How to Use Lightroom + Photoshop for Auto-Blend Focus Stacking

Focus Stacking is easier than you might think using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to Auto-Blend Layers. Let’s stack with a pair of images with near and distance focus. Normally you’d include a couple focus points in between – but this illustrates what a simple blend can do.

Note that in order to show how powerful the software is – these two images were shot handheld so they don’t line-up.

1. In the Lightroom Library Panel start by selecting the images you wish to blend

2. Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop to stack as them as layers in a PSD

3. Edit & Auto Blend Layers – Then select “Stack Images” in the pop-up window

4. Photoshop will align and analyse the layers selecting and masking the sharpest parts from each layer

5. Just like that BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! Here’s the Auto-Blend Image done using Focus Stacking

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23 thoughts on “How to Use Lightroom + Photoshop for Auto-Blend Focus Stacking”

  1. This layout looks a little different to mine. What is the article date, please – is it still relevant?

  2. Hello,
    That’s so simple. Yesterday, the Adobe tech support person could not tell me these steps—stacking steps in Ps using images from Lr via Edit>Load in Layers in Ps and then stacking. I think part of the issue is the terms “merging” and “stacking.” Anyway, I rarely complain about the excellent Adobe products and customer service, but this shouldn’t have been a difficult question for them. Thanks for your concise guide.

  3. Pretty slick!! Just starting with macro photography. Camera is on a dovetail getting slices in focus. That worked great!!

      1. You can also just “save” it via Photoshop and it will automatically transfer to LR. You may have to press F5 to have LR “refresh” the view.

  4. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to be able to auto-align for me. I even tried to crop each photo to the same size (in Lightroom), but I got frustrated and gave up at 1 pixel off, and it still doesn’t blend properly, even if I do a ‘reposition’ auto-align on them… I might try a couple other things.

    1. Actually, looks as if I did a ‘perspective’ auto-align with geometric distortion correct, but here’s how much of a Photoshop rookie I am: I can’t even figure out how to switch which layer is on top (but I’m sure I’m about to figure it out via google, just saying…)

  5. Yeah, I guess my handheld photos weren’t close enough in angle to align well enough. I’ll have to try again another time.

    1. That all depends on the angle of movement between frames. Handholding will work quite well if the subject is at infinity – but not at all when shooting macro

  6. Thanks for the concise tutorial and your willingness to communicate, perhaps you’d be willing to go a little further?
    I used my D850s focus merge feature to take about 10 shots of an orchid at f2.8, got them all through the PS stack process from LR, but PS didn’t do a perfect job of blending. So using Julian Baird’s YouTube video “Focus Shift Stacking with the Nikon D850 Capture and Process” I used masks to paint in the correct focus. Now I have 4 files, the original merged file and 3 masks, Is there anyway to get them back into LR in the original .NEF RAW format? The best I’ve been able to figure out is to save the merged file to .TIF, but that’s not really RAW…

    1. You probably want to make your global adjustments before merging the files, but at some point you need to move past RAW and 16-Bit Tiffs or PSDs have advantages over RAW including – as you’ve mentioned – layers and masking. If you want to keep the widest possible color gamut – stick to ProPhoto RGB as your color space.

  7. Hi Brian – thanks for taking the time to reply! I do/did initial edits in LR prior to stacking in PS and that’s an excellent tip. I suppose my desire to keep it RAW is a reflection of editing insecurity, a basic hoarder mentality, and as software improves I may want to tweak the shot for a better look, oh wait, that’s anal retention! LOL.
    Having done some more reading on TIFF vs RAW the basic concept seems to imply “smaller bit depth, embedded color balance, and embedded color space make it so that TIFF will lose quality more quickly with image adjustments than RAW”, hence my desire to continue in RAW.
    So I’ve deduced that you can’t maintain RAW format after Photo Shopping, and that’s OK, I’ll just make another stack from RAW and hope PS doesn’t leave as many artifacts to fix when I decide that my initial edits were in poor taste.
    Thanks again for your “How To” articles and…
    Happy Trails!

  8. Thanks very much – clear concise! I’ve been hesitant to do much with layers in Photoshop, but opened the door. Thanks!

  9. Thanks for the info. I stacked 5 shots from an A7Riv and when I pressed ‘save’ I ended up with a 3GB Tiff image. Do I need to compress the layers before saving them or something and how do I change PS settings so it saves as a .psd file please?
    My Layers display in PS shows:
    _DSC0686.ARW (Merged)

    Thanks for your help

    1. Layers allow you to fine tune the result. If you’re happy with the merged image and don’t want the option to adjust the blend in the future you can flatten. Of course you can always repeat the process if you change your mind after flattening.

  10. I’m a novice with photoshop and this tutorial made it so easy. Thank you. Might try using a tripod next time and more images! Must aim to come out of lockdown with a new skill!

    1. Yup, you’ll absolutely get better results with a tripod. Focus Stacking is definitely a technique that you can practice during lockdown.

  11. If I haven’t said thank you for this quick tutorial, thank you. I’m also glad it’s not a video while I do so greatly appreciate videos, sometimes a quick read is super useful.

  12. Hi, great tutorial. My query is that, okay, you have stacked and merged several different images of the same scene, each shot taken with a different focus point. But, how come the final merged image shows the in-focus parts of each one of those several images and not just a merged composite of all the in- and out-of-focus elements of them all ? Did I understand rightly that Photoshop determines which parts are in the sharpest focus on each image and merges only those parts ? Many thanks again for explaining this great technique.

    1. Layers.

      Photoshop uses AI to make selection from each layer based on maximum sharpness, but as with all Photoshop layers, these selections are user-editable.

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