Slamma’ Jamma’ – Lightroom Panorama

Tue, Nov 24, 2009

Best Practices, Lightroom

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Not one to be left with just 1 time consuming project, I’m also working on another blog to be added to the X-Equals + Media network focused around skateboarding. As part of this new endeavor, I have been working with Lightroom and Photoshop to create some very nice panorama’s.

Even though some of you may loathe the idea of incorporating more Photoshop into your workflow the nice thing is that when creating panorama’s, Adobe does make working between the 2 rather easy.

Before we start, I will mention there are many plugins and software packages that will stitch panorama’s for you. With Lightroom and Photoshop sitting on your computer, why not leverage what you already have? I’ll leave the answer to that question up to you. Nonetheless, with Lightroom and Photoshop you can whip up some compelling panorama’s with very little work.

Tips for shooting your source images

Keep these key tips in mind when shooting for panorama’s:

1. Use a tripod (I use this one)

You can shoot without a tripod, and I have done things this way before, but the tripod really helps get a clean stitching of all the images once you start processing them.

2. Keep your framing points consistent

pano1

I am shooting a lot of horizontal panorama’s , so the basic rule for me has been to keep a consistent horizon on each shot that is common between each shot. Again, a tripod makes all the difference here.

3. Keep your overlaps consistent

pano2

I let about 20-30% of each image overlap the next. This works pretty well for horizontal shots. This gives the Merge to Panorama tool in Photoshop enough to work with in my opinion. In this example we see 3 shots placed side-by-side so you can see where I used the 20-30% overlap rule.

4. Maintain consistent camera settings throughout

I prefer to use manual mode on my camera for all settings (white balance, shutter, aperture)

If you fail to do this, you risk images that vary quite a bit with regard to exposure, white balance and focus. Some of this can be remedied in Lightroom, and we will look at how I tweak exposure via the Auto Sync command. Outside of some small tweaks to exposure, shooting manual mode with consistent settings avoids additional work in Lightroom.

5. Shoot at least 4 complete passes of your entire series

The last thing I want is to walk away from the shoot, get home, import my images, and find something askew. I shoot a complete series of images from right to left (twice) and from left to right (twice).

It’s also important that when preparing to import into Lightroom you have a consistent filename and numbering system. This is what we use.

Once your images are imported into Lightroom and you have your picks, it’s time to rock.

Organization

Here you can see some of the 30 images that make up my series (shot left to right in this example):

pano3

Organization is key, and for the sake of sanity, I suggest you manage your picks with collections which I have been doing more often with my projects:

pano4

Adding some flavor

I’m working in black and white for this project, so we’ll drop all of these to black and white using the Painter tool.

While in the Library module in Grid view, select the Painter tool:

pano5

I’m going to use our X-Equals Super Punch Preset to drop these to black and white and the Painter makes applying this preset super easy. They key here is that once selecting the Painter, set it’s mode to Settings which then allows you to paint the selected preset on the images in our grid view.

pano6

All I do is click and hold and drag the Painter across all your images and the preset gets sprayed on them. There are numerous ways to apply a preset to a selection of images, but this technique looks cool and sometimes we all need a little cool in our workflow.

Ahh … they look delicious:

pano7

Time for a test run

Next I’ll do a test run by exporting some low resolution JPEG’s  to see how the Panorama comes to life. This allows me to quickly see the output of the Photomerge command without the long wait associated with a full resolution render from Lightroom and Photoshop.

These are keyboard commands every Lightroom user should know by now and I perform them in this order:

  • Select all – {Ctrl or Cmd + a}
  • Export Images – {Ctrl or Cmd + e}

Next I’ll configure my export parameters:

pano8

  • Export To: the desktop is fine since I won’t be saving these images anyway
  • File Settings: let Lightroom output with original filenames
  • Image Sizing: resize to fit  500 x 1000 pixels or thereabouts at 72PPI

This will generate a nice set of images that will allow me to get a feel for what the final rendered panorama will look like.

Next, I’ll crack open Photoshop and select File >> Automate >> Photomerge …

pano9

I’ll be presented with the Photomerge dialog:

pano10

Select Browse … and select all the JPEG’s I exported previously.

pano11

With the JPEG’s loaded I can set which type of Layout I want. In this case I chose Reposition.

