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How to Develop Drone Panoramas in Lightroom

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.

Essential strategies for developing panoramic images in Lightroom 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.

Removing lens distortion from Learning Aerial Photography with Drones by Richard Harrington and Francis Torres

Essential strategies for developing panoramic images in Lightroom

Well, we’ve gone over how to shoot panoramic images, now it’s time to put those together and there are many different places to put together a panorama. Why don’t we start by talking about Lightroom? Now let’s go ahead and bring those images in. I’ll just drag that folder onto Lightroom and they’ll show up as available for import and, Francis, tell us a little bit about the subject matter here. – [Francis] So what I shot here was actually atop of Mount Soledad in San Diego, California. I just decided to take the drone up and use the sun as a backlight to take a picture of the cross and to get a bigger image out it, I shot a six-panel panorama.

Sure, and it looks like you recomposed the camera a little bit. Did you keep the drone in one place or did you physically move the drone? I kept the drone in one place and just used the second controller to control the camera.

I kept the drone in one place and just used the second controller to control the camera.

Okay, so these are all DNG files which is actually an Adobe spec and we’re gonna import these in to start. So we’ll choose import and that’s gonna add them in and we don’t need to worry about address look up or anything here and it comes in and we start having the files. Now it recognizes a little bit, a few things have already happened and most people would be tempted to start to develop things right away, but for the panoramic merge, if you’re gonna use Lightroom to merge, it suggests that you don’t really do anything to start.

So just get the camera files in. If you want to check the develop module, we can take a look at the camera profile here and just make sure that it sees what it thinks it’s seeing. So if I explore lens correction, I can tell it to enable the profile corrections if we want and this matches the camera that you were using right, the Inspire? – Alright, so we’ll select all of those images and just make sure that that’s turned on for all. I’ll remove the chromatic aberration.

Alright, so we’ll select all of those images and just make sure that that’s turned on for all. I’ll remove the chromatic aberration.

Now we’ll select everything and just simply click sync and what we’re concerned about here the lens correction so I’ll say check none and then apply the lens corrections and that should be good and we’ll click synchronize and now they should all have the same correction. With the images selected, I’ll go back to the library module and we’re gonna merge these to a new DNG so we can choose photo merge and there’s two choices, HDR and panorama, we’re focusing on panorama.

Now, Francis, what’s the benefit of merging multiple DNGs into a new DNG, keeping it in that DNG format?Well keeping it in the DNG format still saves all the metadata used to make any color corrections or color grading in your image. – [Instructor] Yep and we still have all the raw data too, so we’re not actually baking those pixels in. So I see that the sky’s a little hot and the shadows are a little dark but rather than fixing those first, we can do that after the merge. – [Francis] Yeah – [Instructor] So I’ll choose panorama and it brings up a new dialog.

Well keeping it in the DNG format still saves all the metadata used to make any color corrections or color grading in your image. – [Instructor] Yep and we still have all the raw data too, so we’re not actually baking those pixels in. So I see that the sky’s a little hot and the shadows are a little dark but rather than fixing those first, we can do that after the merge. So I’ll choose panorama and it brings up a new dialog.

Now the first thing it has to do is analyze that and it’s gonna ask for different methods and so you notice on perspective, it couldn’t merge it, so it said it failed. Cylindrical is gonna give us a slightly different look and that’s more for if you were turning inside of a can, so there it would be if the camera was just rotating on a continuous axis like a tripod, but you tilted the camera up and down, right? – [Francis] Yeah, I just tilted it about 50% or 25%. – [Instructor] So we’re getting a lot of distortion here with cylindrical because the camera didn’t just turn on one axis, it turned on multiple

Yeah, I just tilted it about 50% or 25%.So we’re getting a lot of distortion here with cylindrical because the camera didn’t just turn on one axis, it turned on multiple

So we’re getting a lot of distortion here with cylindrical because the camera didn’t just turn on one axis, it turned on multiple axis’s.

Correct. So spherical’s probably gonna be better and I see a lot less distortion, that looks more natural, right? Yeah, that looks way more natural.

