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Shooting Tips

How to Shoot For & Create A Panorama In Photoshop

By Kishore Sawh on January 3rd 2015

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Fair to say everyone appreciates a good Panorama. Sometimes, a typical single frame image doesn’t quite translate the scope, or beauty, of a scene as you can see with your naked eyes. The panorama gets you a little bit closer to being enveloped in the scene, and clearly, this is something most of us like to do given the proliferation of panorama applications on phones and pano options on cameras today. While the apps and settings can do a good job, it’s unlikely going to give you something really phenomenal or worthy of a large print. To do this, stitching multiple images together will be your best bet, and even to do that, knowing how to take the images and then knowing how to process them in Photoshop is essential.

In the accompanying video, or rather the video to which this text accompanies, Aaron Nace takes some shots of Mt. Haleakalā (shot by fellow Phlearn team member and all ’round good guy, David J Crewe), holds your hand and guides you through the necessary steps to execute great shots for panoramas, and how to put them together and finish your image in Photoshop.

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[REWIND: An Easy Way To Swap Heads In Photoshop | Aaron Nace]

If you’re a landscape shooter or a time-lapse shooter, some of this is probably already understood, but the tips on how to shoot are very valuable to anyone wanting to capture a great pano from a vacation. Some of the tips:

  • There’s a saying often spoken in photography, that there are large, heavy, sturdy tripods, and then there are bad ones. While this may be an exaggeration, it helps to have a good one when taking panoramas.
  • Shoot more images than you actually need to give yourself more cropping ground
  • Contrary to what you might think, shooting at 50mm or higher is better than shooting very wide, as it allows for less distortion.
  • You’ll want to choose an aperture that’s very sharp, and typically, that means shooting within the f/8 to f/11 range
  • Manually focus
  • Shoot using slower shutter speeds, which may require ND filters, to reduce distracting elements of motion.

Once in Photoshop, the program does most of the heavy lifting for you. Simply by going to File>Automate>Photomerge, then keeping everything on automatic, will stitch your images together and give you a panorama to work from, and presents each image as a layer. You can then toggle the layers on and off to see how they make up the pano.

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Once you’re satisfied, you’ll merge all the layers, and then address image distortion by going to Filter>Lens Correction and adjusting the sliders as you see fit. At this point, you should mostly be concerned with cropping to your taste, and then filling in any blank areas using either the Content Aware tool, or clone stamp, and then, finally, adjust the final colors in the image to produce something really spectacular.

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As always, if you are a fan of Aaron’s teachings (and who isn’t?), be sure to check back here for updates, and follow along with Aaron on YouTube and Phlearn. You should also consider becoming quickly adept at Photoshop with the Phlearn Photoshop 101 & 201 sets as they are extremely comprehensive, and will have you quickly doing things with Photoshop you may have otherwise thought too complex, or didn’t even know you could do.

Terms: #Panorama
About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    excellent article

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  2. Jason Boa

    a well explained tutorial

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  3. seoras logan

    Generally good advice but he missed that you should go over every square inch to make sure there are no misalignments with the stitching. Then if any, make adjustments.
    I don’t use PS so not sure how good it is for stitching but as its an add-on to the core PS I would think fairly basic. I would recommend dedicated software for more versatility and fine adjustment or larger panoramas; Autopano pro, PTGui is also highly recommended. I also recommend Hugin (free), even though it shows its workings on its sleeve it has saved the day on many an occasion. I have also found that if a pano doesn’t stitch well in one program another quite often makes it a breeze.

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    • Graham Curran

      Photoshop is very good with it’s stitching and can apply lens corrections as part of the process.

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    • seoras logan

      Yes, quite a number of people use PS and are happy but if your serious about stitching panoramas over any length of time, I would still recommend a dedicated program. Purely through the extended options you have with a dedicated program. If PS works for you and have less demands then definitely stick with it.
      I’ve just moved to PTGui (from Auto pano) and it blows AP out of the water; accuracy, amazing speed (x3), easy masking, etc.
      I’m working from Lightroom so file adjustments are made there, then exported out to be opened in PTGui. I export out as jpegs then the panorama is rendered back to tif, that I then import back into LR. the jpegs are then binned. Its a workflow that works for me.

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  4. ruddy juddy

    thanks, really the aticle is really very well detail, i was looking for same information regarding how to take a nice pics for panoroma, thanks a lot. Can you also let me know how to create panomoa on http://www.toolpic.com as i am looking for some tuyts i canfind on photoshop but not on toolpic, as this website was recenlty lauch , if you can make one i will be really very glad thanks

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    • seoras logan

      Don’t know toolpic but would recommend Hugin, especially as its free and does an excellent job.

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  5. norman tesch

    99 percent of all my landscapes are multi row panoramas. i usually have over 28 images. you really need the nodal rail. it makes it easier especially when you get into areas like sky or water when there is no referance point to overlap. i agree stay away from wide angle lenses because it also pushes everything farther away. i use 50, 85, and 135mm lenses

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  6. Ralph Hightower

    One of the monthly themes for the local camera club that I belong to was panoramas.

    At first, I was going to take a pass in participating at the monthly “Show-n-Tell” to the Photoshop guys; then, with research, I found that Corel Paint Shop Pro can be used to create panoramas. I said “Why not?!”

    Okay, I’m in! I pulled out my Canon Lens Work book © 1981 and found that the horizontal angle of view for a 28mm lens was 65°

    I went with my tripod, Canon A-1, Canon FD 28mm f2.8 to a local boat landing shortly before sunrise. I made sure the head was level across the three frames; I had an overlap of 15°.

    I didn’t have to worry about auto focus since the A-1 is manual focus. I just set the focus on infinity.

    But there was one other attention to detail that I thought I had to take care of. That was the exposure; I took a reading (center-weighted) of the darkest area and set the shutter and aperture manually. I thought that changing the aperture or shutter speed would make things more difficult for me.

    Stitching the frames together was a pain, but it was worth it.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/ralphhightower/8436105383/in/set-72157633129780373/lightbox/

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  7. Aaron Cheney

    Creating panoramas are fun. For shots like this I like to shoot holding the camera in the “portrait” fashion and shoot from left to right using a tripod to keep the camera level. Then process each individual frame, move to PS and use the above method to stitch them together. The end results are very wide but full images.

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  8. Brandon Dewey

    Thanks for the information on how do do this with some helpful tips.

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