How to Make Gigapixel Macro Images

The Process

The GIGAmacro images featured are assembled from thousands of individual photographs. These photographs are captured using the GIGAmacro Magnify2, and are then combined to create a seamless image that has astounding resolution and depth of field.

Diagram of How To Create a Gigapixel Image

How to create a gigapixel image, generally known as Stack and Stitch.

The resulting GIGAmacro image can be explored using a tiled-image viewer, (you’ve seen and used one every time you use Google Maps where, as you zoom in, the image gets more and more detailed), designed specifically for gigapixel imagery. Also, multiple GIGAmacro images can be compared to each other using the  GIGAmacro Viewer, and shared with the public and other researchers. This new approach to photographing and studying subjects is typically used for research, but can also be applied to curriculum, interactive exhibits, industrial quality control or print formats.

An Amazing New Tool

In the GIGAmacro workflow we integrate a number of different technologies to provide a complete system to produce, manage, share, annotate and view the images. Because we have designed and assembled the equipment, software, and workflow processes, creating GIGAmacro images is now a simple straightforward process.

 Magnify2 System Includes:

The robotic capture system that controls the camera and image capture.

The robotic capture system that controls the camera and image capture. The system may take many thousands of photos, depending on the size and resolution required in the final GIGAmacro image.




  • DSLR Camera
  • Telecentric Optics
  • Focus Stacking Software
  • Image Mosaicing and Image Stitching Software
  • Tiled Map Viewing Technology
  • Image Viewing and Sharing.


The process of taking thousands of pictures of a small subject can be quite difficult; shooting them manually exacerbates the challenges of precise positioning, focusing, and subsequent file management.

The GIGAmacro Magnify2 is specifically designed to make all aspects of this task efficient and straightforward. It includes specialized robotic hardware, photography equipment, and software programming. Together, these tools allow for precise positioning of the camera in relation to the subject and automation of the process of taking images in a specific pattern.


A range of different cameras and optics can be used with our imaging system. The standard configuration uses a Canon T3i DSLR Camera (18 megapixel), with the Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens. The camera, optics, positioning and focus are controlled by GIGAmacro Magnify2 Motion Control System & Automated Capture Software to automate the process of capturing the images. The lens is fitted with an adapter which produces a telecentric view and image. The adapter is a custom optics holder fitted with an acrhromatic lens that corrects for parallax between adjacent images.

Subject illumination is provided by a combination of high intensity LED for setup and Macro Twin Lite flashes. Adjustments can be made to the light position and intensity and this can be previewed in the GIGAmacro Automated Capture Software in real time using the live view image from the camera.


In this process, we digitally combine the images using a “Stack & Stitch” methodology. We first “focus stack” the individual photographs to increase the depth of field and then “stitch” the resulting images together to create a higher resolution image.

The way many photographs are combined to make a single image.

The way many photographs are combined to make a single image.

This is a diagram of the combined techniques of stacking and then stitching a set of photographs to produce a single high resolution image which is sharp throughout.

Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is a technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field.

Image Stitching

Image stitching or photo stitching is the process of combining multiple photographic images with overlapping fields of view to produce a segmented panorama or high-resolution image.

Stack & Stitch Tools

Currently, there isn’t a single software package that does both stitching and stacking for macro photography. The GIGAmacro Magnify2 provides the tools and workflow to do both easily and simply. The capture software is designed to organize and prepare the images for the stack and stitch process. The software is pre-configured with templates and settings to optimize the quality and speed of combining the individual photographs into a single seamless GIGAmacro image.

Software Used in the Magnify2 System

Zerene Stacker (available from Zerene Systems) is integrated into the GIGAmacro Automated Capture Software.

Autopano Giga is an advanced and powerful professional stitching software package (available separately from Kolor) and is integrated in the GIGAmacro Magnify2 System.


Viewing a GIGAmacro image is possible using tiled image viewing technology. This technology allows for extremely large images to be viewed online by almost any computer (or mobile device) that is connected to the internet. While these technologies are predominantly used for navigation and mapping, the process is the same, and translates well to GIGAmacro images.

We provide the GIGAmacro Viewer for sharing, analyzing, and comparing multiple gigapixel images. It is specifically designed for high-resolution macro and micro photography. It is built upon the Leaflet framework, which provides a fast and efficient platform for displaying tiled imagery.

GIGAmacro image of a Bee Colony
Day 1 and Day 2 comparisons of the brood in a bee colony (Source USDA)

The GIGAmacro Viewer allows you to make:

Side-by-side comparisons.
Layered comparisons with an “xray” tool.
Measurements on each image.
Link GIGAmacro images together at specific points in each image.
Load GIGAmacro images from the website.
Load GIGAmacro images from a Zoomify tileset.
Load GIGAmacro images from your local hard drive.
Flip GIGAmacro images vertically or horizontally.
View in Fullscreen Mode
Use on your website.
Use in exhibits and curriculum, kiosk displays, etc.