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Aerial 360˚ Photos Workflow

Image credit – Jag_cz on Adobe Stock.

These two videos are from my new class over at LinkedIn Learning… I’ll share with you in a six-part article the entire part of the course about aerial panoramic images.  You can see the series here as it’s released on Photofocus or watch the whole class here.

Merging 360˚ panoramic images in PTGui from Learning Aerial Photography with Drones by Richard Harrington and Francis Torres

Note: If the video doesn’t show up at first, please reload the page.

Adding 360˚ sky in Photoshop from Learning Aerial Photography with Drones by Richard Harrington and Francis Torres

 

Merging 360˚ panoramic images in PTGui

Now we’ve been talking about Adobe tools and later on we will look at some other tools for HDR.But there are dedicated apps just for fixing and making panoramic photos. Francis you have one that you really like. – Yeah for 360 Panoramas I like to use a program called PT GUI. It is both for Mac and PC and for pro its actually really inexpensive. I think its about 100 or 170 bucks. – Okay and it does some 360s interactive content pretty well. – Yes very well, that’s what its made for. – Let’s take a look at building a 360 degree panoramic photo.

So when we try to merge the spherical panorama in Photoshop or Lightroom, it didn’t quite handle the really complex image. Now it sometimes can handle things shot on a tripod where its very predictable from image to image but shooting a spherical panorama or a 360 on a drone is a little less predictable. – [Instructor] Yes because you have the factors of up and being there, not really being stable even though its in GPS mode but a wind can give it little bumps to make everything mess up a little bit. – [Instructor] Alright so we’re gonna tackle this with another application called PT GUI and PT GUI has been around for a long time.

Its very popular in the panoramic community so why don’t we go ahead and first merge the panorama together and then we’re gonna see that there is one giant hole that we have to fill. – [Instructor] So what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna come in here into our images, back here in the Coronado States 360. So I’m gonna just select all of these and then I’m gonna open up PT GUI and I’m just simply gonna come in here and drag and drop all these images. – [Instructor] You just basically load these? – [Instructor] Yeah so once they’re all loaded up the EXIF data for all of the photos actually already automatically tell PT GUI what camera it is and what type of panorama its gonna be.

– [Instructor] Yeah and that EXIF data is gonna have information about the manufacturer as well as potentially things like GPS and other data. But software can use that to help customize its approach to how it adjusts things. – [Instructor] So now I don’t really have to change anything here. So I’m just gonna hit align images. – [Instructor] That was very fast. – [Instructor] Yeah, so once this is done you should have a flat image of the whole 360 panorama. So going here, and there’s our flat image right there and these numbers really tell you which photo was which but a good way to test out how the panorama looks is I go in here and I click preview and I am just gonna change the height to 2500.

– [Instructor] How come? – [Instructor] Just so when the preview comes out its actually a higher resolution. – [Instructor] Okay so its not so down sampled. – [Instructor] Its not so down sampledso I’m gonna hit preview and then hit open in PT GUI viewer. – [Instructor] And this is gonna give you an interactive viewer right? – [Instructor] Correct. So here I’m gonna full screen this and then you could see how this panorama looks prior to actually going into editing. So you can see its pretty stitch so far but the one problem we have is this empty space here where I couldn’t capture the sky.

– [Instructor] So we will tackle that in a second. Now its not gonna read like if we made adjustments to these files and Photoshop ahead of time and stored it with the DNG file PT GUI can’t recognize that edits made in Lightroom or Camera RAW because that’s a different piece of software. But you could preprocess all of these DNGs using Lightroom or Photoshop to sort of recover things. So lets escape out of this and we will go back in and it did a good job with thesebut we might as well take advantage of actually developing this a bit.

So let’s point it at that folder of images and we will select all of these and we’re gonna do the same techniques we did before. So go ahead and open those in Camera RAW. And we will just, this is a good representative image. Let’s recover the highlights and lower the exposure a little bit. And lift the shadows and the goal is just to get a consistent image. Now we’re gonna do a little bit more with color later but what I’m trying to do is if we turn on the hot and cold pixels here, what we’re looking at is do we have any clipped pixels and I see that we do in the highlights there.

So that concerns me because clipped pixels means lost detail. So we will recover that a little bit.Just a little bit of color and if we compare the two I can definitely see that a lot of detail that was being lost is brought back. Now I want to avoid doing any style or anything too much herebecause you still have to merge in a sky image so lets just sink those and instead of simply synchronizing these and then closing it, we actually have to make new files.

