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NKRemote Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is a technique for increasing the depth of field by taking a series of photographs with different focus settings and then combining them together using the areas in focus from each image. This technique is useful for macro and close-up photography, landscapes, product photography and any other image where the depth of field is critical and the subject isn't moving. The live view display in NKRemote makes it simple to automate the process of taking a sequence of images with different focus settings by running a script. Once the pictures have been taken they can be combined using free software such as CombineZM or commercial software like Helicon Focus (the example images on this page were combined using CombineZM).

Please Note: The example photos on this page were taken using a Canon EOS DSLR and our DSLR Remote Pro software. Similar results can be obtained using a Nikon DSLR and NKRemote.

Example 1 Model car
Combined image from 38 shots taken with Canon EOS 40D, 50mm f/1.8 lens @ f/5.6

A single shot taken with Canon EOS 40D, 50mm f/1.8 lens @ f/11

How to take the photos using NKRemote

What do you need?

  1. A Nikon DSLR which supports live view e.g. D810, D800, D800E, D4s, D4, D750, D610, D600, D7200, D7100, D7000, D90, D5500, D5300, D5200, D5100, D5000, D300, D300s, D700, D3s, D3 or D3X
  2. A copy of NKRemote (you can use the free trial version for 15-days) and a USB cable connecting your camera to your computer
  3. A sturdy tripod to hold the camera steady while taking the sequence
  4. AutoHotKey - a free scripting tool which can be downloaded from http://www.autohotkey.com
  5. focus_stacking.ahk - an AutoHotKey script for taking the photos and adjusting the focus. This can be found in the NKRemote installation folder
  6. CombineZM - a free program for combining the images (download CombineZM)

First download and install the software if it isn't already installed on your PC: NKRemote, AutoHotKey and CombineZM. Then download the focus_stacking.zip file, unzip it and copy the focus_stacking.ahk to somewhere convenient.

Next mount the camera on the tripod, select manual exposure mode and compose the shot, roughly focusing the lens on the subject. Then connect the camera to your PC using the USB cable and run NKRemote. Activate the live view on the PC by typing Ctrl+L and use the mouse wheel or cursor keys focus the lens on the nearest part of the subject. Finally, double click on the focus_stacking.ahk file to run the script to take the photos. NKRemote's live view window will appear and a sequence of shots with different focus settings will be taken. Please don't touch you computer while the sequence is being taken otherwise it may not work properly.

By default the focus_stacking.ahk script will take 15 images. This can be changed either by editing the script using a text editor or by running the script from the Windows Command Prompt and specifying the number of images on the command line e.g.
C:\> focus_stacking.ahk 15

Example 2 Flower
Combined image from 30 shots taken with Canon EOS 40D, 90mm macro lens @ f/4

A single shot taken with Canon EOS 40D, 90mm macro lens @ f/8

Combining the images (or focus stack)

Run CombineZM and select "New" from the "File" menu. Locate the folder containing the images taken earlier, select all the images in the file open dialog and click "Open". CombineZM will load the images (this may take a few seconds). Then select "Do Stack" from the "Macro" menu to combine the image (this may take a few minutes). When it has finished the combined image will be displayed in CombineZM's main window. The image can be saved by selecting "Save Frame/Picture As" from the "File" menu.

Example 3 Model train (OO scale)
Combined image from 35 shots taken with Canon EOS 40D, 90mm macro lens @ f/5

A single shot taken with Canon EOS 40D, 90mm macro lens @ f/8