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How to Focus Merge with Affinity Photo

Watch video: Focus stacking in Affinity Photo

When shooting close-up macro subjects, the depth of field will be very shallow and the plane of sharpness may only stretch a few millimeters across the subject – even when using narrower apertures. So it can be a struggle to record a sharp close-up image from front to back. 

Read more: Affinity Photo 1.8 review (opens in new tab)

If you need total sharpness, one of the best photography tips (opens in new tab) is to try focus stacking. This involves taking a series of shots, using a tripod-mounted camera, and adjusting the focus ring after capturing each frame so that a different part of the scene is in focus. 

Once done, the sharp parts can be merged into one super-detailed macro photograph. Affinity Photo offers a powerful focus stacking tool called Focus Merge. Not only is it easy to use, it also produces excellent results most of the time. However, no focus-stacking software is perfect! So, depending on the intricacy of the image, you might see messy blurred areas once the merge is complete. 

If this occurs, fixing the problem involves looking back through each image that makes up the composite and tweaking the blend so that a sharper area is targeted instead. In this project we’ll explain how it’s done…

Click to download the project files (opens in new tab) (Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

1. Select your image set

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

Initiating a focus merge in Affinity Photo is very easy. Simply open Affinity then go to File>New Focus Merge. Click Add in the dialog box and then navigate to your set of focus-stacked photos. Click-drag over the files to highlight them all, then hit Open to bring them into the New Merge.

2. Start the merge

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

Once you’ve chosen your images, hit Merge – this may take a few moments. First the images are aligned to correct for changes in subject size between each focus shift. Next a depth map is created to seek out the sharp parts in each frame, Finally, the sharp parts are merged together into one image.

3. Check for issues

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)

Once the merge is complete you’ll see the Sources panel appear. You can use this to manually fix any blurry areas if the merge has been unsuccessful. Zoom in close to check for problems. In this case some of the details in the plant aren’t as sharp as they could be.

4. Find sharper details

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)
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Click the Source Preview icon at the bottom left of the Sources panel to toggle it on. Now the view changes to allow you to click on each individual image that makes up the merge. Click through to determine if a sharper area exists than the one on the merged image. Here the bottom image offers a slightly sharper edge to the plant.

5. Clone the edges

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)
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Highlight the photograph in the Sources panel that contains the sharper area, then click the Source Preview icon again to return to the merged view. Next, grab the Clone tool and set Opacity to 100, then paint over the blurry area to fix it by cloning from the other image in the Sources panel.

6. Sharpen the details

(Image credit: James Paterson / Digital Camera World)
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Go to the Layers panel (View>Studio>Layers), then hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate the bottom layer. Go to Filter>Sharpen>High Pass. Set the Radius to about 2.5px, then go to the Layers panel and set the blend mode to Overlay. Make any other changes to finish off the image.  

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About N-Photo magazine

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The lead technique writer on Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab) and N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab), James is a fantastic general practice photographer with an enviable array of skills across every genre of photography. 

Whether it's flash photography techniques like stroboscopic portraits, astrophotography projects like photographing the Northern Lights, or turning sound into art by making paint dance on a set of speakers, James' tutorials and projects are as creative as they are enjoyable. 

As the editor of Practical Photoshop magazine, he's also a wizard at the dark arts of Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity, and is capable of some genuine black magic in the digital darkroom, making him one of the leading authorities on photo editing software and techniques.