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Beetle claws

 
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laszlokupi



Joined: 14 Jun 2017
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:21 pm    Post subject: Beetle claws Reply with quote

Longhorn beetle claws in 10X Ge
Now with the ping-pong ball DIY diffuser and 2 Ikea lamps.
Relatively satisfied with the image quality but still lot of questions about the stacking... I'm trying both Zerene and Helicon but with lot of issues. Blurry halos around, wrong stacking results, bad colors, transparent parts. So, I'm not really happy. Photoshop makes much better results, but freezing above 50 shots. I know there is no setup exists for all photos, but I don't really understand how do they really work, even if I read the articles I found here.

This picture made of 375 shots with 5DsR, Nikon E Plan EPI 10X/0.25 microscope objective, 200/2.8 L II tube lens, WeMacro rail (6microns steps), 2 IKEA Jansjö lamps, DIY diffuser

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rjlittlefield
Site Admin


Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 19177
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As background information... I'm the fellow who wrote Zerene Stacker. I also answer all the emails that come in to support@zerenesystems.com, which means I've looked at quite a few problems.

In general, Photoshop makes what I call "errors of omission", leaving blurred areas that were sharp in some source images. If you could have completed this stack using Photoshop, I expect you would have had pretty large loss-of-detail halos around each of those foreground elements, where they overlap focused background. In contrast, Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus are better at retaining focused detail, but are more prone to "errors of commission" by introducing artifacts like transparent foreground and halos of various sorts.

People who are new to stacking often prefer Photoshop because its errors are harder to see, especially when you're still getting used to seeing so much other stuff in focus. But with more experience, those loss-of-detail regions become more annoying, and then you run up against the problem that Photoshop has essentially no controls over its operation. Sometimes it produces a good result, and then everybody is happy. But often it does not, and then there's nowhere to go except manual retouching, defect by defect from source. In contrast, Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus provide more variety of controls and methods that can produce a better automated result plus simpler retouching. The tradeoff is that the extra power comes at the cost of having a longer learning curve.

With Zerene Stacker, the best results for stacks like you're showing here are often produced by using a combination of DMap and PMax stacking methods, followed by manual combining of the best parts of the DMap and PMax outputs by using the retouching tools. DMap should be able to give a clean result for almost all areas of this subject, leaving only the edges of foreground/background overlaps to be cleaned up from PMax. There will likely be some areas like the big bristles that show transparent foreground. Those could be fixed by retouching from source, or if you're farther along the learning curve, by using Stack Selected to make a single clean intermediate image of just the bristle, to use as a source for retouching. The methods to do this are discussed in the tutorials linked at https://www.zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker/docs/tutorials/tutorialsindex, most notably "How To Use DMap", "Introduction to Retouching", and "Using Stack Selected To Retouch Transparent Foreground".

When using DMap, take care to avoid the common error of moving the contrast threshold slider too far left, so that the entire frame appears in natural colors. This will cause a very bad appearance of the background. Instead, slide the slider to the right until the entire OOF background gets masked as "black in preview". Some portions of the subject having no strong detail will go black at the same time; that's OK. Seeing only your result, and not the full stack, I'm thinking that a slider value in the vicinity of 55-60% will be about right. (The percentage is fraction of the frame area covered by mask. The best value varies widely with composition.)

In the most recent version of Zerene Stacker, there is also a control to change the mask color. In stacks like this one, where the background is itself black, the masked area is much simpler to see if the mask is made some other color, such as partially transparent dark red like Photoshop's "rubylith" masks. See http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=211728#211728 for an illustration of that technique. With a rubylith mask, here's a quick summary of how I'd suggest to set the slider:



I hope this helps!

--Rik
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laszlokupi



Joined: 14 Jun 2017
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Rik,


Thank you very much for your quick and really detailed reply, I'm glad that you answered both as a site admin and developer of the ZS.
I think your message answered a couple of questions twisting in my head recently, but the most important thing I need is time and patience to investigate the different methods and mainly the retouch technique.
I'm not really a computer guy but seems this part of photography needs much more time in front of the computer than anything else, so I force myself to do so. Smile
Anyway, I hope I will improve soon.
Thanks indeed.
Laz


rjlittlefield wrote:
As background information... I'm the fellow who wrote Zerene Stacker. I also answer all the emails that come in to support@zerenesystems.com, which means I've looked at quite a few problems.

In general, Photoshop makes what I call "errors of omission", leaving blurred areas that were sharp in some source images. If you could have completed this stack using Photoshop, I expect you would have had pretty large loss-of-detail halos around each of those foreground elements, where they overlap focused background. In contrast, Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus are better at retaining focused detail, but are more prone to "errors of commission" by introducing artifacts like transparent foreground and halos of various sorts.

