Panoramas are one of the wonders of digital capture. Pan a scene with an iPhone and Voila! Instant panorama albeit kinda low resolution all things being equal. Enter the much higher resolution DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. Photoshop does a solid job of stitching images together into panoramas. Would it be nice if panos could be made without round tripping through Photoshop? If only…
If Only… is Now!
With the release of Lightroom CC, Adobe’s team of digital wizards have added panorama creation completely contained in Lightroom. Best of all the result, unlike Photoshop’s, is a RAW file in the DNG format. This magic stitches RAW files, HDR files and of course pixel based JPEGs too. When quality counts the Lightroom CC Panorama RAW workflow, HDR or not, produces the best results. Let’s take a deeper look.
Panos Made Easy
Start by selecting overlapping photographs in the Grid view. From Lightroom CC’s Photo menu choose Merge > Panorama. Right clicking in one of the selected thumbnails then picking Merge > Panorama works too. There are two keyboard shortcuts: Control + M and Control + Shift + M. The first shortcut opens the Panorama Merge Preview while the second simply uses the last settings that you applied. Mac users take note! This shortcut uses the Control key on the Mac and Windows so don’t use the Command key instead.
The Panorama Merge Preview
There are three different methods to combine a set of panoramic photos. The one you choose depends on how the photos were captured.
This dialog appears when using the Photo > Merge > Panorama. the right click Merge > Panorama or the shortcut Control + M. The Auto Select Projection has Lightroom pick the merge type. Most often it will choose Spherical. Lightroom CC looks at the center image then adjusts the others as if they were laid out on the inside of a sphere. It’s particularly useful for 360 panos or if you shot multiple rows across to better capture the full range of the scene.
Again, LrCC looks to the middle image adjusting the others to look as though they were laid out on a cylinder. There is very little visible difference between Spherical and Cylindrical projections. Cylindrical is the best choice for wide panos.
This projection also references the middle photograph. Lightroom transforms then stitches the other photos together to form what looks like a Chevy bow tie logo with a picture in it. This method attempts to compensate for curvature in the horizon and leads to the straightest line. You may want to take a pass through Photoshop for content-aware fill or crop tightly.
The auto crop option tells Lightroom CC to crop the photograph to eliminate the white areas. Compare the two projections below. Spherical is on top with Perspective on the bottom. I like the way the pavement and yellow line lead the eye into the photo more in the Perspective version. I’m not overly happy with the cropped off tree though. Lightroom makes the panorama when Merge is clicked.
The Panorama DNG
The original files Lightroom uses to create the panorama are not linked to the final DNG. They aren’t changed at all. A new DNG file with “-Pano” added after the name of the first file in the panorama is added to Lightroom. It’s simple to find all of the panoramas created in Lightroom in the current folder by clicking Text in the Metadata bar at the top of the Grid content window. Change the Text drop down menu to Filename making sure the next menu reads “Contains All.” All of the panos in the library can be viewed by doing the same settings with Catalog > All Photographs selected in the left sidebar of the Library module. This is a big file. By making it from vertical original images it is quite large both in width and height. This one measures in at 14,719 pixels by 4,454 pixels, no where near Lightroom’s limit of 64,000 pixels on the long side or a total of 512 megapixels. In other words… “Ginormous!”
Practically, no adjustment are required on the original RAW files before making a panorama in Lightroom CC. Lens corrections are automatically applied during the building of the pano. Local adjustments, dust spotting, the Adjustment brush, Gradients, and Radial adjustments are ignored when a panorama is created. The -pano.dng file is the place to use local adjustments, the Basic panel in Develop as well as other corrections and effects. The original RAW files are not linked to the panorama.
When Auto Crop is checked, the new panorama DNG shows up in the Grid cropped as Lightroom thinks it ought to be. Select it in the Grid or Filmstrip then tap D to move to the Develop module then hit R for crop. The crop grid shows how Lightroom did the work. It’s completely changeable at anytime.
Of Course, There’s More…
In upcoming posts I’ll visit the develop module to show how to get more out of the panorama. Creating it using Photo Merge is only the beginning!Kevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.