HOW TO PROCESS THOSE PANORAMAS IN PHOTOSHOP
Last week I did a blog on the “retro” effect (see How to Add a Little Retro to Your Shots) and was going to include this image – it really fits the scope of that blog. But then I wanted to go over how easy it is to create a panorama like this. Now Photoshop has the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter which helps get rid of all the distortion that used to be a big problem. I will say that this is a destructive process, unless you want to make a massive file by creating a composite or stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top to do more processing.
Basic Panorama Workflow
1. Need to take several overlapping shots to use for your panorama. Since this can be a very complicated process, I am not going into details on how to shoot a panorama. Just be sure to overlap 1/3 of the image as you take the shots. One quick tip – if you know you are going to take a pano, first take a picture of your finger to show the beginning of the images used, and the palm of your hand for the end. Now they are easy to find and put together.
2. Next the images need to be lined up and stacked using one of these three ways:
- After selecting your images in the Library module in Lightroom, right click Edit In -> Merge to Panorama in Photoshop – it now pops into Photoshop and the dialog opens.
- If using Bridge, select you images by CTRL+clicking on each and go to Tools -> Photoshop -> PhotoMerge which open up the dialog box.
- If starting in Photoshop, go to File -> Automate -> Panorama where you select the images in the dialog box that opens up.
3. Usually the default Auto setting works but if it looks funny, just do Step 2 over and choose another one – I have used Reposition at times.
4. At this point the layers are all Merged Down in Photoshop – do not use Flatten or you lose the transparent areas. Now there is just one large layer with some transparent parts.
5. My experience says to do this step next, although it can be done after Step 7. Go to Filters -> Adaptive Wide Angle Filter and select Auto and the top left Constraint Tool. In most cases you will be straightening a landscape horizon so drag a line as far as you can across the horizon, then still holding mouse down, press the SHIFT button to make horizon perfectly straight (horizontal). Do this again from the middle of image to other end if you need to adjust both sides of image. If lines look bent, drag down without holding SHIFT. This feature is available in Photoshop CS6 and CC. If you need a vertical line up, do same thing but drag down holding the SHIFT button.
6. Want to select the checkerboard to fill in. Double-click on the layer thumbnail to select the image. With selection still active, go the Select -> Modify -> Contract and set to 2 pixels – this blends the semi-transparent pixels on the edge. Then go to Select -> Inverse so the Checkerboard areas are now selected.
7. With the checkerboard selection still active, go to Edit -> Fill and select Use: Content-Aware and OK. The area will be filled with very similar looking pixels as in the edges.
8. Crop image the way you want – do not have to crop too close – want the image to be balanced. Can always use Content-Aware Fill again.
9. The last step is to clean up any areas that did not match up great in Step 7. The image can now be processed as any image.
The panorama of the Flagler Beach Fishing Pier above was created by, believe-it-or-not, hand-holding in a pretty stiff breeze. All I did was select the seven best images in Lightroom and followed the above workflow. I felt like the sky looked really flat so I added two New Layers, one using my SJ Clouds 1 brush at 4734 pixels and 92% layer opacity and the other using my SJ Clouds 8 brush flipped at 5000 pixels at 64% layer opacity. (Download my set of 12 free Cloud brushes here.) Be sure to try out the cloud brushes to make sure the clouds have the same highlights or it looks terrible – that is why in the brush palette the one cloud brush was flipped by checking Flip X in the Brush Tip Section. Now the image looked nice, but no retro feel. I keep going back to these two filters – they work so well together for this effect. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 was applied and the Oil Paint (dry brush) preset where Saturation was increased in the Color tab to 42. A Layer was brushed in over the pier and people that maxed out the Photorealism slider so it has lots of good details. Another layer was placed on the foreground and waves that had much less Photorealism. The last step used Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle’s Peppermint Gray preset to set the colors for the real retro feel I was after. The whole layer was set to 83% layer opacity and the image was complete. I loved how the detail is perfect in the image and yet the clouds look perfectly painted. I think this definitely captures Flagler Beach!
This image of Pololu Valley on the Big Island in Hawaii was created from 5-images. The above workflow was used and the Reposition setting (which just lines up the layers – no stretching or skewing) was used in the Photomerge dialog box. Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 stacked these filters: Darken/Lighten Center, Brilliance/Warmth, Tonal Contrast, Dark Contrast, Film Efex Vintage 14, Graduated Filter, and Image Border. Topaz ReStyle’s preset Tangerine Gauze was applied to a composite layer created on top. These settings were changed: Hue Fifth -0.11, and Texture Strength 0.45, Tone Black 0.06, Midtones -0.09, and White Level 0.09, and Detail Sharpness 0.06. In Photoshop a black layer mask was added and with a white soft low opacity brush, the clouds and parts of the valley were painted back. That is all that was done and I love the results!
This last pano image of some shops at Flagler Beach was just a little experiment I tried. I really was not trying to connect these two images, but did it anyway and got a pretty nice result. I have to admit the sky was a little crazy that day, but overall it gives a nice pleasing, still a little retro like from last week’s blog, look and it was fun to do. The workflow above was all I did to get the nice pano result. Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset was applied (my favorite preset in Adjust), and then a Color Balance Adjustment Layer to add a little more Cyan to the sky. The layer mask was filled with black and just the sky painted back. Then my favorite plug-in Nik Viveza 2 fills in all the shadows, color imperfections, sharpness and vignetting to make this image pop! It is unbelievable what this plug-in can do! The last step involved adding another one of my favorites again, Topaz Adjust using HDR Light Pop Smooth preset. Once again, a couple images I was not too excited about turned into a nice memory of the Flagler Beach area.
Photoshop is really an amazing piece of software and if you know a few of the tricks, the results can be quite spectacular. The Panorama function is very good, especially for the type of work I do. And it is not that hard to work with – my computer can handle the activity as long as I don’t load up too many images! Now that the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter is available, a very realistic image can be accomplished in just minutes. By following along with the workflow, you should get a nice result, even with hand-held shots like above, using this fabulous little sub-program in Photoshop. Give it a try!…..Digital Lady Syd