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.