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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since neither of the two previous approaches produced results I was happy with, I decided to try one last method. I knew Lightroom couldn’t create a full panorama of this scene, but perhaps it would be able to produce three shorter panos. Then, with the three shorter panos, I could use Photoshop to merge them together into the final, really long pano.
This was my approach:
- From Lightroom CC, select first 6 images from the left end of town and merge them into a short panorama.
- Do the same thing for the center part of town.
- Do the same thing for the right end of town.
- Now that I’ve created three shorter panoramas in Lightroom, select these three and send them to Photoshop using the Edit In –> Merge to Panorama in Photoshop utility.
Guess what? It worked! Photoshop was able to take the information from three shorter panos and create a nice-looking image. As with most panoramas, there was still some work to be done. For example, I needed to do some pixel warping using the Transform tool and the Warp Brush Filter. Also, I had to use Content Aware Fill to create some new dirt for the foreground. Finally, I needed to move the wooden rocking horse upward in order to properly crop the photograph.
For complicated panoramas like this, you might need to break the process into smaller steps. In this case, I used smaller sections of the scene and merged them into shorter panoramas in Lightroom. Then, I used the more powerful and capable panorama merging software in Photoshop to merge those shorter image files into the long image.
If this method didn’t end up working, then I would have had to go full-manual mode by bringing each individual image into Photoshop as a layer. I could have then added a layer mask over each image, then manually masked areas from each photograph as necessary. This process would have been very tedious and would have taken multiple hours of retouching.
I hope this article helps you solve some of your more difficult panorama issues. If you still need assistance, post your questions in the Panorama forum to assist you. If you found it helpful then post a comment here to let me know about your success.
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