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Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 6th, 2019, 6:46 pm
by Marpel
Not providing a tip but asking for input on a better method.

I do macro photography, with a 150mm 1:1 macro lens. In an effort to keep extremely narrow depth of focus overall in the image, I typically shoot at the maximum aperture (in this case, although it is a 2.8 lens, at 1:1 the max is 5.6). Currently I am doing a bunch of flowers with a single water drop.

Because the dof is so narrow, the entire depth of the drop cannot be captured sharp in a single shot, and usually requires at least two, if not more, depending on the intended final image.

As it is, I shoot one with the edge of the drop sharp, one with the window/light source on the drop sharp, and often a third with the background, which is shown in the drop, sharp. I have a homemade stand/support/table with an attached tripod head (no tripod) and flexible arm and clamp for the subject. I hand-focus by rotating the focus collar on the lens and do not use a stacking program (either in-camera or in post). The result is three or more, differently focused, images composited/cloned together.

The post processing method I use is as follows:

- determine my base image - usually the image with the edges of the drop in focus.
- use Composite, with a mask around the drop in the #2 image (clone source).
- use 1 point (and zoomed in considerably) and 50% opacity, I move the two images so the drops line up in each image.
- once satisfied, I change to 100% opacity and "Ok" and then save the resultant image. Usually the border around the masked area (full mask no feathering) is obvious but that gets fixed in the next step.
- Using "Clone" I then clone what I need from that resultant image, into the base image, using a high transparency and softness to blend.
- that result is saved, then the process is repeated (using the newest image as the base) for each subsequent blend.

I should note, the reason I have to initially Composite (with 1 point) is when each image is made with different focus planes, the drop actually mis-aligns slightly from one image to another, so the objects in a straight clone would be out of alignment slightly.

So, my question is more about the Composite aligning process. At 50% opacity, the ghost of both images can be seen, however, because one image is blurred around the edges of the drop and the other is blurred in the centre of the drop, it is difficult to exactly align one over the other. I make multiple movements and between each, I flip the opacity back and forth between 0% and 100% to see if they line up. As I have multiple compositions and each has at least three images to composite/clone, it gets to be quite long and tedious.

Can anyone suggest a more efficient/accurate method to accomplish what I am doing, either just on the composite/lining up, or anywhere in the process for that matter.

I am attaching a finished image (a four-image composite) to give you an idea of what I mean.

Re: Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 6th, 2019, 7:22 pm
by jsachs
This task is probably better done using dedicated focus stacking software. I recommend Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker,

Re: Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 13th, 2019, 11:58 am
by doug
I use image-to-image cloning in a different manner.
For noise reduction I use dedicated noise reduction software other than PWP.
Because noise reduction has the side effect of softening the image and there are some areas where noise is not particularly distracting, I may clone from the noise-adjusted version just the areas in which noise was particularly bothersome.
I mention the use of third-party noisware because in PWP I could probably use some form of masking to isolate the application of NR.

Any suggestions for alternate approaches that would be better?

Re: Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 14th, 2019, 7:53 pm
by Marpel

Thanks for the response. I am trying to keep the programs I use to a minimum, so am trying to do much of the work in PWP and CS6. However, as I am getting more into macro stuff, I may have to look at those programs you suggest.


For the purpose of what you describe, one to one cloning seems to me to be a fairly simple process, as the objects between the images are in register, although Composite, with a mask, may work just as well. Having said that, with images where I wish to introduce an/some object(s) from one image to another (and registry is not an issue), I much prefer cloning with a higher transparency and softness, where I gradually bring the new area in.

I am curious, however, why you choose a third party program, rather than PWP's Advanced Sharpen or Denoise. As I don't use noise reduction, I have not compared the quality of various programs.


Re: Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 14th, 2019, 9:12 pm
by jsachs
If you do a lot of macro work, you will find a focus stacking application such as Helicon Focus extremely useful, especially if you have a camera that does focus bracketing, as the software lets you stack large numbers of images to get one that is sharp front to back.

There is also a device called a StackShot (from Cognisys) which is a stepper-motor-driven rack and pinion that advances the camera by fixed increments and triggers the shutter each time to take a series of photos. I have one and have gotten some very nice results with it. You can get a battery pack to use it outdoors, but it is mainly useful indoors with stationary subjects. Novoflex just announced one also, but it is very expensive.

Re: Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 22nd, 2019, 7:48 am
by HanSch

you say that you use CS6 next to PWP. I suppose you know that you can focus-stack in CS6 as well?
Your images with different focus settings cannot be perfectly aligned, because you change the magnification a bit with the changed focus. CS6 will compensate for that. A dedicated program like Helicon Focus is probably a better solution, but you can try if the stack in CS6 is satisfying for you.


Re: Cloning from one image to another

Posted: October 22nd, 2019, 11:14 pm
by Marpel

Thanks for your comments.

Further to your comments about the change in focus, The issue is somewhat more "complicated" with the stuff that I do, because most images have a single drop that I wish to keep sharp, while letting the rest of the image (flower etc) remain soft and most times the drop is well away from the centre of the image.

Some times I will manually focus the lens, for multiple shots, while other times I will use a focus rail that moves the entire camera/lens forward/backward. The added issue with the latter is not only does the focus have to be stacked but the more the camera/lens moves, the more the drop becomes out of alignment when the drop is, as mentioned, away from the centre.

I am, generally, aware of CS6 capabilities, but have no detailed experience with using the focus stack component. I started using PWP and "hand stacking" because I just found the masking in the PWP process I initially described, to be reasonably simple.

I think I will just have to bite the bullet and either really study CS6 focus capabilities or look at a specialized program, as suggested.