Select OK and Photoshop will work it’s magic. When it completes, I’ll be left with my first test panorama:

pano12

Game time

I like what I see so I’ll head right over to Lightroom to complete my final full resolution render.

With all my images selected in Lightroom from our previous export all I need to do is simply right click in either the Grid of Filmstrip area(s) and select Edit In >> Merge to Panorama in Photoshop …

pano13

Time to pour some coffe, grab a beer, or whip up a snack because this process can take a while (depending on the size of your RAW images).

Once this process completes, I have a massive panorama having stietched together 30 15megapixel images all layered nice ane neat in Photoshop:

pano14

Hers is the final panorama (click here for a higher resolution version):

pano12

With my panorama rendered and loaded into Photoshop, I simply hit Save {Ctrl or Cmd + s} and Photoshop will save the file.

Just as simple, Lightroom will toss the new file right into my grid:

pano16

If I want to clean up things a bit in Lightroom I can also stack these babies together and call it a day. This is so darn easy to do.

  • Select all – {Ctrl or Cmd + a}
  • Group into Stack – {Ctrl or Cmd + g}

pano17

I’m really digging this workflow, and every time I create one panorama I get more ideas for another. This is exactly what photography is all about – having fun!

Share your thoughts and comments below. And if you have images to share, head on over to the flickr group.

|Brandon Oelling
X-Equals – image, workflow, technology, business

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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Sean Phillips Says:

    Great article and summary of your workflow Brandon. I do it a little differently (I only use one pass for each pano, and I don’t bother with a low res version first), but I’m OK with that!

    I’m not really following why you include so many passes in the final run. You can see from the layer masks that Photoshop is hardly using any information from many of the images, so in my opinion adding all those extra images really just slows down the merge (unless you have massive amounts of RAM in your computer). I have fantastic success using Photoshop CS4 and including only one pass of images. I could see adding a second pass from above or below to try to fill in the upper or lower horizon that otherwise has to get cropped out due to geometric distortion. Do you find that you get holes in your images if you don’t use multiple passes??

  2. Brandon Oelling Says:

    I don’t get any holes per se, and you can get away with shooting less images which I imagine I will over time.

  3. Sean Phillips Says:

    OK, cool. It was definitely a problem in the past (even with CS3) but CS4 is pretty amazing…

  4. Brandon Oelling Says:

    CS4 is very nice … load, set, run, done.

  5. alan Says:

    Nice writeup! My LR/pano workflow is pretty similar. Though I use hugin, I can sure see the advantages of the way the photoshop merge is more integrated with LR — that’s slick. The only additional step I do is drop my new panoramic image back into Lightroom via a watched folder, and then I stack that image with the set of images that made up the pano. It ties everything up nice and neat.

  6. Brandon Oelling Says:

    you know Alan, I should have had you looking over my shoulder while I wrote this, because I had it in my notes to include that workflow but guess what … I brain farted it right out.

    I’m giving YOU credit for the addition, and I will add that as an update to this piece above.

    Thanks bro!

    |B

  7. Sean Phillips Says:

    If you use the “Edit In” and “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop…” command then the resulting image is automatically imported into Lightroom. It doesn’t automatically get stacked, so that’s the first thing I do when I get back to LR.

  8. Brandon Oelling Says:

    Thanks Sean. That pretty much describes the final piece in this exercise. I will update this post to include a screenshot of the final image in Lightroom stacked with the originals.

    Thanks everyone!

  9. Matt Says:

    Brandon, A couple of things to consider:
    1) You could automate your test run a little further through calling a PS Javascript or action in the Post Process “After Export”. Might even be able to call PS’s Photomerge.jsx directly, or write a thin wrapper script.
    2) This same workflow should work with Photoshop Elements as well. Main differences are how you initiate Photomerge during the test run, and you would have to use my plugin ( http://thephotogeek.com/lightroom/elemental/ ) to add the equivalent of the native LR/PS photomerge integration.

  10. Brandon Oelling Says:

    All fine ideas Matt.

    Thanks for the input bro!

  11. Max Says:

    Another good software to create panorama is the free MS Image Composite Editor.

    Here is an example :

    http://digitalshootingdotnet.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/panorama-photography-using-bracketing/

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