Gray Tree Frog – Stacking With Zerene Stacker

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25 thoughts on “Gray Tree Frog – Stacking With Zerene Stacker

  1. Using the Lightroom plugins for Helicon, Zerene and direct to PS, I find it so easy to load 100’s of
    stacked images directly into photoshop, select and use the plug-ins and then return to PS for editing
    and/or exporting to PS. Might be a good update to your LR series and of course this one

  2. Steve, I have pretty much purchased all your content and loving it! Please also do a similar video for multi-row panoramas using a RRS gimbal and post-processing stitch in Lightroom/Photoshop. Please also complement all your e-books with videos since videos are so much easier to consume.

    I have one question on manual focus, when you turn the manual focus ring a picture of a flower and infinity appears in the view finder along with a solid bar in between. Similar to other mirrorless cameras (Fuji XT4, Leica SL2) can I turn the focus ring to align the solid bar between the foreground and infinity thus achieving hyperfocal distance. This business of using laser pointers and PhotoPils app is very cumbersome in the field.

    1. As far as I can tell, that’s just a distance scale, nothing more. It doesn’t change with F/stop and it should if it’s indicating hyperfocal distance. At the mid-way point, it’s nowhere near hyperfocal in the simple tests I just tried.

      Also, I usually just pace the distances off on the incredibly rare occasion I use hyperfocal distance. The vast majority of the time, I stack.

  3. Excelent workshop. Congrats. Steve and many thanks. All is quite clear. However, for me (English is not my “lingua mater”) was a little hard to follow, since the words in some passages seemed me as overlapped as the pink flower petals… ha! ha!… Now, my main use of f.stacking is for landscapes. So, for that purpose, would you recommend H. Focus or Z.Stacker? . Another question: Did you say for stacks with less than 20 photos you usually uses Method A in H. Focus, right? Thanks again and have a nice day

    1. Either program should be able to handle it. As I mention elsewhere in the course, if I had to pick one, I’d probably choose Zerene by just a nose.

      With less than 20 images in helicon, I’d try method “A” but I’d still stack with all three and compare. Doing that have saved me a ton of time in the past – sometimes one method (one you may not expect) gives the best results and needs little to no retouch.

  4. Steve, I have Helicon Focus, Affinity Photo and PS. I’ve been stacking for panoramas mostly and sometimes for focus stacks of images. I find Affinity is much better for panos than PS, but I’ll give Helicon Focus a try at them as well. Any comments on Affinity Photo?

    1. Hi Mike –

      I’ve never used Affinity, so I can’t say. I’d say try Helicon and Zerene and see how it goes – free trials, so nothing to lose 🙂

  5. Hi Steve,
    Great workshop. You sure cover all the details.
    It would be good to see the original stack compared to Lightroom finished.

  6. Is there a reason, why you are always exporting as TIFFs ???
    I know that Zerene Stacker does not accept raw files, but Helicon does. I am tempted to go with Helicon, because of that. I guess, if you always are adjusting the files in lightroom first, using the raw files is kind of obsolete, because these are necessarily just that “raw”. But would it make sense to export as DNGs instead of TIFFs and then use Helicon, which can deal with raw files?
    Or is it even necessary to first make these adjustments? If Helicon uses raws and also preserves the output file as raw, would it not be more powerful to do these adjustments on the final stacked raw file (and potentially save an editing step)?
    I guess I am confused quite a bit by the necessity for the pre-processing adjustments. You say they are minimal, but in the field you are also shooting manual to make sure lightning doesn’t drastically change. So, are these pre-adjustments even necessary then? To me it seems like you are doing the same steps twice at the additional costs of being able to edit a stacked Helicon raw file (which presumably is more powerful than editing an already processed TIFF) !! ???

  7. PS: And this is also of course about disk space. TIFFs are gigantic and you keep the original raws, even if you delete the TIFFs after processing they are, at least temporarily, a heavy load of duplicate files, which seems unnecessary. Time is of course also an issue, converting hundreds of images before stacking them and then processing them in the stacker all adds up. I read online that Helicon is generally much faster than Zerene – does that refer to the stacking only or is it in part a result of being able to skip the raw conversion?

