Tutorial: Bracketed Landscape with Focus Stacking

Tutorial: Bracketed Landscape with Focus Stacking

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The technique of the Focus Stacking consists in taking a series of pictures gradually changing the focus between the one and the other; being processed will join the shots, taking advantage of each image only those parts that appear to be in focus. In landscape photography the main rule is to focus all the elements of the foreground and take some exposure for the sky or highlights.

When i was at the lake in Campo Imperatore I shot a large number of exposures to focus on all the rocks it was, sky and mountain. When I go home indeed I realized that I really need only one of the exposures for the foreground, and only one of exposures for the mountain, focus stack all the rocks one by one in this case was not so necessary, cause the focus was pratically the same for each rock. I did not think about it 🙂

So in this tutorial I will show you how to apply focus stacking in a foregrounded landscape using Bracketing mode and how I use other exposures for my final image.


Shooting and preparing the images

I took a series of exposures bracketed images ( -1 , 0, +1 ) for the rocks in the foreground and an additional bracketed series of shots focusing the mountain set on ∞  ( -1 , 0 + 1 ).

Added to this, there is another shot that I took in the late evening to replace the mountain covered by clouds. For a total of 7 exposures.



I take all the shots using tripod, ISO 100 and f/11

Below all the steps I do that show you  how to focus stack and how to make a blend with additional exposure


Stacking and Auto Blending

1. Launch Lightroom and select all the stack images.

2. Right Click on the images selected. Develop settings>Sync Settings

3. Adjust for all the stacked images,  distortion,  white balance, contrast ecc…

4. Right Click again and select Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

5. Select all the layers and Go to Edit>Auto-Align Layers, with settings as follow:

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6.  Regroup layers by exposure.

For a 2 series of bracketing (-1; 0 +1) x 2 I had 2 overexposed, 2 correct and 2 underexposed images.

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7. Highlight images by group and blend them, Edit>Auto-Blend Layer like below:

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Photoshop will blend the highlighted images creating a layer mask for each image, to show in white the sharp and in black the hidden areas. Select this layers and merge them.


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Theese three images are now a “Bracketed Focus Stacked Series”, you can now edit them with Photoshop as you do with a normal bracketing series.  I usually edit theese shots using Luminance Masks to select all the brights and shadows I need without affecting the entire picture in order to create a final quality image.


Exposure Blend

Remember the seventh exposure that I said at the beginning? I’ve taken it just before leaving the location, cause I had seen that the mountain began to discover from the clouds. In that picture I had masked only this part of the mountain without affecting the sky.

1. Put the new layer at the top, and auto align again with Edit>Auto-Align Layers

2. Create layer mask and click (Ctrl+I; PC) or (Cmd+I MAC) to invert it

3. Select now a white brush and paint in the areas of the sky that you want to blend in

4. Press( Ctrl+E; PC) or (Cmd+E; MAC) to merge layers

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The final question is “How many images do I need, and where should they be focused?”

The answer depends on what your scene looks like and what effect you’re trying to achieve.

At a minimum, you need to have each scene element you need be sharp, at least one (or a series of bracketing shots)

Sometimes you can do that by focusing specifically on each element you care about. For example in presence of many close-up elements in the foreground, ( leafs, flowers and other things that wind can move). In this case take many exposure as for the element you need.



How to Increase Details Selectively

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The selective application of digital Photoshop editings are now a crucial prerequisite in contemporary digital photography. This applies not only to details but to all those kinds of interventions that affects our images; so them  colors, details, lights, contrasts etc… To obtain a good image is therefore essential to know how to master the application of selective elements, details in this case are a factor of particular importance for the selective application. Let’s see how to do it:


– Duplicate Layer

– Select Black and White adjustment layer

– Change the Blending mode in Hard Light

– Go to Filters>Others>High Pass  and put radius as follow


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Now create a layer mask and fill it with black color MAC (Cmd+I) PC(Ctrl+I).

Your layer mask will be look like this. Black mask has the effect of hide the High Pass filter applied.


