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How-to's Software Reviews

A Custom Approach to Panoramas with Lightroom

Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen)


Keywords: panorama, lightroom, photoshop, stitching, mike_hagen

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Introduction

Sometime back, while leading the Annual Photo Adventure Trip (ANPAT) 13th through Northern Arizona, I photographed the tiny ghost town of Chloride. One side of the ghost town is a long façade of storefronts that I thought would be a great subject for a panorama.

image1

This panorama of the ghost town Chloride in Arizona took a unique approach using both Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC.
Click for an enlargement

 

The street through the ghost town was very narrow, so I couldn’t get back far enough to shoot a typical panorama by rotating the camera from left to right from a fixed position. If I did try to shoot the pano using this method, it would have resulted in a funny-looking photograph with unwieldy perspective shifts. In that scenario, the ends of town would be very small while the middle of town would be too large.

To solve that problem, I decided to change my approach and physically walk down the length of town, taking images of the façade every 30 feet or so. I locked my camera settings like exposure, white balance, focus, and focal length, then proceeded to take photos from the tripod as I walked down the dirt road in front of the storefronts.

image2

Here are all the images I took by walking down the street and snapping a picture every 30 feet.
Click for an enlargement

 

Back at the office, my plan was to composite these images together in software to create a long panorama, without perspective shift. Because of the atypical approach I used, I knew it was going to be difficult to stitch these images together with software.

To be honest, I’ve never tried to stitch those images because I didn’t think the Photoshop would do it. As time marched on, I forgot about the pics. But, fast-forward a few years to the present day where both Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC have new panorama stitching utilities. Just a few weeks ago, Lightroom CC and Adobe Camera Raw released a new utility called Boundary Warp that I figured might do a good job with this unique photo sequence.

I set about trying to get the panorama to merge in Lightroom CC and in Photoshop CC, but it was very difficult. To get something to work, it took me three different attempts and it required me to try a new method I had to make up on the spot. Here goes…

1st Attempt

My first attempt at merging the images from Lightroom CC was a complete fail. I selected all 14 individual files and right clicked to choose Photo Merge –>Panorama. The software churned away for a minute, then produced the error message shown below. I tried all three projection options, but each one resulted in the same error message.

image3

Here’s the error message from Lightroom when I tried to merge all the images into one panorama.
Click for an enlargement

 

It is clear that Lightroom CC doesn’t have the capability to merge images like these. I surmise this is because each photograph is taken from a different perspective. Each photo has different vanishing points on the buildings, roofs, posts, foregrounds, and sky. Asking a software program to figure it all out is a pretty tall order. But I wasn’t going to give up quite yet, so I decided to send the images directly to the Photoshop panorama merge utility.

2nd Attempt

Knowing that Photoshop generally does a better job of merging difficult panoramas, I decided to merge the files using the Photoshop Photo Merge utility. From Lightroom CC, I selected the images like before, then right clicked and chose Edit In –> Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. This takes all the individual files and activates the Photomerge dialog where you can choose the layout (projection) and a few other image details.

omage4

To send the images to Photoshop’s panorama tool, right click on the images to access the contextual menu.
Click for an enlargement

 

After clicking OK from the dialog, Photoshop spent about 10 minutes churning away on the images. Finally, Photoshop produced a slightly warped panorama, but it was able to stitch all the images together in the correct positions. Because it was using photos where each image was taken from a different position, the clouds in the sky ended up looking a bit funky with numerous repeating patterns. I could have cloned these out, but would have taken a lot of work. I figured I’d try one more method to see if I could get a final product I’d be proud of.

image5

This was the merge from Photoshop. Not bad, but check out the repeating patterns in the clouds.
Click for an enlargement

 

image6

Here’s a close-up of the repeating cloud patterns from the Photoshop merge.
Click for an enlargement

 

(10 Votes )
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Originally written on March 31, 2016

Last updated on May 16, 2016

Mike Hagen Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen)

Expert photography teacher

Gig Harbor, USA
Gold, 149 posts

8 comments

Bruce Henderson (hendo55) on May 23, 2018

Great article, will have to try that with a few of my shots that I have not yet been able to get lightroom to merge, or haven't been able to manually merge by hand. Thanks for the tip.

Jose Andres Basbus (Jose Andres) on August 10, 2016

thanks Mike. It is very interesting your article and helps people have a better understanding of both LR and Ps capabilities!

Gary Worrall (glxman) on April 17, 2016

Awarded for his high level skills, specially in Wildlife & Landscape Photography

Much appreciated Mike Well thought out, thank you for sharing .......Gary

Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen) on April 12, 2016

Expert photography teacher

Alan Dooley - Yes, I tried to keep the horizon in the same spot for each of my images. I turned on the grid lines in my viewfinder and kept the horizon in the same spot as I snapped each successive image. Mike

Joseph shank (Kjshank2) on April 7, 2016

Thanks Mike, great info here. I really enjoy the new pano feature of lightroom/photoshop, but I have stumped it a few times myself.

Alan Dooley (ajdooley) on April 2, 2016

Awarded for his frequent encouraging comments, sharing his knowledge in the Nikonians spirit. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

(Edited by jrp Saturday, 02 April 2016 ) I downloaded the new Photoshop panorama program, and you are pressuring me into doing this! I see that you walked down the street, snapping every 30 feet. Since the ground isn't level, I assume you "drew" a line for the center of the horizontal field so you had an even top and bottom.

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on April 1, 2016

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian.

Great article Mike. Over the years I've had to do a lot of creative thinking when shooting panos and I have actually photographed pano image series the same way you describe here. A lot of folks don't realize that just about any series of shots can be successfully stitched with patience, perseverance, and trying different approaches.

Dale Maas (marnigirl) on March 31, 2016

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous contribution to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

Great creativity Mike. Very impressive thinking.

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