Focus Stacking for Speed: Researcher Invents Light-Efficient Photography

Google scientist Sam Hasinoff has come up with a technique called “light-efficient photography” that uses focus-stacking to reduce the amount of time exposures require. In traditional photography, increasing the depth of field in a scene requires reducing the size of the aperture, which reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor and increases the amount of time required to properly expose the photo. This can cause a problem in some situations, such as when a longer exposure would lead to motion blur in the scene.

Hasinoff’s technique allows a camera to capture a photo of equal exposure and equivalent depth of field in a much shorter amount of time. He proposes using a wide aperture to capture as much light as possible, and using software to compensate for the shallow depth of field by stacking multiple exposures. In the example shown above, the camera captures an identical photograph twice as fast by simply stacking two photos taken with larger apertures.

Light-Efficient Photography (via Amateur Photographer)

  • Daniel Hoherd

    Isn’t that just simple focus stacking?  “Focus stacking is a digital image processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field”  (from

  • Michael Zhang

    Focus stacking is used for increasing depth of field, but his research is more into having cameras automatically do it to capture scenes faster than if only one image was captured by the sensor

  • Justin Manteuffel

    Another problem this addresses is diffraction at smaller apertures, which can make fine details go soft. Stacking shots made at wider (and sharper) apertures also means more resolved detail.

  • Wing Wong

    Interesting concept. Though it doesn’t counter object movement blur… and is pretty much a given that for any subject matter that moves, this method won’t work. Ie, rivers, waterfalls, people, leaves falling, wind moving things, etc.

    For product photography and/or for relatively still subject portraiture, this would be great.

  • Zak Henry

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t focus blur nonlinear? So the two f/4 images combined would either have a blurry part in the middle (of the z axis), or they would have to be pushed so close together that the benefit would be almost negligible?

  • kendon

    this is a wierd post. focus stacking is everything but a new technique, ask the macro people. i wouldn’t know of a camera that does it quick and automatically (probably there is none), but that doesn’t really make it a new technique…

  • Brandon

    is it just me, or is this lame?

  • karen

    I see the benefit. At some point it will be a standard feature on newer cameras to make the process faster, something akin to photoshop actions speeding up post processing. I do agree with Zaks question though… the 2s f/4 is a bit confusing to me.