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Now select the White Brush and set the opacity aroud 30% (you can set an higher value for a stronger effect).

By painting the various elements, you are selectively showing the details in the affected areas 🙂

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How to remove people/object from an image

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It happens to everyone to shoot in areas frequented by many people, for example the main attractions of a city.  This is the case when tourists ruins our photo idea or simply when you don’t notice that element that you would avoid in the final image. I live in Rome and tourists are really a nightmare for this kind of things, so over the years I learned to juggle well in these situations.

While for people and moving objects  the removal  from he photo can be relatively simple, by taking multiple exposures and deleting them manually or automatically, the static element instead creates a huge problem for its elimination. So  Let’s see how to remove people or object from a a single shot, focusing more attention on the harder single shot removal.



In presence of multiple exposures the fastest way to remove unwanted items is to use the “Median”  function in Photoshop.



– You should to go to File > Scripts > Statistics.

– Select “Median” for the stack mode and check “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.”

– Select your set of images and click ok.

Photoshop will process the images to preserve the static background removing everything that changes between the shots (moving people, cars, birds etc). If the final result is not perfectly clean you can continue to refine the scene using clone stamp tool.



In the presence of static elements instead as I said the work is more difficult. In this case the undesiderable element will always be in its place without the change to erase them using another exposure.

This is the case of my photo in Oia Santorini where hundreds of people present to photograph the sunset did not allow me to be able to move easily and choose a better point of shot. I wanted to avoid the shot using 35mm because would have lost too much in terms of scenery, so I made the shot in 24mm while knowing the hard work that expect to me, especially for the antenna on huge right. 🙂



To start remove elements from a single exposure:

–  Select what you want to delete, for example using magnetic lasso, magic wand or quick selection tool.

– Then select Edit>Fill and make the choice like this, then click ok

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The selection you made will be absorbed by the content of the picture, using the elements of background and nearby the selection you made. Obviously small selections you make greater is the change to be more accurate. So you should do it portion for portion on wich you want to delete to create a more realistic effect of disappearance, like this.



At the end of the erasing may be still something to delete, in this case you can use the clone stamp tool. The clone stamp for correct and clean use must be used with inverse selection (as shown in the picture of this wall with the people above that I should not touch).

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Select the part you want to “save” that you do not want to affect from the clone Stamp tool

Right mouse button and click on Select Inverse

Then you can clone whatever you want without the risk of damaging the wall


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This technique will help you a lot to take pictures with a little more freedom even in the presence of so many people, but try to make your life easier shooting when you have more free field 🙂

This is the finished work, I  chose to delete only people and things  than most impacted in the picture but with  patience it is possible to remove all.


How to enhance sunset colours

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Taking shots during sunset it means to take them during the golden hour. All the best images whether at sunset dawn share the beauty and the advantage of the warm light intense that only the golden hour can offer

Personally I shoot in RAW, which as you know does not shine in the tackle, so every time I come to edit a photo of beautiful sunsets are always looking for something that can make it sharper and more visual impact.
Hence I decided to create this little guide that contains all my main interventions to make a impressive sunset:



1- Select Curves and switch to Red Channel

2- move the curve upward to intensify red colours

3- switch to Blue Channel

4- move the curve downward to intensify yellow colours


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Now click on “Elliptical Marque Tool” and draw a circle inside the image, this will be the area, this will be the area affected by the intervention of the yellow enhance effect

Invert the selection Ctrl + I (or Cmd+I on Mac)

Deselect Ctrl+D (or Cmd +I on Mac)

and invert again

Now the image should result like this:

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Go to > Filters > Blur >Gaussian Blur and select an high value of blur.

Now the effect will be applied in a diffuse way on the whole image, decrease opacity until the point that you like

This is the final result

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1- Go to Photo Filter and select a warming filter (numer 81 or 85)

2- Pull it until 100


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3- Select > Image >Apply image and take care that the settings are as follows:

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Repeat the last passage (3) until you are happy, decrease opacity if if you prefer a more soft effect

This is the final result

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How to improve colors – Lab Coloring Tutorial

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LAB Coloring it ‘a management technique of colors. It is different from RGB that is additive method based on the three colors red, green and blue, from which its name RGB.

