Focus Stacking Cosmetics Shoot

*This class was recorded live & now available for replay.*

Photographing small products can often result in the dilemma of not being able to achieve sufficient depth of field. So how can we overcome this?

In this live photography workshop, Karl demonstrates how to photograph a close up macro shot using the technique of focus stacking, explaining what exactly focus stacking is, when and how to use it and how to get the best results.

Throughout the show, Karl covers concepts such as magnification, tilt-shift, hyper-focal distance and more. In addition to showing you how to do a complete focus stack, from selecting the best aperture to changing your focus points and putting it all together in post, Karl also gives a quick run-through of the lighting setup used for the shot.

Topics covered in this show include:

  • What is focus stacking
  • How to focus stack images for greater depth of field
  • Magnification
  • Hyper-focal distance
  • Tilt-shift photography vs focus stacking
  • Lens diffraction
  • Software for focus stacking

For more information about the software Karl used in this show, please visit Helicon Soft’s website.

If you have any questions about this show, please post in the comment section below.


  1. You are an amazing photographer! Thank you. 🙂
    All the best for you!
    your fan from Poland! 🙂

  2. Hi karl,

    After watching your videos, my product photography skills are now improved & images which i click are becoming extra ordinary.

    One question – Do you recommend continuous light instead of Flash Light? if Yes – Why & if No – Why or let me know when to use Flash Light & Continuous Lights.?

    1. Hi, that’s great to hear. In answer to your questions:
      1. Flash
      2. More power, better depth of field. No need to work in the dark. Most often more full spectrum (apart from HMI continuous).

  3. Karl mi dispiace soltanto non capire la lingua Inglese e non potera capire ma solo intuire, spero che metterai i sottotitoli in Italiano dei tuoi fantastici tutorial

  4. Now that’s a proper tutorial! Love watching your tuts, and I want all of the students here to realize that you are real deal and do this in real life, not just for social media. The new Canon R5 has focus stacking built in, you tell it the range and it shoots all of the in between shots! Great job as always Karl!

  5. Hi Karl, about golden part of lipstick there is not sharp cut-off edge . Don’t should be necessary to represent glossy surface? thanks

  6. Karl,

    At last, someone who understands that depth of field is related to magnification! When I challenged a speaker at a recent camera club workshop, he said that nobody would understand the concept. Grrr.

    Helicon is a great piece of software and plays nicely with Capture One and Lightroom.

    Unfortunately, the extension tube (Helicon FB Tube) that you mentioned is only available for Nikon & Canon Cameras, as is the tethering software Helicon Focus. In this situation I would use Helicon Focus for controlling the stack rather than hand focusing, but good to see how easy it is to do manually if you are not a canon or Nikon user.

    A very useful demo. Thanks Karl.


  7. I need to meet Ash and share that bottle of vodka… best photography edu in the web. Keep up the good work, Karl.

  8. Hi Karl

    Noticed you used soft-boxes instead of your usual bare bulb setup. What was the reasoning behind this? Is there a rule of thumb as to when to use softbox and when to use a barebulb behind a scrim?



    1. Hi Amit, a bare bulb makes a round ball gradient that will be brighter in the middle of the ball and then fade out to the edges. A thin soft box will make a thin line that can either gradate either side or on one side depending how you angle the softbox (as you see in this tutorial). It always make sense to create a light shape that is more closely matched to the shape of the subject you are trying to light.

    2. Hello Amit. I might be able to shed some light on this. I believe the strips boxes are used to create a strip gradient that follows the length of the lipstick. A bare bulb would create a different gradient fall off like a ball and would show up like that in the reflective gold part of the lipstick. You can see the darker areas on the gold part are rectangular like the lipstick. Plus the bare bulb would spill light every where affecting how the gradient looks if the light was too far away from the scrim. Hope this helps.

  9. Hi Karl

    That was a great tutorial, undertaken in very difficult circumstances. Really love the double soft box lighting behind the perspex. If I were to take just one thing from your videos on Product photography, it would be the fantastic use of gradient lighting. I have already started to implement these techniques into some of my day to day shooting and it is working a treat. I’ve also worked with Helicon and agree that it does appear to be more accurate, and certainly quicker than Photoshop.

    Just a quick question, you mentioned right at the end that you had shot with one of the Sony Alpha cameras and the 90mm macro (beautiful lens which I shoot with regularly). How did you find shooting with a Sony mirrorless? You’ve often spoken about Canon and Nikon but this is the first I’ve heard you mention Sony.

    Thanks again for a great tutorial


    1. Hi Jonny, I found it OK especially if I can use it tethered as I’m not a big fan of EVFs just yet but they are getting better. I was surprised by the sharpness of the lens and the quality of the image that it and the camera put out. FF 35mm doesn’t yet match MF but it comes close in many regards but it needs exceptionally good lenses to do so and this lens in particular seemed very good.

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