If you have a camera that’s a few years old—maybe a crop-sensor—and you don’t have a super-sharp ultra-wide angle lens to go with it, it pretty much narrows your chances of capturing a wide panorama down to zero, right? Wrong! As Aaron Nace demonstrates via this wonderful method, there is absolutely no limit to creativity except your own vision:
This method uses Photoshop’s photomerge technique to create a breathtaking panorama using several different shots.
- Use a sturdy tripod when shooting panoramic photos.
- Stay level when tilting the camera from side to side.
- Take a few more images than you actually need and also shoot wider than you need.
- Don’t shoot with a super wide-angle lens. Choose something like a 50mm or higher.
- Don’t shoot at the widest f-stop possible. Shoot instead at f/8 – f/11 to get the optimum sharpness and depth of field.
- Always switch to manual focusing.
- Shoot at a slower than normal shutter speed with a ND filter (if possible). This will eliminate elements such as people and cars that may be moving during the shots.
Pull the Images Together and Create the Panorama
Go to File > Automate > Photomerge. Leave the Layout option to Auto (default).
Browse and select the files from the source folder. Keep the Blend Images Together option checked. Leave the other two options unchecked. Hit OK.
The image that you end up with is going to look a bit weird. But don’t worry; this is just a work-in-progress.
The next step is to merge all the layers together. Select all the layers and press Ctrl (or Command in Mac) E to merge all the layers.
Take Care of Distortions
Distortions are a part and parcel of most lenses. When stitching together a panorama you’ll encounter a lot of it. This is because when you pan, the lens is going to collect a lot of information around the middle and not much at the corners.
Go to Filter > Lens Correction > Custom.
Under the custom panel you have a lot of options to play with. Feel free to tweak things around.
Even after correcting for distortion, there’s going to be a lot of missing information in the image. You need to crop the image to correct the problem. The standard crop ratio is 3:1. Enter the values in the panel above. Now go ahead and crop the image.
Filling in the Empty Areas
Even after doing a good crop, there may be a small patch of the image that actually doesn’t have any information. There are two ways to fill in the missing information. Both use what is known as Content-Aware in Photoshop. This analyzes the rest of the image and fills in details to closely match with the immediate area. You can do this manually using the clone-stamp or you can use the Fill tool.
As Nace demonstrates, the Fill tool doesn’t do a great job of patching the corners of the image. The clone-stamp tool, on the other hand, does a much better job.
The final step is to do a selective coloring and sharpening of the image.
You can use this same technique to produce brilliant panoramas using even a basic 10 megapixel camera, though it is highly recommended that you shoot in a lossless format (i.e. raw).
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