In LAB color instead is a color space-opponent with the size L for brightness, and a and b for color ranges. The Lab color space includes all perceivable colors, which means RGB and CMYK color range.

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HDR 32 bit

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What is HDR 32 bit? It’s a different method of processing and merge the brackets exposures. You know that you can reach a good results with Photomatix that use the tonemap method. Tonemapping usually use 16 bit mode, this really boils down to is the volume of information that is stored within a file. Tonemapping can create a cool HDR effect but when using this method

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HDR Tutorial Part 4 – How to Improve your HDR

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As you can see, there are some differences between the image of Photomatix and the finished one. This final part of HDR Tutorial makes the bigger differences in your image, but here, the personal taste is very important.
You can use typical correction tools of Photoshop, such as curves, levels, contrast etc … or use several plugins that can simplify the editing of the HDR.

My favourite plugins to improve your HDR are Topaz Adjust, Color Efex Pro and Topaz Denoise


This is great plugin that can enhance your HDR effect. To launch Topaz Adjust first duplicate your layer and then  go to Filters> Topaz Labs> Topaz Adjust. Once the plugin is launched, on the left you will see many presets that can help you to increase the HDR effect or just improve colors and contrast on your image. I select Filter Photo Pop. 



The second plugin to improve your HDR. This software help you about many types of corrections of HDR ; I usually edit this with the typical tools of Photoshop for these things, but this filter can easily help you for this kind of correction. To launch Color Efex Pro go to Filters>Nik Software>Color Efex Pro. On the left you will see a list of presets about, color, saturation, details, glow effect or brightness or darkness The most interesting filters for me are:

Skylight Filter: to intensify the effect of sunset

Glamour Glow: Denoise the image, with a glow effect typical of portraits but that produces pleasurable effects but also in landscape photography

Detail Extractor: To increase the level of detail in the picture

Pro Contrast: A present that include color, contrast and dynamic contrast correction, is very nice to correct the white balance in your picture and to increase the surreal effect on the contrast.



The noise is one of the biggest problems of HDR. It can happen sometimes that we do not feel satisfied with the work achieved over just because the image is too noisy. Don’t worry about that, the noise is easy to eliminate, as there are several Photoshop plug-ins to do this. Personally I use Topaz Denoise. 

Topaz Denoise Photoshop plug-in offers the fastest and  most effective way to reduce heavy reduction noise putting unrivaled quality at your fingertips.
To remove noise with this plug-ins open your HDR image in Photoshop, create a new level and launch Topaz Denoise.

Apply the filter it may deem best for your image, I usually use jpeg moderate or jpeg strong. When you’re done click OK.


To get a good result you not only will need to use these filters, to better improve your HDR it will be necessary to reduce their effect selectively, through the use of Layer Masks. Sometimes a filter has a nice effect on your image but that some parts of the picture are particularly affected by that. The use  of layer masks and  the bale of their effects with opacity is crucial to give the best in this type of photography. To return to the other types of correction, be inspired by your imagination and personal taste, many good results are obtained with the right experiments.

HDR Tutorial Part 3 – Photomatix Settings

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First thing to do is to import the RAW exposures into Lightroom or Photoshop to convert them into Jpeg cause the conversion and the merge of RAW files is not the best with Photomatix.


Now you need to make some corrections and then sync the images, these changes concern Chromatic Aberrations and White Balance. Start with syncronize the images, you will see this menu:

 Then correct Chromatic Aberration and White Balance with menu on the Right.


