Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

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We talked about accessories, composition-level advice, and the importance of the foreground before to try to give your landscape shots more depth and interest.

At a technical level, there has also been one aspect that we have paid much attention to: achieving a clear result. However, in order to achieve this invaluable sharpness in our landscape photographs, we have never spoken of a technique that could bring us pearls: the bracketing focus. Would you like to know how this technique can improve the results of your landscape? Do not miss this article.

Other Tips That Will Also Allow To Improve Your Landscapes

I mentioned it earlier, but I repeat it. We have written several articles that will help you improve your landscape photography. So if you are interested in the topic and have not been able to take a look, here are some tips:

As you can see, the last of the articles mentioned above is completely dedicated to achieving greater clarity in your landscapes. Why? Because a greater clarity is fundamental to achieve a good result.

How is it possible to achieve greater sharpness?

To achieve greater clarity, it is important to consider some recommendations:

  • use accessories to improve your stability and prevent unwanted movements (tripod, timer, remote trigger, lock the mirror …
  • Do not use filters and keep the lens completely clean .
  • achieves the greatest possible depth of field , through the hyperfocal , if necessary.
  • Choose the sweet spot of your goal.

However, the last two recommendations are difficult to comply with simultaneously, so we often have to choose one or the other. Of course, both recommendations have their pros and cons. Let’s see them:

  • If we opt for the hyperfocal , we achieve a wide depth of field , from very close to the camera, to infinity, thanks to the use of very closed diaphragm apertures of type f / 16, f / 18 … However, precisely the The use of these apertures reduces the sharpness of the image by the diffraction produced by these apertures.
  • If we opt for the use of openings of the type f / 8, f / 9, f / 11 (in which the sweet spot is usually of a good number of objectives), we achieve a greater clarity , but, nevertheless, although we try to using its hyperfocal, we find a lower depth of fieldthat means that not all the distances covered by the scene are sufficiently clear.

How do we solve this problem? Very easy. We will use the sharpness of our lens’ sweet spot openings across different focus distances and then merge the results so that the sharpness resulting from the final image is superior to the original images separately.

The Problem of Sharpness in Images

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will try to show what I said in the previous section, but through pictures that show the pros and cons of using one or the other opening in landscape photography.

Forgive me for using the image that I know has nothing to do with landscape photography. But it was what I had at my disposal to illustrate the article.

The following image was taken with the following parameters: 17 mm, 1/80 s, f / 16, ISO 100, focus distance 1 meter (practically the hyperfocal area).

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

At this resolution, the commented diffraction problem is barely appreciated, but what happens if I include a 100% cut and compare it with a cutout of the same scene but with the following characteristics: 17mm, 1/320 sec, f / 8, ISO 100, focus distance 40 meters ?

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

As you can see, the differences are very noticeable. On the left, the section of the picture taken with f / 16 is much softer. And on the right the image taken with f / 8 of the image, in which a much larger definition can be seen in the image.

If the difference is so clear, why shoot with f / 16? Well, because, although the result of the above-mentioned diffraction is not so clear, it allows to cover a greater depth of field than f / 8, something fundamental for landscape photography.

However, there is an alternative to merge multiple shots made with f / 8 and select different focus distances to achieve the two goals: achieving a greater depth of field (by the sum of the depths of field of the different shots) and achieving greater clarity (thanks the use of the sweet spot of the lens).

How to Apply  Focus Bracketing With Photoshop?

What we are looking for, as we mentioned before, is to merge several images of the same scene (at least two: foreground and background), with identical parameters, aperture, exposure time, ISO, focal, composition, etc. But in which we vary, only the point of focus.

To this, we will call it focus bracketing , and, as we will see below, it is tremendously easy to achieve with Photoshop. We will follow the following steps:

1. Make several captures of the scene by varying only the focus point . In this example case, we will use two images of the same scene with the following settings:  17mm, 1/320 sec, f / 8, ISO 100 . The one on the left with a focus distance of 0.75 meters and the second with a focus distance of 40 meters.

2. Open both photographs as layers in Photoshop (File> Scripts> Load files in stack …).

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

3. Align the layers automatically . To do this, select both layers and click Edit> Align layers automatically …

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

As you can see in the image, choose the Automatic projection and deselect the lens correction options.

4. Merge layers automatically . Through this action you will be telling Photoshop to merge both layers and stay with the sharpest areas of each layer.

To do this, keep the two layers selected and click Edit> Merge layers automatically …

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

The result will be the application of a mask to each of the layers, so that each one of them takes the sharpest information for the final composition.

The result you can see it below. (I have taken the license to correct the perspective, nothing more)

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

As with the original af / 16 image, it is necessary to appreciate cuts at 100% to observe the level of sharpness of the image. We will take a couple of regions to compare the level of sharpness obtained with that obtained with a single shot at f / 16, right?

First, a region at medium distance.

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

And then one of the most distant regions of the scene.

Focus on Landscape Bracketing: your photography much sharper

And, of course, all this without going to edit any of the images. As you know, both Photoshop itself and other tools such as Lightroom, allow you to greatly improve the sharpness of your photographs in the processing of the image.

It is worth the effort to merge the layers and get a higher level of sharpness, do not you think?

And that’s all my friends

So far the technique. Now it’s your turn to tell us if you ‘ve already tried them, if you have any doubts about it, or if you have other tips to complement the article.

In any case, as you see, not everything in photography just after pressing the button on your camera , and this is a great example of not only important to know our camera, how to use it and its limitations. But also how to try to reduce these limitations and get the best out of our equipment through a good processing of our images.

Or are you one of those who think that when the process passes from a simple adjustment of parameters we are no longer talking about photography? How would you rate this technique in this case?

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