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Like HDR, sepia or selective color, creating panoramas is one of those trends that seems to get in and out of fashion. They are better suited to print rather than the computer monitor but one thing that does remain is their ability to impress and engage the viewer, especially when printed big. Today we are going to show you how to stitch together panoramas using Photoshop. Like anything photographic, the better your source image the better the final result, and in panoramas this means shots taken on a tripod, with a standard lens with minimal distortion and preferably with the images shot in portrait format. So assuming that you have got the source images, let's get started.
1. Select Your Photos and Load Them in Photoshop
First things first and it’s best to be organized. Copy your source images into a dedicated new folder, this will make it easy to select the right shots. In any recent incarnation of Photoshop, go to the menu and select File – Automate – Photomerge. A new window will open that allows you to browse for files or add files already open in Photoshop. As we have copied our source files to a new folder, Browse to that and select all the images.
2. Selecting Options in Photomerge
To the left of the Photomerge window you will see a number of options on how to create the panorama. For the most part, Auto will work well for most panoramas, if you have shot a very wide panorama, 180 degrees or more in arc then Cylindrical may give you a better result whilst if you wish to highlight a centralized subject in the final result, use Perspective. At the bottom of the list Reposition allows you to manually line up your shots.
At the very bottom of the window you see three check boxes. For the most part you can leave all three checked. Blend Images will look for the variations in exposure, contrast and color and attempt to equalize them between shots. Vignette will remove any dark areas from the corners, caused by lens hoods or by using a longer telephoto whilst Geometric Distortion analyses potential distortions caused by the lens and attempts to correct it. If you are using a professional level prime lens for your source images, you might get better results with the last two unchecked, however for most lenses there is no harm in leaving these checked.
3. Making Minor Adjustments to the Processed Image
So with the options selected, press the OK button. Depending on the speed of your computer, it may take Photoshop some time to analyze and process the images. When finished the panorama will open in a new window. The first thing you may notice is that there is blank canvas visible top and bottom of the shot. Looking to the layers palette on the right of the screen, you will also note that each image is an individual layer. This can be handy if Photoshop has not made a 100% accurate merge. By selecting the offending layer in the palette and going to Select – Select All, you can use the move tool to make micro adjustments to your panorama.
4. Cropping the Image
Once happy with any adjustments, you can crop out the blank canvas areas. To do this, from the menu select Layers – Merge Layers. Now go to the Crop Tool on the Toolbar left of the screen. From the dialogue at the top, select Unconstrained. This will allow you crop the image to very precisely. If you already know what size of paper you will print the image on, you can create a custom size and resolution from the same drop down box.
5. Sharpen and Save. And You're Done!
Once you have cropped the image to the relevant size, carry out some careful sharpening and save the image at the highest quality possibly. Remember as this is a composite of several images, TIFF files are going to be very large, you will not see any discernible loss of quality by saving as a JPG with low compression, for example Image Quality of 11.
As we said at the top, a good printed panorama can look very impressive. If you get the images right in camera, by following these simple Photoshop techniques you should be able to create your own eye catching shots.