In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how simple it is to shoot and edit a panoramic photo. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, the basic idea is that you shoot a group of photos from left to right, or right to left, and then stitch them together using software such as Lightroom or Photoshop to make one large, wide angle panoramic image. Today we’re going to look at how Lightroom makes stitching panoramas quick and easy. Let’s break this down into two simple steps:
Step 1: Shooting Your Images.
Have you ever stood at a spot looking out over an amazing landscape, brought your camera to your eye, and then thought, “I wish I had a wider lens?” Well a wider lens isn’t always the best thing in this scenario. When you go too wide, the objects in the distance will appear tiny. Instead, what you can do is take a series of photographs with the purpose of stitching them together in one image once you get home. Here's an example of a wide panoramic view of Manhattan from a Brooklyn rooftop:
That photo is comprised of about 15 images, but let’s say for simplicity’s sake that you’re going to stitch together just three photos. First, you’ll want to make sure that your camera is at the same level for each shot (having a tripod helps but isn’t necessary). Now you’ll take one aimed a little left of center, one pointing straight ahead, and one further to the right. To get the best results, you should try and have about a 25% overlap between each photo. This will make sure they final image looks seamless.
A couple other rules to follow are:
- Always shoot in manual focus and manual mode.
- Choose your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, and don’t change them between shots.
- Don’t zoom your lens in or out in between shots.
- Don’t use auto white balance.
These rules will help keep the photos consistent, allowing for an appealing final image.
There is no limit to how many photos you can stitch together (although the more photos, the longer it takes to process). When shooting interiors, I often shoot 3-5 images left to right up high, 3-5 more in the middle of the room, and 3-5 more aimed slightly towards the floor. This allows you to capture a more complete view of the room.
For this tutorial I shot 9 images of a living room to be used as an apartment rental ad:
After importing the images, it's time for the fun part!
Step 2: Stitching the Images
I’m going to go over how to stitch your images using the most current version of Adobe's Lightroom Creative Cloud.
When choosing the images you will use for your panorama, be careful not to choose images from before or after your specific series of shots. Often times I’ll shoot panos in similar locations, so it’s hard to tell when one series ends and one begins when looking at all of the images. A simple trick to help you when editing is to cover the lens and shoot a black frame before and after each series of shots.
Once you’ve selected the images, right click them and select “Photo Merge” and then “Panorama.”
This brings up the below dialog box. I usually find that Spherical projection looks the best for interiors like the one below, but you should look at all three options to find which works best for your given pano. You’ll notice that once the images are stitched together you have distracting white areas around your image that need to be removed.
Now you have a couple of choices to get rid of those white areas. The first option is to crop the image on all sides to remove the white spaces. In some cases that can work just fine, but in this situation, I would lose too much of the image. In other cases I could take the pano into Photoshop, select the white spaces and remove them using Content Aware. However, in this image, Content Aware would likely have some issues with the wooden floor, and it would look a little odd.
So what’s my next option? Boundary Warp. This is a new feature not found in CS6, and it is a magical one. By simply sliding the Boundary Warp slider to 100, Lightroom stretches the image to remove the white spaces, and does so without any strange distortions. Look at the before and after photos here:
And here is the final image, after some slight adjustments in Lightroom:
So there you have it, it really couldn't be easier. From import to export, this whole process takes less than 5 minutes. If you have any questions, or if you'd like to share your panoramic images, please do so in the comments!
You can also download free Photoshop actions.