Money and Photography: Stacking Your Goals

As I continued to learn about photography, I came across an interesting technique called “image stacking.” Image stacking is when a photographer takes several photos of the same scene or subject. The photographer mounts his camera on a tripod to make sure that each photo is taken from the exact same spot. Once the images have been captured, those images are stacked using software, such as Adobe’s Photoshop, in order to choose the most in-focus parts of each copy, or to determine which parts of a scene persist most often across the images.

Image stacking serves two primary purposes:

  1. To increase how much of a photo is in perfect focus. (close-up/macro and landscape photography)
  2. To clear out some of the noise in busier scenery. (travel photography)

Achieving our financial goals can benefit from a similar technique. By separating our goals, prioritizing those goals, and planning for them individually, they become much clearer. And, as a bonus, we may discover some things we thought we really wanted gave way to other priorities.

So, what exactly does the concept of image stacking in photography do to help us with our finances?

Better Financial Focus

There is a concept in photography called “depth of field”, which basically means that there are certain distances from the camera’s lens that will be in focus and other distances that will be out of focus. To demonstrate this concept:

  • Hold up the index finger on each of your hands.
  • With your index finger still extended, hold your right hand as close to your face as you can focus.
  • Extend your left arm in front of you as far out from your body as you can, your left index finger also still extended.
  • Now, try to focus on both of your index fingers at the same time. Chances are, you cannot do this. The depth of field that you can focus on is too narrow to accomplish the feat.

With photography, we come across the occasional scene that has elements close up and far away that we may want to see in perfect focus. The laws of physics dictate that our simple camera-lens combo cannot accomplish this with a single snap of the camera. So, multiple shots are taken, with the focus of the lens being directed at a different distance from the camera. From there, editing software takes over to help the photographer produce a photo that is tack sharp throughout.

We have a similar issue when it comes to planning for our financial goals. Just like our cameras can only focus perfectly over limited distances, we may struggle to focus on multiple goals over multiple time frames; it’s hard to focus our energies on goals that are less than 2 years away AND those that are more than 10 years away at the same time.

That means we need to focus on planning for one goal at a time, and then put those plans together in a way to achieve as many of those goals as we possibly can.

And, just as image stacking in photography requires the use of software to assist the photographer, our finances may need some outside support to put all of this together in a meaningful way. For some of us, that might mean employing a professional financial planner. For others, it may just mean a support group of financially-minded friends. As for me, our church recently formed a small group that meets every couple of weeks to discuss financial matters; and, we’re very fortunate to have a professional CPA leading the group.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to constantly plan in this manner to have a very good financial plan of your own; most photographs you see do not employ this image stacking method. But, stacking focused financial plans that include short-term, mid-term, and long-term planning can improve our overall financial plan to be a more focused overall product.

Clearing Out Distractions

Now, let’s think about our last vacation.

I’m sure you had that one must-see attraction that you had to check off the vacation to-do list.

Perhaps, this attraction had some historical significance. Maybe, it was a great piece of architectural achievement. There were most definitely other tourists around.

Think of a typical tourist attraction such as the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Busy scene at the Biltmore

You’ll notice the abundance of buses, cars, and people.

If I were to have taken a loto fo photos from the same location, over time, those non-Biltmore items would move to different positions in the frame, revealing other parts of the actual house.

That’s where some software artificial intelligence could come in.

By stacking enough images, editing software could detect what details persisted across the majority of those images. Anything deemed to be temporary or transient would be replaced, leaving a tourist-free image.

I haven’t progressed to that level of photography. So, I just resorted the old “get there early and hope most everyone else didn’t” method.

Much wider angle than above. And, a bit less touristy.

As we map out our financial plans, we are often met with distractions or goals that simply come and go. It’s not that all short-term goals, or newer goals are unimportant. But, allow too many goals in your financial picture, and those things can block the things that we really want to see.

As I mentioned before, some new goals may be worth pursuing. But, from time to time, we need to make sure that the financial goals that stay in our minds also stay in our financial plans, and don’t get crowded out by unwanted distractions.

As I said in the “Financial Focus” section above, most photos don’t need to be created using image-stacking. And, I don’t think we need to constantly pick over our finances with a fine-toothed comb.

But, the occasional check-up on our financial plans to clear out some distracting elements or bring some things into clearer focus does have its place.

Thank you for visiting Finunciate. Come back, soon.

For more information about this post, see the other parts of the series or email me at with any questions you may have.

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