and his off-handed way of revealing the endless contraptions and combinations of gear he uses. The passion here is clearly about the gadgetry, and NOT about finding an original and creative voice in the arena of outdoor photography.


George really prepared a lot of information for his class. It is true, he does have a lot of expensive equipment and we may not be able to do some of the things he does with a smaller budget, but it is good incentive for us to plan for the future. He seemed to share new information constantly and stay focused and I was able to take a lot of notes. He talked about many kinds of equipment as well as software and websites he uses. I am pretty impressed that he is so up to date with recent technology. He especially loves macro/micro and stacking hundreds of images for minute focus on really large enlargements (for example, over 600 photos for one butterfly wing). That can get boring if you are not interested in doing that. I can take those tips and apply them to landscape photography though. I think it is more helpful for someone already doing outdoor photography and looking for new inspiration or new techniques as opposed to someone new to photography in general.

Student Work