How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC

The post How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Not long ago I wrote about Four of the Latest Updates to Lightroom Classic CC. In it, we talked about some of the fresh features Adobe has recently added to Lightroom. One of those great new additions was the single-step HDR Panorama Photo Merge. That’s a mouthful of a name, but it’s an incredibly useful tool that allows us to combine multiple bracketed exposures into a seamless high dynamic range panoramic image in, as the name suggests, essentially a single step. In this article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into the new single-step step HDR Panorama Photo Merge (geez) feature and show you exactly how to capture and combine your images to make a beautifully executed panorama.

What is an HDR Panorama?

High dynamic range (HDR) photographs and panoramas are nothing new to the world of photography. In fact, neither are HDR panoramas.

HDR photos are simply images combining multiple exposures to form a final photo that exhibits tonal and/or focus ranges far beyond a single exposure. Along those same lines, panoramic photos are images stitched together that carry a visual perspective beyond what is obtainable from a single exposure (with a few exceptions).

As you may have guessed, an HDR panorama combines multiple photographs to produce a wide perspective composite image featuring high dynamic range.

Previous methods for merging multiple images to produce HDR panoramic photos were generally tedious and required venturing over into Photoshop. Luckily, with the new HDR Panoramic feature introduced in v8.0 of Lightroom Classic CC, you can now efficiently combine your images with just a few clicks of the mouse. Let me show you how I made the above HDR pano combining twelve separate bracketed photos right inside of Lightroom.

Obtaining your images for merging

The first and arguably most crucial part of creating your HDR panorama begins inside your camera.

Lightroom places some stringent criteria on the images you can combine using it’s single-step HDR Panorama function. ALL of these rules must be met by each one of your images prior to merging.

Here are the “rules” for images you plan to merge into an HDR pano directly from Adobe:

  • All the images in your selection must contain the exposure metadata – Exposure time, f-number, and ISO.
  • Each set of bracketed exposures in your selection must have the same number of images. For example, if you chose to bracket with three images, then all the sets in the selection must also use three images.
  • Every set of bracketed exposures in your selection must have the same exposure offsets. For example, if your first set has exposure offsets of (0, -1, +1), then all other sets in the selection must follow the exposure offset pattern. The image sets can have different exposure values; only the exposure offsets pattern must be consistent across all the sets.
  • Each set of bracketed exposures must be captured contiguously. For example, if you’ve considered a bracket size of three while capturing the images, then the first three images in the sequence become part of a bracket set. The next three images in the sequence become part of another bracket set, and so on.
  • Within a set of bracketed exposures, the images must not have the same exposure value.

While you can shoot your images in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, it is a good idea to use vertically orientated photos in you plan on displaying them digitally. This avoids extremely long, yet narrow images. Of course, this is entirely up to you.

Combining the images

Now that you’ve made it through the rather exacting process of actually obtaining your photos for merging, the rest of the operation is refreshingly easy to complete.

Selection

First things first. In the Library Module of Lightroom Classic CC select the images you want to use for the HDR pano. An easy trick to select all of your images at once is to select the photo at the beginning of the series and then hold down the shift key while clicking the last photo in the series. This automatically selects all your bracketed exposures at once. It also saves you quite a few mouse clicks if you are using a high number of photos.

Once you’ve got all of your photos selected, right-click on any of those images and choose Photo Merge, and then HDR Panorama.

It’s here where you learn for sure whether all of your images meet the requirements for merging. If not, you will receive the soul-crushing message ‘Unable To Detect HDR Exposure Bracket Size. Merge To Non-HDR Panorama Instead?’ That means Lightroom will merge the photos into a normal non-HDR pano if possible.

However, if you’ve done your duty, and you obtained all of your images correctly, your photo will appear as a preliminary smart preview. From here, it’s just a matter of controlling how you want Lightroom to handle the final merging of your images. You’ll have quite a few options that will affect the ultimate product.

Projection modes

Think of projections as the shape of the canvas on which Lightroom paints your finished HDR panorama. There are three different projection modes from which to choose based on the nature of the panorama you are creating:

  • Spherical: This aligns and transforms the images as if they were mapped to the inside of a sphere. This projection mode is great for ultra-wide or multi-row panoramas.

  • Cylindrical: This projects the panorama/HDR panorama as if it were mapped to the inside of a cylinder. This projection mode works well for wide panoramas, but it also keeps vertical lines straight.

  • Perspective: This projects the panorama/HDR panorama as if it were mapped to a flat surface. Since this mode keeps straight lines straight, it is great for architectural photography. Extremely wide panoramas may not work well with this mode due to excessive distortion near the edges of the resulting panorama.

