To create a great panoramic photo is really a two part process. First you need to capture the images correctly… after all garbage in means garbage out (GIGO). Then the images need to be assembled and processed to give you the best looking image. Let’s explore these processes.
Before we jump into post-production, let’s briefly talk about production. It’s important that you shoot your panoramic photos correctly if you want to get good merges inside of Lightroom. You need to give Lightroom enough information to begin the overlap process.
- For best results use a tripod. All the pros know that its better to use a tripod as a stable platform. This lets you slightly move the camera to create overlap. Because the camera is steady, you’ll get sharper focus and quicker stitching. Also make sure the camera is level.
- For even better results, get a tripod head that rotates and has degree markers. There are even specialized tripod heads that you can purchase that make leveling and rotation much more precise. Look for a head that has degree markers so you can precisely turn the camera.
- Set the camera into a portrait aspect ratio. You may want to pick up an L-plate to make it easier to rotate your camera.
- Switch the camera out of auto mode and lock the exposure. This will help minimize the amount of changes as the camera pans. The last thing you want is the exposure to vary across the panoramic image.
- Make sure there is at least a 15% overlap between each shot. Depending upon the type of lens you use, you will use between 2 and 24 exposures. More exposures mean less distortion and cleaner panoramic photos.
While there are other things you could consider, these five are important enough that you should look at them first.
Merging Strategies with Lightroom
In the past, you’d use to use Photoshop to create panoramic images and, while this is still a valid workflow and one you should keep in your back pocket, it’s really great to have the ability to stay with a flexible, all raw work flow. In fact, the new photomerge tools inside of Lightroom are pretty intense.
- Select the panoramic source images in Lightroom.
- Choose Photo > Photo Merge > Panorama or press Ctrl/Control+M. The Panorama Merge Preview dialog box opens.
- You now must choose a layout projection method. Using the Auto command, Lightroom will attempt to choose the nest method. You can also manually determine how the images are mapped . You can choose between Perspective, Cylindrical, or Spherical layout, depending on which projection produces a better panorama.
- Spherical: Aligns and transforms the images as if they were mapped to the inside of a sphere. This projection mode is great for panoramas that are very wide or shot as a multi-row panorama.
- Perspective: Projects the panorama as if it were mapped to a flat surface. This mode keeps straight lines fairly straight, and is effective for architectural photography. This mode can create a lot of distortion near the edges.
- Cylindrical: Projects the panorama as if it were mapped to the inside of a cylinder. This projection mode works really well for wide panoramas, but it also keeps vertical lines straight.
- Evaluate the preview image and consider how to handle gaps at the edges.
- Auto Crop. Use this method to remove areas of transparent by cropping.
- Boundary Warp. This method uses a slider to warp the edges of the panorama. This method leads to some distortion but less cropping and a larger overall image.
- None. You can choose to leave the image alone and take advantage of Content Aware fill or Photoshop to handle the gaps.
- When ready, click Merge. Lightroom creates a new DNG file and places it in your catalog.
- Develop this image as you would any other raw file.