So spherical’s probably gonna be better and I see a lot less distortion, that looks more natural, right? Yeah, that looks way more natural. –

Okay, now there is the option for

Yeah, that looks way more natural. – [Instructor] Okay, now there is the option for auto crop which is gonna just basically say, oh all this extra stuff out here, get rid of that. So the choice really is, do we wanna crop right now or do we wanna deal with content aware fill later to fill things in in cloning. You also have one other option called boundary warp and what is that doing? – [Francis] It looks like it’s stretching it out so that way you can get less empty pixels in there.

Yeah, it basically starts to stretch the edges and you see it’s kind of pulling the corners out and so technically it’s distorting the photo but not in the middle, the middle still stays pretty good, so I think a little bit of boundary warp plus auto-crop, does that look like the image you had in your mind’s eye?

Yeah, pretty close – [Instructor] Okay, so we’ll click merge and now it’s gonna generate a new DNG file and we can track that up here. We see the overall merge, it tells us it’s creating the panorama.

So once it’s done, it’s added into the library as a new DNG file and we can select that and do some basic developing in the develop module. Now, we’re gonna kick this over to Photoshop for some more advanced stuff but I think on the basics there’s a handful of things we can do. First up, probably get the white balance right and that’s a little bit vivid, but where were you thinking?Technically that’s pure white, but is that warmer than the day?

Yeah, that’s a lot warmer than the day. This was actually shot during, I think maybe a couple of minutes after magic hour was done.

Okay, so let’s go ahead and we’ll take that to as shot for a moment versus auto and let’s try cloudy and we see it. So you’re favoring the cooler of how it was actually shot so we’ll start there but perhaps warm it just a little, putting a little bit of gold back in. Alright, so now it’s a matter of bringing some stuff back. So the highlights are always tough here on the sky, but we can pull those down to get a lot more in and to me it looks like pulling down the overall exposure might be helpful on the sky, but that’s leading to a problem with other areas.

What’s happening here? Exposure looks good for the sky but everything else seems a little dark and underexposed. So, we’ll balance that out with the shadows and those two seem to be working pretty well together. Little bit of clarity, I’m gonna take care of that more in post later. The sun is pretty tough there. I don’t think we’re gonna get that back, it’s just kinda blown out.  So, we can do one more thing here which is using the graduated filter, we can click and drag downward across the sky to make an additional adjustment and this allows us to pull down the sky even a little more and even introduce a bit more blue in it so that we end up with something that’s a little bit more of a blue-ish sky.

So, how’s that feel for now? – [Francis] That one looks pretty good. – [Instructor] Alright, well this feels like we’ve got a pretty decent image here inside of Lightroom. At this point, I can choose to stay here but because we’re using the creative cloud plan, we can actually jump into Photoshop where we could do a few more things, so let’s head there next.

Removing lens distortion

Francis, as you pan the panoramic image, plus the fact that we’re using a wide-angle lens, what starts to happen after a while? – Well when you shoot a panoramic image, you can’t take a curved horizon and make it flat. You’re gonna get a lot of barrel distortion. – Okay, so not only does the wide angle lens distort, but the very nature of making a panoramic photo adds more distortion.But fortunately, Photoshop have some tools to fix that, so let’s take a look. Let’s send this over to Photoshop. Now there’s a couple ways to do that, but my favorite is Photo, Edit In, and send that to Photoshop as a smart object. What does a smart object mean, Francis?

Well with a smart object, the raw file is embedded in a layer. – [Instructor] Yeah, so that means that once we’re in Photoshop, we don’t actually give anything up. If we need to access camera raw, we could, and it’s not permanently baked in, so the raw data is still inside. All right, so that’s sent over to Photoshop, and let’s see how Photoshop is doing with it. So the file, we know it’s a smart object because of that icon. If we double click and we need it, it’s actually right there, we’re back in camera raw, which is really similar to Lightroom.

So we could make overall tweaks to things here and do any of those sorts of adjustments, and that works really well. So if we discover that there’s something we forgot to do in Lightroom, we don’t have to go back to Lightroom. So we’ll click Okay and it updates. And one of the things I like to do, boundary warp helped, but there’s a great filter here in Photoshop specifically designed for panoramas, and that’s called Adaptive Wide Angle. The inherent problem that you get with wide angle lenses is that they’re so wide that you get barreling in the edges of your image.

