When Your Camera and Lens Can’t Give You the Depth of Field You Need…You Need Helicon Focus from HeliconSoft
Advanced interpolation techniques.
Camera RAW support
Unlimited number of images.
Resolution capabilities of more than 100MPs.
Windows and Mac versions.
For many types of photographs, the goal is to control depth of field and create a good balance between the background and the primary subject or object. You want the perfect bokeh effect in portraits to give photos more dimensionality, so the subject pops from the background. Sports and action photography also requires a blurred background, so athletes don’t blend into the crowd behind them, losing the effect of their movement or the winning moment.
The correct depth of field for these types of images are within the capabilities of your camera and lenses and it doesn’t require much learning and practice on your part to produce the depth of field you want. You attach a smaller telephoto lens for portraits or a much larger telephoto lens for sports and action and select a large aperture…and you’ve taken command of depth of field.
Once you’re interests turn to macro or product photography, however, depth of field isn’t so controllable. You’re forced to use a large telephoto lens with greater focal length and very small aperture openings, but that only creates an even shallower depth of field, which is exactly the opposite of what you want if your subject is a flower or tiny insect. The result is that only a very narrow sliver of the subject is in focus because you’ve essentially reached the limit of your camera and lens.
There is a solution, however, and that is the concept of focus stacking – and the tool that makes focus stacking easy is Helicon Focus from HeliconSoft. Focus stacking is the combination of multiple images of the same subject or scene you’ve shot at different focus points, using the Helicon Focus software application during post-production. Once you’ve uploaded the images into Helicon Focus, it easily stacks them into a single image with exactly as much or as little depth of field you desire.
Before Helicon Focus can do its job, you must first capture that series of images. For example, your subject is a tiny insect. Of course, shooting multiple images of the insect without it moving slightly or to another perch is quite a challenge. Add the possibility of the light changing even just a bit and it might seem like an impossible task. You may have to shoot a number of insects before one remains perfectly still during the time it takes to record those multiple images. That’s why this type of photography takes such practice and perseverance. Many of the best nature macro-photographers will recommend that you shoot in the shade and/or even erect a temporary blind or use a tent, so the light is more diffused, wind or even the slightest breeze doesn’t move the insect and it’s less likely to fly to another location.
Once you have control of the conditions, you’ll then want to plan the series of images you need for focus stacking. For example, you could focus on whatever part of the insect is furthest in front of its body, either its front legs or antenna. Your next image could be the features at the front of the head: mouthparts or fine hairs. Then, maybe the eyes and if they are large, then you may need two different images, focusing on the front of the eyes and their furthest surface from the camera. Professional nature photographers caution that you don’t want a final image that shows the entire insect’s body in focus. It creates an unnatural look and those viewing your macro photos will find it confusing. If you’re shooting directly at the head of the insect, then the mid- and end-portions of its body should probably not be in focus.
Now that you have all your images at different focus points, it’s time to use Helicon Focus. Without going too deep into the technology behind Helicon Focus, suffice it to say that the people at HeliconSoft have cleverly developed a software product that is as easy to use as possible. They achieved this by purposely developing algorithms with default values that result in beautifully rendered images for most photographers and most types of images. The company was also smart enough to know that Helicon Focus also had to have a choice of parameters to address some photographers’ unique visions and tricky shooting challenges.
With Helicon Focus, you can also select a radius value, which allows you to control or remove most of the digital noise or artifacts, especially halos along the edges that can occur in macrophotography. Helicon Focus includes a smoothing parameter, which defines how sharp areas in your images are combined. Plus, the alignment parameters in Helicon Focus will help correct any camera or subject movement from shot to shot.
Helicon Soft Specifications
Helicon Focus is available in Lite, Pro and Premium versions. Pro and Premium have all the features of Lite, plus exclusive features. Visit heliconsoft.com for the complete details of Helicon Focus – and where you’ll also find the company’s other products: Helicon Remote, Helicon Filter, Helicon 3D Viewer, Helicon Photo Safe and Helicon Montage.
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