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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

Show pages (2 Pages)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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


3rd Attempt

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.


In Lightroom, I selected portions of the large panorama and merged them to be shorter, intermediate panoramas.
Click for an enlargement


This was my approach:

  1. From Lightroom CC, select first 6 images from the left end of town and merge them into a short panorama.
  2. Do the same thing for the center part of town.
  3. Do the same thing for the right end of town.
  4. 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.



After making three shorter panoramas in Lightroom, I sent them to Photoshop for the final merge.
Click for an enlargement



Here’s the final merge in Photoshop. You can see the three layers in the lower right of the screen.
Click for an enlargement


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.


Here, I’m using the Warp Transform tool to bend the pixels to better fit the frame of the final panorama.
Click for an enlargement



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.


(10 Votes )
Show pages (2 Pages)

Originally written on March 31, 2016

Last updated on May 16, 2016

Mike Hagen Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen)

Expert photography teacher

Gig Harbor, USA
Basic, 149 posts


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 Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level of skill in several areas, especially photojo Ribbon awarded for his repeated generous contributions to the 2019 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. Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

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.