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.
Digital photography has become extremely popular thanks to its accessibility and speed, but to get the best out of those photographs some time needs to be spent editing and tweaking them. Thankfully, plenty of applications are available for you to complete such tasks with, starting with moderate and user-friendly functionality of Google Picasa all the way up to most complex pieces of software, such as Adobe Photoshop (or simply PS). In fact, Photoshop is probably one of the most popular photo processing programs currently available. Most people that use it know but a few percent of its capabilities and are likely never to use all of it, myself included! Fewer people still understand that it has never been targeted squarely for photographic use (the way Adobe Lightroom is, for example), but rather all sorts of graphical editing. How much sense does it make to use such a complex and professional piece of software to edit simple family photographs? Not that much if you’re a simple enthusiast who just wants high quality photographs with minimal fuss. Thankfully, Adobe has something for you as well. Photoshop Elements (PSE in short) is a lighter, simpler, quicker version of its sibling. In essence, it offers all the functionality you’ll ever need to edit your JPG and even RAW images, but through user friendly tools and interface. In this Photoshop vs Photoshop Elements article, I will give you a quick tour of 11 capabilities of Photoshop Elements. Hopefully, this brief comparison will help you decide which one is better for your needs.
What is Photoshop Elements?
As the name would suggest, Photoshop Elements is a close relative to the Photoshop CS, but unlike its bigger brother, it’s not targeted at professionals. Don’t get me wrong – Photoshop Elements 11 has a lot tricks up its sleeve, such as RAW support through Adobe Camera RAW plug-in. On one hand, anyone familiar with the regular, full-fledged Photoshop will find themselves right at home. But Elements doesn’t encourage you to use any serious tools manually – in fact, it aims to do most of the work for you with just a few clicks. So if you want your family images to pop and stand out with minimal fuss regardless what sort of gear you use, be it a DSLR, a mirrorless camera or a compact point-and-shoot, this may well be your answer. Luckily, being targeted at a very different audience means the price is also significantly lower. Adobe Photoshop CS6 retails for around $590, while the Extended edition costs a whopping $900. You should really consider whether you need all that functionality, because Photoshop Elements 11 will set you back a mere $60 (current price with instant savings).