So I’m gonna click the save images button here and we’re gonna stick these out as new TIFF filesor if you want you can rewrap them as new DNG files but that would only work with Photoshop so I really want to embed that data in so lets make TIFFs. We will put them in the same location and we will tell it to make a TIFF file which is fine and that should be fine and we’ll make sure that that’s 16 bits per channel. And we will click save.

And so now you can process that here in the corner. You see what’s happening and it plows right through. And we’re just gonna let those generate the new TIFFs and these are having some of the raw corrections applied. Because PT GUI doesn’t really let you develop the raw files. You’re not accessing the raw data there. You can develop the files but you don’t get the ability to recover shadows or highlights using the raw sensor data you’re simply using extracted TIFF. So this is gonna give us a little bit more detail. So now that that’s done, once you just hit okay and go back to PT GUI but this time use the TIFFs.

– [Instructor] Now with these new TIFF files I’ll make sure I select them all and then go into PT GUI.And then I’m just gonna simply drag and drop them back in. And then again just hit align images. – [Instructor] This is very fast. Much faster than Photoshop at doing the merge because its a highly specialized piece of software. – [Instructor] There’s our flat image and just a quick check. I’m just gonna hit preview and make it 2500 open up in viewer.

– [Instructor] It looks to me like the ground plain is a tad dark but I bet you can lift some of that offwith some shadows and highlights but I think the clouds and the sky are holding together a little better. Alright so go ahead and process it the rest of the way. – [Instructor] So before I process it and create a panorama I’m actually gonna go back into the viewer and to make sure that my sun here is actually lined up in the exact center of the panorama and I’ll get back to that in a sec. So hit here and then make sure that my panorama is straight by clicking the straighten panoramaand that looks pretty good.

So I’m gonna go here, create a panorama and then I’m gonna change my file format to PSB or Photoshop Large. – [Instructor] Yeah and that’s just a larger version of the Photoshop file so its gonna remove some of the limits on the dimensions that you might have hit using the original Photoshop document format. – [Instructor] And just as a good habit that I always do is I click here and then just blend in layers. – [Instructor] Okay. – [Instructor] Then I’m gonna hit control S or command S and I’m just gonna call this Coronado 360. Hit save, that saves it out to a PTS file or a PT GUI file.

And then I’m just gonna hit create panorama. I’m generating a Photoshop file. That has all the stitched files in it. – [Instructor] Right a new document but its processed, and its bent the files and lined them up with each other. – [Instructor] Yes. – [Instructor] Okay so let’s see that in Photoshop.- [Instructor] So I’m gonna go into the folder and I’m just gonna look for that, there is the Photoshop file and I double click that and then now it opens up in Photoshop as the flattened image. – [Instructor] Sure, yeah. And that looks really good and I see you’ve got it all of the merge layers there and we can save those later on if we need to do a change.

Why don’t you group those into a smart object in case you need it. So just shift click on the range.Everything except for the background and just right click and group that into a new smart object,convert to smart object. So now that’s all the layers. And if you ever need to you can step inside of there and pull out the layers so why don’t you name that layered file. Or layers, there we go. We’ve got the ground.

We’ve got the horizon but because the drone can’t fly upside down it can’t point its camera up so we need to put something up there. – [Instructor] Yeah.

Adding 360˚ sky in Photoshop

Okay, so now that we’re going to add the sky, I’m gonna go in here into my folder and go back. So, this is my sky here. So, the first thing I’m gonna do is I’m actually just gonna bring it into Photoshop, but not into the same project. So, I’m just gonna, here, drop it here into Photoshop. And before we copy and paste the sky, there’s one thing I have to do, is that I have to go in here and I’m gonna hit Control + Alt + I or Command + Option + I and I’m gonna copy the width of pixels here. – [Narrator] You can also find that on the Image size menu if you can’t remember that keyboard shortcut.

– [Francis] And then, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna do the same thing here, except I’m going to paste that width here and hit OK. Now that the width is changed in the pixels, it’s gonna be the exact same width as the panorama. – [Narrator] Okay. – [Francis] So, I’m gonna hit Command or Control + A, select all, copy. Go back to my 360 project and then hit Command + V. – [Narrator] And it looks like that other file was probably an eight bit image or a slightly different color profile, but that’s fine. It’s just doing conversion here from sRGB to Adobe RGB, and that’s fine.

