The fifth Extension coming to the Luminar Neo editing platform is Focus Stacking, a tool for achieving a deep depth of field in a photo by merging (or stacking) up to 100 source images. Now, creating photos that are in sharp focus from the front to the back of the image becomes much easier, whether you’re shooting macro photography, portraits, or landscapes.
Focus Stacking is helpful for photos that have multiple points of interest that one needs to keep in focus: a panorama behind a person, the petals and the stem of a flower that are on different planes, a landscape with both foreground and background objects that need to be highlighted. Focus Stacking allows for an even depth of field across all parts of the image.
Extensions are a fairly new addition to Luminar Neo. They were designed to add specific features to the app, while letting users decide which extensions would benefit them.
The following Extensions have already been released and/or announced:
- HDR Merge helps you easily create HDR images from up to 10 photos
- Noiseless AI reduces noise on grainy photos
- Upscale AI upscales a photo up to 6x while retaining quality
- AI Background Removal allows you to remove the background behind the main subject of your photo in a click
Using Focus Stacking on Luminar Neo
It's a pretty simple process. Load images with different focus points. Drag them into the Focus Stacker module.
You can load up to 100 images.
There's a pop-up control that lets Neo align the images if needed and reduce chromatic aberration.
I took a photo in my neighborhood at a low ISO of 64, and at f/3.5 to make sure the whole image would not be in focus. Setting my camera to manual focus mode, I took four images, one focused on nearby plants, another with a tree nearby (about 11 feet away), then the roof of the adjacent house, and finally, the horizon.
The Focus Stack module did a nice job of putting it together. You can get similar results in Photoshop or Lightroom, although it's a bit more complex and involves layers. The Neo method is cleaner and faster. Here's my result, with just dragging four images into the Neo Focus Stacker.
You are going to want to shoot on a tripod. I tried a similar shot handheld, and the Neo alignment routines left me with some unwanted ghosting. I thought Lightroom was superior in that respect.
If you are already a Neo user and focus stacking is something you want, you should pick up the extension, which is available today. If you already subscribe to the Neo extensions, it should show up in your software today. Pricing with Neo is usually a dizzying array of confusing options. You can subscribe to Neo and get all the extensions, or you can pick up particular extensions. See the Neo website for pricing, bundle pricing, and any potential sales, which are frequent.
I thought the Focus Stacking extension worked as advertised. In my tests using a tripod, it did an excellent job of merging the images, without having to resort to layers.
Luminar Neo is indeed becoming more full featured over time, but their sales model involves continual purchase and subscriptions. This is, I guess, similar to an Adobe subscription, and adding third-party plug-ins at a cost over time.
Neo runs on PCs and Macs and is optimized for Apple Silicon hardware.