One of the challenges of close-up and macro work is that depth of field is very shallow. That can be good for backgrounds, but bad for the subject. But if you stop the lens down, the background can start to get distracting yet the subject still isn't as sharp throughout as you might like.
So I tried something completely different simply because the technology did not exist before. I can shoot with the lens set to a wide aperture so the background stays out of focus, yet I can get the subject all in focus! That is focus stacking, not new technology, but to make it work, my camera has something new in technology. It is pretty cool.
Last year, Panasonic introduced what was called "Post Focus" for a number of their Lumix cameras. What this did was to take a number of photos continuously while changing focus slightly between every shot. This allowed you to choose the "best focus" later, but what seemed most interesting to me was the potential for focus stacking.
Focus stacking takes multiple photos shot at different focus points and combines them so that all of the sharp parts show up in one photo. This allows deeper subjects to gain sharpness throughout even when depth of field is shallow. Many close-up and macro photographers have been doing this by manually changing focus as they shoot. Post Focus does this automatically.
My Lumix GX8 was capable of it with a firmware update. I did that update last fall, but never took the time to try out this technology until now.
It takes a little getting used to. You press the shutter and the camera takes over, changing focus as it goes, and you can see this on the Live View. Then you have to save the photos individually.
You can end up with a lot of photos. I put them into Lightroom and quickly weeded out the excess (photos that had little visible change), then adjusted the first image and synced those adjustments to all of the images.
Next, I sent the images to Photoshop from Lightroom, using Edit In with the Open as Layers in Photoshop command (select a group of photos, then right-click any one of them to see Edit In). There, I used Auto-Align and Auto-Blend (Stack) to merge all the images as one.
These photos are of manzanita flowers – manzanita is a California native plant that typically blooms about now. Below are two photos showing the original limited depth of field and then the final shot. There are a whole mess of photos in between the two "originals."