    1. The reason I use Tiffs in the examples is because Helicon Focus relies on Camera RAW to open RAW files and not everyone has uses Adobe products. If someone doesn’t have Lightroom or ACR, I wanted to make sure the workflow was still adaptable. If you do have compatible Adobe products, using RAW / DNG is a good way to go. If you are using RAW / DNG, you can skip the initial processing steps. I’ve had this come up a couple times, so I may add a supplement video for it.

  8. Amazing tutorial as usual Steve. Very thorough and concise, easy to understand even though I’ve never tried focus stacking before. As I said previously my D500 does not have focus stacking but I will try doing this manually, any tips?

  9. I noticed you dropped the f stop and the ISO in the 2nd frog picture. Did the light change or did you notice you could because you saw the first stack

    1. The light changed a bit and I think I accidentally hit the F-stop and didn’t mean to.

  10. I noticed you never use the tonecurve to make a Image more contrast ??

  11. Great workshop, Steve! You have a gift for teaching. You get straight to the point, include all the necessary information, and somehow manage to answer nearly all the questions I had coming into each video.

    I just have two remaining questions.

    1. Suppose I run a sequence of focus shifts on the frog, then I do it again, one or more times. For each focus point, there’s a reasonable chance that I’ll have at least one photo where the the frog is inhaling. Suppose I swapped out all the exhale shots from the sequence for an inhale shot from one of the other sequences, in an attempt to have a stack of all inhale shots. Assuming the light did not change drastically and the frog did not change position from one sequence to the next, would this be a recommended strategy?

    2. The vast majority of my photography is of pit vipers. My experience is that they will hold their breath for a period of time (assuming they are calm) and then occasionally take a big breath of air. When you photographed the eyelash viper (or any other vipers you’ve stacked), did you get the entire sequence while the snake was holding its breath, or did you have an inhale in the sequence, and if so, how did you deal with it?

    1. 1. It’s totally possible of everything stays put. In my experience, it usually doesn’t though!

      2. They seem to breath much slower, so it’s never been an issue.

  12. Fantastic course. I’ve learned a ton of new stuff. Thank you.

  13. Very well done, Steve.
    The entire tutorial was right on target.

  14. Very good content Steve and as always attractively presented! Even though I’ve been doing focus stacking with my D850 for a while now, I’ve taken away ideas and learned things during post-processing.
    So far I use Zerene which has a cool feature for retouching: if you press and hold the Alt key (Windows), the target image is overlaid with the source image. You can then see very nicely which parts of the source image are sharper than in the target image and should possibly be transferred, such as on the throat of the frog.

  15. Amazing tutorial….learned so much, not just about focus stacking but Lightroom, photoshop, and the two focus stacking products. Excellent, excellent, excellent. 5 Stars !

  16. Excellent content as always, Steve. I certainly learned a lot, definitely worth the money. Your style of teaching is very conversational, hence it is like a one on one experience for me. Also, you add a lot of details, which add value to the experience.

    I do have one area which I see another person has touched on, but I did not see a reply by you. The step where you make initial adjustments in lightroom and then sync the images – can you elaborate on why you think this is important, vs just doing all the adjustments on the final single image? It’s not a difficult step, however, I use other processing software, and the concept of syncing changes across multiple images is not as straightforward, so If this can just as effectively be skipped as a step in the process, I would be interested in knowing that.

    Thanks for providing this content!

    1. Thanks for the kind words 🙂
      I prefer to make at least some adjustments to the initial images (especially things like exposure or wb) before stacking since I’m still woking with the RAW file. After stacking, I end up with a TIFF and I sometimes feel like they aren’t as “adjustable” as my RAWs.

  17. Steve, I enjoyed the tutorial and learned a lot. Which version of Zerene do you recommend?
    Professional Edition, $289 USD
    Prosumer Edition, $189 USD
    Personal Edition, $89 USD?

    Thank you.

    1. It depends on your needs (and I think it is discussed in one of the videos), but I think most people would be pretty happy with the Personal or Prosumer edition. The personal edition might be a good place to start – I think you can upgrade (you might want to verify that with them though) if you want to later for a reduced price, but please confirm that with Zerene (I may be mis-remembering).

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