This is just converting between the two. These are small changes, but not a big deal. – [Francis] Just hit OK. And now we have our sky pasted into our 360, so I’m gonna hold shift and bring the image up all the way until it locks into the edge up here. And so, remember when I mentionedhaving the sky in the center panorama? – [Narrator] Yup. – [Francis] So my skies that I get are all centered, so I could line up the sun with the sun on the sky. – [Narrator] Okay, now this is on top of the other sky, so you’ve completely replaced the sky with this new sky.

– [Francis] Relatively, yes. – [Narrator] And we see that. You can always select this layer and add a layer mask and just use your gradient tool, and on that mask, what are we going from? – [Francis] From the bottom from the top. – Mm-hmm. – There we go. – [Narrator] Now, I see a little gap in there, so I just have to do a little bit less, right? So, there’s a blend. So, either way is fine. Feel free to tweak that. Alright, so that’s looking pretty good, why don’t we group that into a smart objectrather than permanently flattening it, and let’s finish that with Camera Raw.

So, let’s just bring this out to life. We’ll bring up the shadows to get a little detail there in the ground. Lift the ground up a little. That looks pretty good for the base. A little clarity. Recover the highlights in the sky. And that graduated filter is gonna be your friend so we can do a little darkening on the sky with just a little roll to blue, and down here go the opposite direction.

The key is hold down the Shift key so those stay perfectly straight so the adjustments on the left edge and the right edge line up. We can lift that just a little bit. Pop the blacks. A little dehaze there to get rid of some of the environment, and hit OK. And we should have a better top to bottom exposure. And as long as you keep that Shift key held down, it’s gonna be even.

Alright, let’s go ahead and save that back out and then, can PTGui turn that into a movie? – [Francis] Yes. So, first thing we’re gonna do is we’re just gonna hit Control + Shift + S to save as a JPEG, and then hit Save. I’m just gonna leave the settings to where it is. And then … – [Narrator] And we should save this file too, right? – Yeah. – In case we have to go back and tweak. – [Francis] Yeah, so Command or Control + S. Usually for a bigger Photoshop file it takes a little bit longer to save out. There we go. To view this 360 immersively, you can actually do it back in PTGui.

So, I’m gonna come here in PTGui, and I’m gonna go to tools, go to the PTGui viewer, and notice it’s just a black spot here, so I’m gonna open up that same file. So, open panorama. Go to where my image was developed. And here’s my 360 in JPEG. You open that up, and then it turns that into a spherical panorama that you can view in your computer. – [Narrator] Okay. – [Francis] There we go. – [Narrator] Yeah, and I think those color adjustments there, because we held down the Shift key, they were even top to bottom, so there was no different from the left edge to the right edge.

The key there is, if you’re gonna use those graduated filters, to make sure that you do it. So, Francis, the way that you did this first of just opening up the raw files and letting it merge was very fast, but because we had such dramatic different lighting here, a sunset, the sky, darker areas,there is some benefit to pre-processing the raw files. – [Francis] Yeah. – [Narrator] Once those raw files are processed, then PTGui was far faster than Photoshop at merging them together. You then decided to add your own sky in, a sky that you had created by just shooting the sky, and that worked well.

And you just shot that on a regular DSLR, right? – [Francis] Yes, a regular DSLR with a fisheye. But if you don’t have any of that stuff, you can actually go to a website called HDRI-Skies, and they offer some free skies that you can play with for your 360s. – [Narrator] Mm-hmm, and they have othersavailable for sale. And so, you place that in there with a new sky image, and then using a layer mask, we blended that in Photoshop. Now, once everything is blended, it’s a good idea to essentially redevelop the file. Treat it like it was a new image and use Adobe Camera Raw as we did there as a filter to even things out.

And if you’re gonna use the graduated filter, it will work just fine, as you see here, it’s just critical that you hold down the Shift key so that the left edge and the right edge are exactly the same. If that’s at a diagonal, you might see some variation where everything lines up. But the end result is a fantastic, interactive panorama that really lets you enjoy that view, and see tremendous things.And we can see straight down, and go all the way up into the sky and see everything else, which is a very cool end result.

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