This is a follow-up article to the tutorial I published a few days ago on how to create a panorama image in Lightroom. In the article, I used a very simple and straightforward panorama image which could be merged without any errors virtually on first try. The image did not have a main object of interest and only a few points that needed critical precision during stitching process. I chose this image for the sake of convenience – I didn’t want it to cause any apparent problems while I tried to explain how to seamlessly include Photoshop or any other panorama merging software in your Lightroom workflow. However, we all understand that, more often than not and especially with Brenizer method panoramas that I love so much, the stitching process is far from being perfectly accurate every time. More complex panoramas require several tries before the stitching is done properly, or manual correction. But how do you manually correct a panorama that you are trying to merge through Lightroom? It is actually easier than you may think and is unlikely to upset your workflow in any way.
A while ago, I wrote an article explaining how to use Lightroom with external editors. Since then, I’ve been asked specifically about merging panorama images. In this article, I will show you all the steps you need to take to successfully merge a panorama and have it back in your Library with minimal fuss. I will be using Lightroom 5.2 and Photoshop CS5, but the process is virtually identical with (reasonably) older versions of both software tools. This tutorial will focus on the process of stitching a panorama image while using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as the heart of your post-processing and image management workflow.
If you are new to panorama photography, the best place to start is by reading our “Panoramic Photography Tutorial”. Manual panorama stitching technique will be discussed in a separate article.
1) There is a Catch
We start, unusually, with a problem. As a RAW file converter and photo manager, Lightroom has limited functionality when it comes to graphical editing. In fact, all its great flexibility is concentrated within the two mentioned main functions of the software. In many other respects, Lightroom is not the best choice. For example, I can edit 98% of my wedding photographs with Lightroom alone, no problem. However, the two remaining percent happen to be Brenizer method panoramas. This is where things, at first glance, get a bit more complicated. As I am sure a lot of you already know, you can’t stitch panorama images with Lightroom alone. If you didn’t yet know this and stumbled upon this article hoping to find a different answer, I am sorry to disappoint you. It lacks such functionality at its core. There is, of course, a workaround. What Lightroom can’t do on its own, it can do with the help of external editors and plug-ins. Panorama stitching happens to be one of those holes you can fill in quite easily if you own a Lightroom-compatible panorama stitching software which, in my case, is Photoshop. So, in order to create a panorama in Lightroom (sort of), you need to export those files to an external editor. Photoshop has a very powerful Photomerge tool for just such occasions, but the problem remains. You need to own another piece of software to perform such a task. I find that perplexing.
A while ago, I posted an article asking for your feedback. We were all very thrilled to see so many of you comment (even though I didn’t get to answer all of the comments, we already have a list of things we will be working very hard on during the coming months). One suggestion, made by Marcin (thank you!), was of particular interest to me. “What inspires us?”, he asked. Let me rephrase that – who inspires us?
Learning something new is vital for any aspiring photographer, not to mention how interesting it can often be. But then there is a question – whom to learn from? There are a lot of photography forums and blogs around, both with good and not-so-good content, and it can take quite some time for one to differentiate them accordingly. Luckily, just when I was starting my wedding photography business about two years ago, I came across Ryan Brenizer’s blog, and from him I learned one of the best techniques I’ve seen around – the Brenizer method panorama.
Panoramas have been around since film days, and there were actually cameras specifically designed to take such images by using a longer portion of film than conventional 35mm or medium format cameras. Today, most point-and-shoot cameras, as well as some mirrorless and DSLR cameras, are capable of taking panorama images automatically, and, frankly, the result can often be spectacular. So what is so special about this so-called Brenizer method panorama? Well, take a look at the following image.
I took this photograph using my Nikon D700 camera and a 20mm lens set at f/0.5, and gave the full 80 megapixel image to my clients in case they wanted to print large, for those of you curious enough to ask. It was a very fine day and an amazing wedding. No one truly cared about the oncoming rain, least of all the gorgeous bride with her makeup and hairdo. As I was…
Hold on. A 20mm f/0.5 lens? This can’t be right… Can it?
Here are some photos that I decided to share with you from Yellowstone NP and Glacier NP from my trip across the Western USA. I have not done much processing on these yet, which I am hoping to do during the next few weeks. The images from Yellowstone NP are from the Nikon D5100 that I was testing – all images from my Nikon D3s were on the card that I unfortunately lost somewhere in Yosemite NP. All landscape images of Yellowstone are lost, so I only have some wildlife + wildflower shots to show.
