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 posted an article on why I thought Adobe’s Creative Cloud model was a bad idea. The feedback from our readers was great, with over 300 comments and counting. Most agreed with my stance on why the “renting” model was not for everyone and talked about the risks associated with going to the cloud. Today, Adobe reported that its security was breached and hackers were able to obtain private information including customer names, encrypted credit/debit card numbers, expiration dates and other private data for 2.9 million customers, all part of the Creative Cloud subscription model.
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.
Today at Photoshop World conference in Las Vegas, Adobe announced a new packaged bundle tailored specifically for Photographers. It consists of the Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, Behance ProSite and 20 GB of cloud storage – all for $9.99 per month. There are two conditions with this deal: you have to sign up before December 31, 2013 and you must currently own CS3 or a newer version of Photoshop. Many photographers complained about Adobe’s decision to move the Creative Suite platform to the cloud and their new subscription-based pricing model. We wrote a number of articles criticizing Adobe’s decision and talked about the pitfalls of going to the cloud, including the high monthly costs.
Previously, Adobe’s pricing model was to charge $20 per software application, or $50 for everything. So if you wanted to subscribe to Lightroom and Photoshop (which are the two most used applications among photographers), you had have to pay $40 per month. Starting from September 17, 2013, which is the projected launch date for Lightroom 5.2, you will be able to get both software packages, along with some other extras at quarter of the price. Adobe has already discounted Creative Cloud pricing before and it is doing it in a much more aggressive manner again.
Rather than taking a deeper look at an image, those of us who are just getting into photography might get carried away with thoughts of major post-processing. If given enough consideration, most photos do not need major editing or hardly need any editing at all. Before venturing into piling on every single editing trick you’ve learned on the photo of your choice, I call you to consider these basic tips to make your workflow faster and hopefully easier.
If you took workshops and coursework on photography, chances are you’ve heard every mentor talk about understanding composition and learning to crop within the camera. Doing so will yield greatly composed photos and will limit your time in post production. But from time to time, you will come back with badly cropped photos which might have distracting elements in the background and the composition may not look spot on. If you are photographing portraits, even the slightest distraction may draw the viewer’s attention to something else than what you originally intended the viewer to concentrate on. At times like these, instead of deleting the photo, I want to give it another chance. Memories are precious and I do not mind cropping the photo to preserve what is important. Cropping images in post production will give you another chance to re-frame your shots and there are a number of different ways you can do this to achieve desirable results.
When I criticized Adobe for its “Creative Cloud” push, where I talked about how the company is forcing its customers to migrate to the Creative Cloud subscription service without giving the choice to buy an individual license for its upcoming software, I talked a little about the software update past. Basically, at some point in the past, Adobe decided to stop providing updates to its older Camera RAW software, telling us that the new versions were incompatible with the old ones and that updates would be provided only to the most recent versions of its software. This was a big push on behalf of Adobe, which forced many photographers to upgrade their Photoshop licenses – otherwise they were not be able to open RAW files from newer cameras.
Adobe Camera RAW is a widely used tool by photographers. Since photographers upgrade their equipment constantly, Adobe knew that the easiest way to make people upgrade to the latest version of its Photoshop software was to make new Camera RAW versions that were only compatible with the latest version of Photoshop. Eventually, photographers would be required to upgrade or inconveniently use Adobe’s DNG converter to convert those RAW files to DNG format and then work off those. If you used Photoshop CS5, you were forced to use Camera RAW 6 and you had no option to upgrade to Camera RAW 7 that ships with Photoshop CS6. Previous versions were done the same way, I believe starting from CS4.
By now you have probably heard about Adobe’s decision to stop development of Adobe Creative Suite (which includes such software as Photoshop and Illustrator) and move to a completely different subscription-only model. In short, Adobe does not want to sell packaged versions of its software anymore and wants you to instead pay for select software packages or the whole Creative Suite on a monthly basis. For example, today you can purchase Adobe Photoshop CS6 for $599 and own the license, which means that you can install it on your computer and use it whenever you want without limitations. With the new Adobe pricing strategy, you will no longer be able to purchase Photoshop that way – you will have to get a $20 per month subscription for using Photoshop alone (or $50 for the whole Creative Suite). There will be no other option. Software will be delivered over the Internet and once you get it installed, it will make occasional requests over the Internet to Adobe.com to verify your subscription level. Creative Cloud will work the same way that CS6 works today, except it will require an active subscription. When traveling without any Internet connectivity, the software will work for a limited amount of time (something like 30 days) before ceasing to work and requiring you to connect to the Internet.
In every Mastering Lightroom series article, I mention certain strengths of this, in my opinion, superb piece of software. Only every now and then do I find something small to complain about, as I have in my “How to Manage Presets” article. I strongly believe Lightroom offers more or less everything needed to process a well captured image and offers plenty of powerful yet simple photographic tools. However, as our readers have wisely noticed in the comments section of my “How to Use the Spot Removal Tool” article, on rare occasions these tools may not be powerful enough. Here comes another strength of my favorite photo processing application – flexibility. You can use other programs to do what Lightroom can’t, and then go back with the processed image to its familiar and simple environment. In this Mastering Lightroom series article, I will show you how to use external editors with examples provided using the most popular and capable you can buy – Adobe’s own Photoshop.
1) What Software can be Used with Lightroom 4?
A good question, this. As of late, I’ve found my photography changed in such a way I rarely, if ever, need to use something other than Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, but if such an occasion does present itself, I know I have enough choice. First and foremost, Lightroom supports the all-powerful Photoshop, which itself is likely enough to satisfy your every need when editing images. If Photoshop alone is not enough, remember the huge library of amazing specialized plug-ins you can find for it, including Google’s very capable Nik Software and the (rightly) popular Topaz Labs products (which we have plans to review). In other words, you may use Photoshop and, through it, all the plug-ins you can find and purchase or download as freeware.
Update: Looks like the information was incorrect after all – Adobe is NOT giving away CS2 for free. According to Dov Isaacs of Adobe, “On behalf of Adobe Systems Incorporated, You have heard wrong! Adobe is absolutely not providing free copies of CS2! What is true is that Adobe is terminating the activation servers for CS2 and that for existing licensed users of CS2 who need to reinstall their software, copies of CS2 that don’t require activation but do require valid serial numbers are available (Special serial numbers are provided on the page for each product download). Apparently there still is no such thing as a free lunch… ;)
In a rather interesting move, Adobe has made the decision to allow users to download its 2005 Creative Suite Premium (CS2), which includes Photoshop, for free. One can speculate regarding the reasons behind the strategy. On one hand, it is hard to imagine that Adobe was counting on any revenue from this older version, since software firms normally only license the current version of their products. On the other hand, Adobe may be looking to entice some fence sitters to consider easing their way into Photoshop.
How does this benefit you? The Channel Mixer! My main purpose for originally purchasing Photoshop vs. Elements or other program was this one feature. As I demonstrated in my infrared photography article, the Channel Mixer allows you to extract the portions of visible and invisible infrared light in a way no other feature currently provides. This feature may not be exploited as much by others, but it is a prerequisite for those that are serious about infrared photography. I am now hopelessly addicted to the full blown version of Photoshop CS6, but if this feature had been available in other programs, I don’t know how quickly I would have jumped on the Photoshop bandwagon. By allowing users to download Photoshop CS2 for free, Adobe has lowered the costs and challenges for those considering entering the world of infrared photography. And this is just one of the features of Photoshop – there are many more great tools available in Photoshop CS2 that you can utilize for your photography needs.