The inherent problem that you get with wide angle lenses is that they’re so wide that you get barreling in the edges of your image.

So the boundary warp helped with that, but we can use Adaptive Wide Angle here and it says, “Well this is a panorama.” And what we can do is click on the horizon. Now there’s a mountain range back there, so I’m gonna go where the mountain reaches the ground. And as we sort of place that, it’s gonna attempt to find things. Now it might not get it the first time through.So we’ll drag across here, and you see how it’s kinda seeing that.

And that attempts to fix the horizon. Now on a really wide image, you can rotate this as you see fit, and it’s gonna adjust. And that helps. There’s other tools here to allow you to draw a box around things, but we can find things that we feel should be relatively straight. And it’s gonna go through and try to straighten out the horizon, which it kinda did there. It might take a few lines. But as we go over the areas that appear to be curved, it begins to straighten those out.

And if you want to get rid of a line, you can do that. I can do this one in a few smaller pieces. And these are all independent. So this one seems to me just to be a little off, so I’ll rotate that slightly.And the green is helping indicate when it feels like it’s achieved a horizontal line, where it feels like that’s level. So you can use green as a guidance that you’ve got a level horizon. And if it hasn’t turned green, then you can tweak that slightly.

And along the bottom here, this is a curve so I’m gonna leave that be. We do have the ability to scale things up if we want, and that’s gonna attempt to minimize the pixels that need to be filled, or we can crop afterwards. I’ll leave that at 100% rather than worrying about that. And we click Okay, and it generates the new image. Now at this point, we’ve got a level horizon, but we’ve got some empty areas. And I’m gonna duplicate this. Command J or Control J, or you can right click.

Rasterize it, and that gets rid of the smart object. And now we can Command or Control click to load, and it selects the layer. If we select Inverse, what do we now have active? – We have the empty pixels actually active now. – [Instructor] So if I expand that, it’s gonna bleed in a little bit. So we’ll expand that by 40 pixels, so it can read into those edges. And I could say Edit, Fill. And there’s the content aware option.

We have the empty pixels actually active now. So if I expand that, it’s gonna bleed in a little bit. So we’ll expand that by 40 pixels, so it can read into those edges. And I could say Edit, Fill. And there’s the content aware option.

So if I expand that, it’s gonna bleed in a little bit. So we’ll expand that by 40 pixels, so it can read into those edges. And I could say Edit, Fill. And there’s the content aware option.

What does content aware do? Basically what it does is that it takes the pixels that you’ve selected from the expand and tries to generate new pixels.

Basically what it does is that it takes the pixels that you’ve selected from the expand and tries to generate new pixels.

Make sure that that’s set to 100% content aware, and I’ll click Okay. And if we deselect there, that looks pretty good. – [Francis] Yeah, it looks like a pretty good job. I think a little problem’s in the bottom there, where it’s supposed to be a circle.

Yeah, which one? – [Francis] Right down here.

Okay, so yeah, it did have a little problem there with that curve, where it filled in.

So that’s perfect though, because we have this tool called the History Brush, so we can paint backwards in time. So we’ll just zoom in there. And the History Brush will allow us, let’s make a snapshot. There’s where we came in, there’s the new one. So it doesn’t have any pixels to go backwards to, and you’re right, so we might have to do a little bit of cloning. That’s one of those instances where it doesn’t really know where to go. There’s new pixels there that didn’t exist.

So we can’t really do much, but a little bit of cloning or the spot healing tool can come in handy.I’m gonna take the slightly lazy route and we’ll do a free crop here. You originally didn’t have anything there to begin with, so I don’t feel bad about filling that in just a little. And we’ll just crop that in slightly. That person’s a little distracting anyways. And so now we’ve got a nice, clean image. So it’s a level horizon, everything’s there. We still have the raw file down here if we need it.

And this is now the flattened file. So that work is saved, and it’s automatically back in our Lightroom catalog. Now one of the advantages of Photoshop though is that there’s a wealth of filters that let you do specialized adjustments.

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