Creating Panoramas in Photoshop

This is a simple tutorial on how to create panoramas in Photoshop (in my case version 7, but applies to any Photoshop from version 6 up).

First, here are few tips on how to take photos for panorama, to make your work as simple as possible:

1) Lock all on your camera – shutter, aperture, ISO and white balance.
On how to do this, check your camera’s manual.
The point of this is, that you get all photos with the same exposure settings, and with the same color rendering.
Tip: It’s possible to “simulate” this, if you choose one view as “base view”, for each photo you point your camera to this view, press the shutter button half way down, so that camera “locks” on the same exposure and white balance, and then move to the view you want to snap, and press the shutter button all way down. This is best for low-end cameras, that don’t allow you to lock all.

There are ways to compensate for this, if you don’t do all this properly, but that’d be topic for another (much longer) tutorial.

2) Make sure consecutive images have overlay 1/4 to 2/3.
I typically shoot the pix to have overlay about 1/2; this gives you enough of “common” space, and also helps you to compensate for the lens distortion.
This rule is not so important for panoramas of sky, but for panoramas of e.g. roof view of town, you have to be very careful and know your lens.

If you follow these 2 simple rules, the making of panorama itself is a matter of minutes.

You can create both horizontal and vertical panoramas; for the illustration, I’ll create vertical panorama out of 4 photos of sky.
Typically, order of photos is not important, if you’re making panorama of just several (2-5) photos; to create horizontal panorama out of many photos, it’s best to choose one “central” photo, and stitch the photos on the left and on the right to it; this is because of the lens distortion, that might give your panorama slight curvature; thus taking central photo as “gauge” that sets horizon, you’ll get a well balanced panorama.

Step 1: Create big enough blank document in Photoshop, that can contain the whole panorama, and drop all photos in it as separate layers, and roughly set them in position (see the following figure).

Panorama tutorial, image 1

Step 2: Make all layers invisible, except of the lowest layer and the layer above it. Select the upper layer of the two as an active one.

Step 3: Set the layer’s blending mode to “Difference”; this is a special blending mode, that allows you to see the difference between the two images. Now position the layer so that you create a pure black area about in the middle of the layers’ overlay (see the following figure). Don’t worry that the images don’t fit exactly in the other areas – this is due to the lens distortion (projection of sphere on a plane).

Panorama tutorial, image 2

Step 4: Select a big round soft brush; I’m using brush of diameter 400-600 pixels for 4MP photos.

Then add a layer mask to the upper layer.

Panorama tutorial, image 3

Step 5: Paint with pure black (K = 100%) with opacity 100% in the layer mask, over the area that you want to be invisible (in this case, since I’m create the panorama from down up, the bottom part below the pure black area from Step 3; see the following figure).

Panorama tutorial, image 4

Step 6: Set the blending mode back to “Normal”, and check the result by turning the upper layer’s visibility on and off (see the following figure). Repeat the previous until you are satisfied. You can make the portions of image re-appear by drawing with pure white (K = 0%) in the layer mask over them.

Once you’re satisfied with the result, merge the layer down (press Ctrl+E).

Panorama tutorial, image 5

Step 7: Select next layer, and repeat steps 36, until you create a complete, raw, panorama.

Panorama tutorial, image 6

After completing the raw panorama, it’s time to crop the panorama, do the noise filtering, and any other filtering you want.

Panorama tutorial, image 7

And that’s it! All you have to do now is sit back, and enjoy your results!

Panorama tutorial, result

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