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Tips & Tricks

Tilt-Shift Lens Panorama Technique – How We Shot It

By Matthew Saville on June 28th 2013

In preparation for our upcoming Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 TS (tilt-shift) lens review, we’ve been shooting a few different types of scenes and testing things out.  Here is a simple technique for creating seamless, quick panoramas that merge together effortlessly! (If you want to learn more about how to make a tilt-shift panorama, stay tuned and we’ll have more articles up soon!)

The Photo

MS1_8882-Edit-2(Click here to view a larger version!)

The Equipment and Settings

How We Shot It

Growing up in Irvine, CA I have shot this exact scene many, many times.  Click HERE to check out a daytime version of this scene with lightning in it, and click HERE to check out a brief tutorial using GND filters!

In fact, I’ve been shooting here at this location, well, since before the days of digital, but that’s beside the point.  I’ve also been shooting here since the early days of Photoshop, when panoramas had to be stitched together “by hand” in photoshop using manual warping and masking.  Man, was that ever a nightmare!

While I’m happy that Photoshop’s advancement in panoramic stitching have progressed immensely, I still regret a few things about stitching panoramas together.  First and foremost, you almost always need to use the “cylindrical” option when creating wide-angle panoramas, which forces you to throw away a lot of the image’s edges, especially the skies.  Secondly, when Photoshop warps your image to line up each and every feature in the image, you are losing overall sharpness a little bit.

By the way, even if you use nodal point gear in your panorama, Photoshop will still need to warp your images a little bit in order to get all the lines to match up properly.

In short, if you want the sharpest, most efficient way to create a panorama, it is to use a tilt-shift lens.  We’ll talk more about this in our forthcoming full review of the Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift, however the basic idea is that you are simply extending the view of your lens without having to turn your camera.  Just imagine your viewfinder, and then imagine your field of view being extended to the left and right by about 50% in both directions.  (Or, up and down by a similar amount…)

The result?  Images that match up totally seamlessly.  See for yourself:




(I bumped the layers just a little bit, so you could see where the seam is)

The Post-Processing

As you just saw, Photoshop CS6 had no problem creating a perfect panorama from these two images.  In fact, after making just a slight crop the image becomes a perfect 12×30″ panoram, with almost zero wasted space!

I bet that you could even go all the way back to Photoshp CS3 and still get the same results from CS3’s (slightly more primitive) panoramic stitching feature.

So, the creation of the panorama becomes the least time-consuming part of the process, by far.  Finally, the fun part is once again the actual processing of the images!

For this night scene, I started with our newly re-designed HDR preset in Lightroom 5.  First, I used the “Soft HDR” preset on the original images, so that I would get as much dynamic range as possible from the image but without over-processing it.  I never want to “crush” my images if they still need to go into Photoshop for additional editing; I like to leave them a little bit subdued, and then “pop” my shadows and highlights when I get back into Lightroom later.

After merging the original RAW frames in Photoshop, I brought the final panorama back into Lightroom and then applied another (B&W) HDR preset; this time from our “Vivid” section of presets so that the final image would really pop.

The presets are designed to work on both RAW, JPG and TIF / PSD images, actually, and the only thing I had to do from there was reduce the 2nd pass of sharpening since I didn’t want to over-sharpen my image by applying the same amount twice.

The whole process took just a few minutes, thanks to the simplicity of the tilt-shift process and the SLR Lounge preset system.

Take care, and happy clicking,
=Matthew Saville=

 Learn HDR & Panoramic Photography

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For more HDR & Panoramic HDR education, be sure to check out HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.

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The SLR Lounge Preset System is designed to enable users to achieve virtually any look and effect within 3-5 simple clicks. From basic color correction, vintage fades, black & white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing, and so much more. The sky is the limit with what has been dubbed the most powerful and intuitive preset system available. Click the link above to learn more/purchase!  The SLR Lounge Preset System is now available for both Lightroom 4, (compatible with Lightroom 5) …and Adobe Camera Raw! (Bridge CS6)

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Terms: #Panorama

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. DJ Neuron

    I was hoping for a lot more from this article.  For example, sometime I need to shift vertically to get the framing I want, which means panning to get the horizontal scope I want in the final image.  In that case, which stitching option is best?  Why do some panos I shoot have huge distortion on one side?

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  2. Michael Lawlor

    I have a Zuiko 35mm shift lens and have found that my adapter is not correctly aligned, so when the camera is level, the shift mechanism is not level. Have you encountered this problem (requiring cropping of the final image) or do I need to spend more money on a better adapter?

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  3. Bill Nichols

    Hi Matt –

    You talk about using the TS lens to shoot this but you don’t give any details into what you actually do on the lens to achieve this. Can you detail that out a bit? Are you starting centered or shifted to one side, then just shifting over?


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    • M. Saville

      Hey Bill,

      Yes to your second guess- When creating a panorama, I frame my shots with complete left and right shifting. Of course I shift back and forth beforehand to check my composition, and then I capture the final frames.

      As a side note, if you try this technique with a crop sensor, you will have to also capture a middle frame, because the shift of a 24mm lens on a crop sensor is greater than two full image frames!


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