People who are new to stacking often prefer Photoshop because its errors are harder to see, especially when you're still getting used to seeing so much other stuff in focus. But with more experience, those loss-of-detail regions become more annoying, and then you run up against the problem that Photoshop has essentially no controls over its operation. Sometimes it produces a good result, and then everybody is happy. But often it does not, and then there's nowhere to go except manual retouching, defect by defect from source. In contrast, Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus provide more variety of controls and methods that can produce a better automated result plus simpler retouching. The tradeoff is that the extra power comes at the cost of having a longer learning curve.

With Zerene Stacker, the best results for stacks like you're showing here are often produced by using a combination of DMap and PMax stacking methods, followed by manual combining of the best parts of the DMap and PMax outputs by using the retouching tools. DMap should be able to give a clean result for almost all areas of this subject, leaving only the edges of foreground/background overlaps to be cleaned up from PMax. There will likely be some areas like the big bristles that show transparent foreground. Those could be fixed by retouching from source, or if you're farther along the learning curve, by using Stack Selected to make a single clean intermediate image of just the bristle, to use as a source for retouching. The methods to do this are discussed in the tutorials linked at https://www.zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker/docs/tutorials/tutorialsindex, most notably "How To Use DMap", "Introduction to Retouching", and "Using Stack Selected To Retouch Transparent Foreground".

When using DMap, take care to avoid the common error of moving the contrast threshold slider too far left, so that the entire frame appears in natural colors. This will cause a very bad appearance of the background. Instead, slide the slider to the right until the entire OOF background gets masked as "black in preview". Some portions of the subject having no strong detail will go black at the same time; that's OK. Seeing only your result, and not the full stack, I'm thinking that a slider value in the vicinity of 55-60% will be about right. (The percentage is fraction of the frame area covered by mask. The best value varies widely with composition.)

In the most recent version of Zerene Stacker, there is also a control to change the mask color. In stacks like this one, where the background is itself black, the masked area is much simpler to see if the mask is made some other color, such as partially transparent dark red like Photoshop's "rubylith" masks. See http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=211728#211728 for an illustration of that technique. With a rubylith mask, here's a quick summary of how I'd suggest to set the slider:



I hope this helps!

--Rik
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JohnKoerner



Joined: 27 Sep 2014
Posts: 85
Location: San Dimas, CA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Laz;

My own effort echo your story.

I used to find Photoshop a more preferable option than Zerene Stacker, principally because it is so easy to use.

I had difficulty getting the quality coloration you speak of, using Zerene, as well as added difficulty getting other elements right, which lead to a source of frustration on my part.

In the end, I was the problem, because I didn't familiarize myself with Zerene. I didn't take the time to experiment/configure DMap right, and I didn't use PMax in conjunction with DMap, and use all of these as reference points to implement the touch-up tools.

Rik also helped me, via private email, with certain "unchecks" to the default color settings, which allowed me to retain all of the color potential of my images.

I can't stress to you enough how reading Rik's pages, and experimenting with the results of different settings, will help you in the long run. Once you get Dmap set up to your liking, and uncheck some of the default settings, your results will come out much better IMO. This DMap setting is how I have been the happiest stacking live subjects so far:



I am still learning and experimenting with Zerene, but already I am getting images that are superior to what I got in Photoshop. I still use Photoshop, of course, for other features, but I would never use it for stacks anymore.

Hope this helps,

Jack
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laszlokupi



Joined: 14 Jun 2017
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Jack,

Thank you very much for your notes, I found what you wrote exactly true.
Since I posted this photo, I started to experiment Zerene and finding it more and more professional. I think I am still at the beginning of this journey but more the stack I make more I discover about the program. And of course, I learn a lot from the photos and comments as well.
So hopefully I will able to post some better results soon.
Thanks again.
Cheers,

Laz

JohnKoerner wrote:
Hi Laz;

My own effort echo your story.

I used to find Photoshop a more preferable option than Zerene Stacker, principally because it is so easy to use.

I had difficulty getting the quality coloration you speak of, using Zerene, as well as added difficulty getting other elements right, which lead to a source of frustration on my part.

In the end, I was the problem, because I didn't familiarize myself with Zerene. I didn't take the time to experiment/configure DMap right, and I didn't use PMax in conjunction with DMap, and use all of these as reference points to implement the touch-up tools.

Rik also helped me, via private email, with certain "unchecks" to the default color settings, which allowed me to retain all of the color potential of my images.

I can't stress to you enough how reading Rik's pages, and experimenting with the results of different settings, will help you in the long run. Once you get Dmap set up to your liking, and uncheck some of the default settings, your results will come out much better IMO. This DMap setting is how I have been the happiest stacking live subjects so far:



I am still learning and experimenting with Zerene, but already I am getting images that are superior to what I got in Photoshop. I still use Photoshop, of course, for other features, but I would never use it for stacks anymore.

Hope this helps,

Jack
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