While in Yellowstone, there was not a day when I did not see black bears. First day I was super excited about seeing a bear cub walk alone and eat flowers, so I took several hundred pictures of him eating, resting and playing. My favorite picture was with the cub sitting in between many wildflowers. Of course those pictures are all gone, so it is only a memory. During the next bear encounters, I only photographed when the bears were close. For the first couple of shots, I would use the Nikon D5100 and then switch to my D3s, due to better and more accurate autofocus. Here are some images of bears from the Nikon D5100 + Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR combo.
This is a black bear that some call “Cinnamon” bear:
I’m finishing up working on the images from Yellowstone, which I will post tomorrow. Meanwhile, here is a shot of a Kiva that I captured at Mesa Verde National Park:
Since I did not carry a fisheye lens with me at the time and I had the Nikon 24-70mm attached to the D700, I could not fit much into the frame. Setting up a tripod inside the Kiva was not an option either, since it would take up additional space making it even more difficult to capture this tight space. The solution I came up with, was to lean against the wall and shoot 8-10 vertical frames hand-held @ 24mm using ISO 1600 to create a panorama. One problem, however, was the fact that I would never be able to stitch a panorama if I moved my camera from one side to another (like I typically do) without worrying about the nodal point (if you do not know what a nodal point is or want to find out how to properly photograph panoramas, check out my “how to photograph panoramas” article). What I did was I used the hand-held panoramic technique, which is described in the above link in section 3.3 #10 of the article, where I held the middle of the lens and rotated around it.
As you can see, the panorama stitched perfectly fine!
While driving through a local state park with my family, I saw this beautiful sunset and decided to take some pictures of it with my iPhone (I know, I left the real camera at home). I took a few shots and then realized that the scene did not quite fit the frame, so I put the phone in vertical position and took a few vertical shots using the same technique I describe in my “Panoramic Photography Howto” article. The only problem was, I could not lock the exposure or change white balance on the phone… So, here is the result:
I stitched the panorama in Adobe Photoshop CS5, then brightened up the grass a little and slightly increased contrast. I think the result is OK, although the colors are a little out of whack…still not bad for a crappy phone camera (the new iPhone 4G is supposed to have a much better 5 megapixel camera). As Chase Jarvis puts it, the best camera is the one that is with you :)
I wrote this tutorial for those who want to learn about panoramic photography and how to photograph and stitch panoramas using a point and shoot or DSLR camera. The technique consists of two parts – photographing a scene using a camera and then using special software to align and stitch those images together to form a single panoramic image. I will go over both and will show you how to create stunning panoramic images of any subject, including landscapes.
Looks like I did manage to capture a single landscape image from the last visit to Sand Dunes, where Sergey and I had some fun taking pictures of aerial kicks. I thought nothing good would come out, since it was extremely windy and there was too much dust and sand in the air.
The above is a panoramic image that I shot hand-held with the 24mm f/1.4G. It did not get stitched properly due to parallax errors, but the bad stitches are not that visible because of the moving sand. The 24mm was not wide enough for a single shot and I knew that it wouldn’t work, but I only took one lens with me and I did not have much choice…
I will soon write an article about Panorama stitching techniques, where I will go into more details about the above problem.
Here is the promised panoramic version of the Dead Horse Point at sunrise. The full version is comprised of 8 vertical images, measuring approximately 32 megapixels with an aspect ratio of 2:1.
All 8 shots were taken in Manual mode at f/8 and 1/10th of a second, ISO 200. Whenever you shoot panoramic images, always remember to switch to full manual mode to get identical exposure. You do not want your shutter speed or your aperture to change when you move from one point to another and shooting in manual will always yield consistent results for stitching software. Do not forget to disable Auto ISO as well – you want to keep your ISO at the lowest value for the best image quality. The above and other tips on panoramic photography can be found in my panoramic photography guide.
I have been putting off working the Utah images for a while and I have finally decided to finish working on them this weekend. I decided to divide the photos to two parts – the first part is primarily Arches National Park and the second part is Canyonlands National Park. Although we spent about three full days in Utah, the weather did not cooperate half of the time, so we tried to shoot as much as we could while it lasted. On top of that, as I have indicated before, I lost about 8 gigs of photos from the last two days. Hope you enjoy these!
I was initially planning to go through I-70 directly to Grand Junction and stay overnight. After a rock fell on the highway and destroyed a portion of it, we detoured through highway 287. On the way to Grand Junction, we stopped at a local farm to take some pictures of the cows early in the morning:
This one looked at me, wondering what I was up to:
Next, we headed straight to Arches. The park was flooded with rain from a couple of days before, so there were plenty of interesting pools in the area: