Is there an easy tool to combine low quality pics taken from a mobile phone, all of the same thing but taken within a few seconds interval from one another, mostly suffering from slight out of focus issues? How can I combine them into higher quality?

EDIT: Apparently the concept is stacking: "focus stacking is taking several images of the same object(s) which are partially in focus and combining them in such a way as to keep the sharp parts and get rid of the blurry ones"


Astrophotographers have been combining similar images for years. This is called "stacking" and there is special purpose software for it. You have great reductions in both noise and in some cases, clarity, than could ever be achieved with a single exposure.

However, there is a big but to this. The prime purpose of stacking is to eliminate noise from really dim objects. It is common for have exposures that are 1-2 minutes long and to combine dozens of these. This doesn't sound like what you want.

I did mention clarity, that sounds like what you are looking for but you will also be disappointed. The best lunar photography today is done with webcams. Yeah, webcams. The trick there is that you have thousands of exposure, most of which are crap since the atmosphere jiggles. But, with a movie made from a web cam, you can discard most of them, looking for those few clear shots. You then take those clear shots and stack them.

Then point at a different place on the moon and do it all over again.

Then again, this isn't what you want, but it is cool.

  • 5
    It is possible to improve low res images with superstacking, however there will always be a limit to how far you can take that. I would say its a FAR CRY to state that "the best" lunar photography today is done with webcams. A lot of good lunar photography today is done with webcams, but telescopes can be used in the same way...take a lot of photos of one area of the moon, stack, change position, repeat (stacked mosaicing), and the results are far superior to anything a web cam could even come remotely close to producing. There is no substitute for raw spatial resolution:
    – jrista
    Mar 30 '12 at 17:11
  • Yup, that's the guy, Noel Carboni. Beautiful work. Mar 30 '12 at 17:17
  • 2
    I don't believe that photo I linked was created with a web cam, video camera, or even a DSLR. As far as I understand, it was created with an 8mp CCD "still" camera (not a video camera) designed specifically for astrophotography.
    – jrista
    Mar 30 '12 at 18:35
  • 3
    @jrista Look on the bottom right hand corner of the image. It says it was taken with a Cannon EOS 20D. Mar 30 '12 at 21:56

I found a piece of software in Linux that does stacking of images: ale

ale IMAG0626.jpg IMAG0627.jpg IMAG0628.jpg output.jpg
Output file will be 'output.jpg'.                                                                                                                                        
Original Frame:                                                                                                                                                          
Supplemental Frames:                                                                                                                                                     
 'IMAG0627.jpg'*** okay (92.930228% match).                                                                                                                              
 'IMAG0628.jpg'*** okay (94.896616% match).                                                                                                                              
Re-filtering incremental results.                                                                                                                                        
Iterating Irani-Peleg.                                                                                                                                                   
Average match: 93.913422%                                                                       

After some googling I found a windows program called CombineZP on this minimalistic website. The Zip archive contains sources which means you might be able to port this to other OSses.

My results were not very good but I must admit that I totally didn't know what am I doing:

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One of 20 similar samples

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You can use ImageMagick like this :

convert  -verbose *.jpg -combine combined.jpg
  • Does ImageMagick actually do focus stacking? A quick look at the docs for it, I don't see that the above is going to do what the OP wants
    – MikeW
    Feb 11 '18 at 17:45

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