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Shooting panoramas part 2 - stitching

Now is the time to put the images together. I usually start in Lightroom where I do my basic RAW conversion. Then I merge the image sequence into panorama in Photoshop. You can just as easily start and finish in Photoshop, there is not too much difference there. Alternatively you can use different panorama stitching software but since I only used Photoshop I will stick to it.

As a first step I review all my images in Lightroom. I stack the images from the same batch together so it is easier to identify or find them. When I select the image sequence I like to focus on one image from that sequence for RAW conversion setting. I usually pick the one where the main subject is in full glory. At this point I jump to Develop mode and I do the basic RAW conversion. But I don't go too overboard. My aim is to create nice clean file with good exposure, tone, white balance and somewhat flat looking. I leave more fine tuning for later after the panorama is stitched together. Optionally you can take the image closer to final look in Lightroom if that is your preference.

1. Reviewing images in Lightroom

1. Reviewing images in Lightroom

2. I picked suitable frame to make basic adjustments to the image. Reason I picked this image is that it has wide tonal range form  very dark values to very bright ones.

2. I picked suitable frame to make basic adjustments to the image. Reason I picked this image is that it has wide tonal range form  very dark values to very bright ones.

3. Image with adjustments resulting in reasonably nice histogram, leaving room in blacks and highlights for further adjustments

3. Image with adjustments resulting in reasonably nice histogram, leaving room in blacks and highlights for further adjustments

4. Difference between adjusted image (left) and original capture (right)

4. Difference between adjusted image (left) and original capture (right)

Once I am done with basic setting I shift select rest of the images from the sequence and synchronize the develop settings by clicking on Sync button in bottom right corner. Now all the images should look the same and be consistent across the board. Once synchronized I right-click and choose Merge to panorama in Photoshop. Lightroom does it's job and exports all the images.

5. Synchronizing all settings with rest of the images.

5. Synchronizing all settings with rest of the images.

6. Sending the sequence over to Photoshop via Merge to panorama menu item.

6. Sending the sequence over to Photoshop via Merge to panorama menu item.

In Photoshop a dialog block pops up open with all the files listed. It ask for stitching mode but I usually leave it "Auto" setting. There are few more tick boxes which I leave alone. Like vignette removal was done in Lightroom when we applied lens profile. So I just click OK and depending on number and size of images you can take short or longer break while Photoshop does the magic.

7. Selecting the stitching method in Photoshop. Just use Auto. It usually does pretty good job.

7. Selecting the stitching method in Photoshop. Just use Auto. It usually does pretty good job.

Once the stitching process is finished you can have a first look on your panorama. At this point things may look little weird. Stitching lines are still visible. There is no reason for keeping the panorama on multiple layers so at this point you can flatten the image. Two things happen. File size decreases dramatically and it will be much easier to continue work and also the stitching lines disappear. From this point you have your source image and you can continue with your traditional photo development workflow in Photoshop. Usually my first step is the crop that will define the final resolution and image ratio of the panorama. If you used wide angle lens for shooting (again it is not something that I recommend but sometimes there is no choice) you might get all sorts of distortions. Some can be fixed but if your image is distorted too much (as shown in previous article) then you are most likely out of luck. If your image contains straight lines like horizon, buildings etc you can use adaptive wide angle filter in Photoshop to straighten those. It can greatly improve the look of the picture. Just remember, the more of these pixel transformations take place the more blurrier your image becomes. So it is good idea to limit those. As everything, good photograph should start with best possible capture at the first place. That's it folks. Nice and simple.

8. Stitched image before flattening.

8. Stitched image before flattening.

9. After some perspective transformation and crop I am getting closer.

9. After some perspective transformation and crop I am getting closer.

10. This is the final image after some further development in Nik Viveza.

10. This is the final image after some further development in Nik Viveza.