Now is possible to export the images as 100% quality into Photomatix, to do that go to Lightroom menu File>Export and select jpeg sRGB 100% quality


Open Photomatix, load the exported images and click ok. A screen will appear regarding the processing options. Align Source images concerns the alignment of the screen shows, I recommend to use matching features when you shoot handheld. I usually shot with tripod  so I use by correcting horizontal and vertical shift, since this option tends to produce the best results. The second part regards a function that allow to remove ghosts operating on selected sections and choose the right exposure for each ghosted region. The last two sections should always be selected if you don’t know how Reduce noise and Chromatic aberration, but there are many instruments to remove them, I usually prefer remove them manually into Photoshop.

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On the next screen we are going to change the values of our pictures on the left menu. There are no written rules about how the values should be set, as they are depending on the avaiable light in the picture. Then set your values in order to get the maximum detail from the image being always careful not to increase too much noise in your photos.

However I recommend to take the following main values as follows:

Strength: Higher but not maximum values, a strength too high could make the image darken. I usually set this slider around 70 -85 max;

Color Saturation: Is a slider to increase the amount of color saturation in the image. If you need to increase your colors set it more than 50 but personally I don’t move it more than 50;

Luminosity:  Enhance details in the shadows, much of the setting of this slider varies from picture to picture, interesting values are between +30 and +50;

Detail contrast: Is the main values to increase the details in the picture, set this slider in a range +40, +60 it depends on the image. Try to to keep it balanced with the Luminosity values;

Lightinig Adjustments: I never use Lighting effect mode, set the slider and move it on the left to have a surreal look, on the right values are near the real effect of your picture. Do not overboard on the left, you risk to cartoonage the image.

Smooth Highlights: This slider reduces contrast in the highlights, move the slider to the right to bright the image.

White Point: White Point set the overall brightness in the HDR. The use of this slider depends on your image, I usually set white point around 0,4

Black Point: They are very similar to White Point, move them to increase the point of black of your images, I’m very low with this slider, set them less than White Points and less 1

Gamma: Increase the overall brightness of the image, you can use it to brigh or to darken more your image.

Temperature: is the slider to warmer or to coolder the image. I usually leave this slider to default cause I prefer correcting temperature into Photoshop.

Micro Smoothing: Is to intervene on the best part of details and to clean the image. Put it not more than 20 if you don’t wanto to loose too much details.

Saturation Highlights: Increase the colors in the highlights. I usually set this lighter high if I have a nice sky to show otherwise I don’t use this option.

Saturation Shadows: Increase the colors in the shadows. I never use this slider

Shadow Smoothess: This slider is usefull to darken the foreground and to give a more realistic look to the image.

Shadow Clipping: Increase the shadow range clipping. I never use this slider.


photomatix example

Go to HDR Tutorial Part 1 – What is HDR
Go to HDR Tutorial Part 2 – Shooting HDR
Go to HDR Tutorial Part 4 – How To improve your HDR

Photomatix: Images Merging Differences

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Usually I shot all my images in RAW format, the RAW file allows you to capture a wider dynamic range and to work on it more precisely when you post-produce your images. It must be said that also JPEG files have their conveniences as the file dimensions are much smaller and the images are “already ready to use” rather than a RAW format. 

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Shooting during the golden hour

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Giuseppe Sapori - Breathing View

The light in all kind of photography is the main element, the value added to our images. A photo with good light is a good picture regardless of the subject, so it is important always taking pictures in those moments where the sunlight is softer and warm.

This moment is called the Golden Hour and is representing the hour of sunrise or sunset where we can get these great lighting conditions that give the images taken with a flash. The Golden hour is the hour between the twilight atmosphere of dawn and dusk. It is not always easy to catch this moment simply watching on the light conditions, the Golden hour varies depending of time and area where you are, but luckily there is an easy tool to calculate it in your current location. It’s called Golden Hour Calculator, through this website, you will easily be able to calculate the Golden hour in the place you are.  You will find it simply by entering your current location, the two Golden hours (dawn and dusk) will be marked by two vertical yellow bands, one for the sunrise and the sunset. To know the exact start time and end of the Golden hour must stand with the mouse on the yellow line indicated, a message will tell you the beginning and the end of the Golden hour to get the best lighting conditions in your photos.

Site Founder

Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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