Helicon Focus, made by a company called HeliconSoft, is my latest and greatest digital darkroom toy. The program “combines focused areas from several images to increase depth of field.” What does that mean? Imagine you are taking a photograph of a Colorado wildflower- my example here is a flower called a Monkshood. Because it is a close-up image, you have limited depth of field. In fact, you want limited depth of field, so that your background goes soft, so you stop the lens down. At best, you get a photo like the one below. Not bad. But with Helicon Focus, you can do better.
First, you take a picture where the back stem is in focus, like this:
Not too attractive, is it? Now you adjust the focus slightly:
You can barely tell, but now the small leaf in the lower left hand side is in focus. Adjust focus again:
Now the leaf in the upper right is in focus. You continue taking shots, varying the focus a little bit each time, until the tip of the flower itself is in focus:
Then, back in your digital darkroom, you pull out Helicon Focus and process the set of images. And you get something that looks like this:
For comparison, here is the best of the photos without this software:
Technical Data: Canon Digital Rebel XTi; EF 50 mm f/1.8; Extension Tube EF12; Close-Up Lens 500D; f/3.5 at 1/20; ISO 100.