How to Focus Stack in Affinity Photo: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you want to keep your whole subject in focus but don’t have the necessary depth of field, you should try focus stacking. This is a handy technique that allows you to combine multiple images (focused at different points) to create a perfectly clean merged file.

But how can you focus the stack using Affinity Photo? Luckily, making an Affinity Focus Stack is incredibly easy, and in this article, I’ll walk you through it step by step. I share:

  • How to Focus the Pile in the Field
  • How to merge resulting images in Affinity
  • How to refine the result for the best possible photo

Ready to create macro, landscape and still life photos with ultra-deep depth of field? So let’s dive straight into the nitty-gritty, starting with the first step:

Step 1: Set up your tripod

old camera

Whenever you plan to do focus stacking, whatever your topic, you to have to use a tripod. It is essential that no camera movement is involved. If the camera moves while you take your series of photos, you’ll have to start over.

You see, you need to have all the images in your focus stack framed in exactly the same way. If any of the images don’t match, Affinity will have trouble merging the files, you’ll end up with ghost images and the final image won’t look sharp.

Step 2: Select your subject and compose your photo

Once you have your tripod out, set up your camera and lens. Choose a stationary subject, then carefully compose your image. Moving subjects will complicate the process too much when you’ve just learned the stacking technique – they can easily ruin an otherwise well-executed stack – so make sure your subject is completely still.

(If you’re shooting a flower, wait until the wind stops before you start shooting. Even a small amount of movement will cause problems!)

By the way: most focus stacks take 3, 5 or even 20 frames. So make sure your composition looks good before you start. You don’t want to find yourself halfway through your stack and then realize you failed to eliminate a distracting background element. Consider doing a quick inspection of the entire frame before you start shooting.

Set your camera mode to Manual. Adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get the right exposure. (If you’re not sure you got the right exposure, go ahead and take a test shot.) Then, once you’ve dialed in your manual settings, don’t adjust them. It is important that all photos in the series are exhibited identically. And set your white balance manually or with a preset; don’t leave it on Auto!

Be aware that focus stacking is a time-consuming process. So if you can get the required depth of field without taking additional photos, follow this route instead. Only use focus stacking when absolutely necessary!

Here is my stacking configuration:

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

Step 3: Take a series of photos

Now that you’ve set up your camera and selected the correct settings, put your lens in manual focus mode. (This is usually done with an AF/MF switch on the side of the lens, although you can sometimes control the focus mode in your camera’s settings menu.)

The goal here is to capture a series of files, with each new frame focusing on a different part of your subject. This way, when you open the images in Affinity Photo, the program can blend all the shots together to create a clean image.

So start by focusing on the part of the subject closest to you and take a picture. If your camera has a depth of field preview button, tap it and check which part of the scene is in focus. You can also review the image on the camera monitor; zoom in to see exactly where the image starts to blur. Then adjust your lens so it’s centered on that spot and take another shot.

At this point, you just need to repeat the above process until you have captured clear photos of the entire subject. Keep moving the focus point farther and farther and eventually you’ll cover the subject back and forth. (If you want to bring the background into focus, feel free to continue!)

The number of shots you need to take varies depending on the lens, the distance to the subject, and the settings you are using. Landscape photographers often only capture 2 or 3 images for a focus stack, but macro and product photographers can take 10, 20 or more than 30 images, especially when working at high magnifications. If you are just starting out, I encourage you to challenge yourself. Affinity can easily handle all the extra hits. But if you fail to capture a necessary file, your end result will be blurry and the stack will be ruined.

(My stacked image, used for illustrative purposes, required 4 images.)

Step 4: Focus stack in Affinity Photo

Once you’ve taken your set of files, Affinity Photo makes the focusing process ridiculously simple.

Simply open the software, select Casethen New focus merge:

Menu Affinity Screenshot

The New Focus Merge window will open. Click on To add, then select the photos you want to focus on. Click on OKAY:

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo will start merging the photos. How long it takes will depend on how many photos you’re merging and their file sizes, but if you’ve only taken 2-10 images, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

Step 4: Examine the resulting image and fix any issues

Once Affinity Photo has finished processing the focus stack, the Sources panel appears with a list of images. At the top you will see the new merged image created by Affinity Photo. Below, you will see all the files that have been used in the stack:

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

Then, with the merged image selected, zoom in. Carefully scroll through the image, looking for imperfections. If you identify such areas, use the Toggle Source Preview button at the bottom left of the Sources panel. Click on all the images in the stack until you find the one that the sharpest in the problem area.

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

In my merged photo, the back edge of the camera has problematic ghosting:

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

But clicking on the image stack, I can find two sharp images – one that covers the left rear of the old camera and one that covers the right rear.

Select the photo in the stack that renders the problem area the sharpest. Then select the Clone tool. Set it to 100% opacity. Paint over the problem area and watch the ghost images disappear!

how to focus stack in Affinity Photo

How to Focus the Stack in Affinity Photo: Final Words

Creating a focus stack in Affinity Photo is surprisingly simple! I’ve used other software to create layered images, but of all the programs I’ve tried, Affinity is the most painless. Being able to simply select the images and automatically stack them is hugely convenient – and Affinity’s Clone tool makes cleaning up blurry areas easy.

If you’re new to focus stacking, experiment with it on a few different topics and situations. Shoot a landscape or two, do a still life, and capture macro compositions. Each topic will require a slightly different approach, but that’s part of the fun!

And experiment with aperture settings as you go. I used a 105mm lens set to f/4 for my example shots, but if you have the option to stop the lens, go ahead and do it. The greater the depth of field of each image, the fewer images you will need in your stack.

Of course, as with any new technique, practice a lot; over time you will get better!

What type of images are you focusing on as a focus stacker? Share your opinion in the comments below!

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