Boundary Warp

The amount of Boundary Warp is a way to stretch your merged HDR pano so that it more or less fills the frame of the selected projection mode. With Boundary Warp, you have a slider that ranges from 0-100 that allows you to preserve any content of the photo that you may lose after cropping.

Experiment with different Boundary Warp settings until you reach a happy medium between distortion and content preservation.

Auto settings/crop

These settings work extremely well to save you some editing time at least on the front end. The auto-crop and auto-settings functions allow Lightroom to trim and process your finished HDR panorama automatically. While you, of course, can crop and process your image manually after merging, I’ve found the auto settings function gives consistently outstanding results.

Stacking

Consider stacking as an afterthought of your post-panorama post-processing. It’s a way for you to keep all of your ducks in a row, so to speak, and is especially useful if you’ve used many photos to construct your HDR panorama. Choosing the stacking option literally stacks all of the images used for your HDR panorama merge into a group with the merged image placed on top. This aids in keeping your filmstrip tidy and saves physical space in the Library Module.

Once you have made all of your selections for the HDR pano merge, it’s time to click the ‘Merge’ button. This begins the process of combining the images into a single DNG file.

After the merge is complete, you will have an image which you are free to finish processing just as you could with any other digital RAW file. This includes adjusting the auto-cropping and, of course, the auto settings. This achieves the final image that we saw from earlier.

Final considerations

Remember that any HDR image is already by its very definition a composite photo. As such, it is a combination of many different exposures which, if pushed too far, can result in an incredibly fake-looking final product. Always keep your HDR images within the realm of passable reality unless you are intentionally going for a hyper-realistic appeal. Along those same lines, make sure the photos meet all the criteria for HDR panorama merging listed above.

Furthermore, attempt to previsualize the final merged photo in your mind and shoot your images according to the tonal range and perspective you wish to achieve. When in doubt, it’s always better to have too many images to work with than not enough.

Have some HDR Panorama photos you’ve created inside of Lightroom Classic CC? We’d love to see them! Feel free to share them in the comments.

 

HDR-panorama-photo-merge

The post How to Use the HDR Panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom Classic CC appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Make Easy Panoramic Images with Microsoft ICE

The post Make Easy Panoramic Images with Microsoft ICE appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Vista at Dead Horse State Park, Utah. Fourteen images stitched in Microsoft ICE.

You’ve no doubt seen panoramic images and perhaps even know how to make them. Whether using the tools built into programs like Lightroom and Photoshop, or perhaps another dedicated panoramic creation program, or even the sweep-panoramic capability of many cellphone cameras, you’ve used this technique to make images larger than you could make them in a single shot.

In the past, the choice was not as great, and the main stitching programs not as diversified in their capabilities. The programs that did exist to create panoramas were complex, sometimes expensive, and didn’t always work well.

When the first version of Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor), a program from the Microsoft Research Division of the software giant came out, it had all the things I sought in software utilities. It was simple, it worked well, and it was free – bingo! Although other options have come along for photo stitching, I still find ICE, (now at version 2.0.3.0), a favorite.

Panorama images are not new nor a product of the digital age. This image was made from Rincon Point in San Francisco in 1851 using multiple photo plates seamed together.

Image stitching – What is it?

When working with panoramic programs you will read the term “image stitching.” It is an apt phrase for the process by which a series of photos are composited together to make a larger image, much like scraps of fabric stitched together to make a quilt. The mark of a good photo-stitching program is how well it can piece the separate images together without showing the “seams.” Check another box for Microsoft ICE – it does that job extremely well.

The Mars Rover uses robotic cameras and panoramic stitching techniques to make high-resolution images.  NASA Photo

Considerations when photographing a panorama

The quality of a finished product is usually dependent on the raw materials that go into it. The same is true of creating a panorama photo. The better your technique in making the individual images, the better your finished panorama will be.  I will not be doing a deep-dive into panorama photography techniques, as that is a whole subject itself, but instead, I’ll list some of those things you’ll want to consider when making your shots.

One real benefit of ICE is that even with less than perfectly created images, it will still do a respectable job in creating a panorama. Of course, with better images, the result will be better too.

Here are some techniques to help you when shooting your images for a panorama:

Camera settings

As you sweep across your scene, making multiple shots, there will be variations in the light. If you leave your camera in an automatic mode, each frame will be slightly different too. ICE has what is called Exposure Blending and uses an advanced algorithm to compensate for this. Thus, it smooths the seams between individual images. However, if you give it better images to work with the result will be better too.

The best practice is to put your camera in full manual mode, find and set an exposure that is a good average for the scene, and lock that in.  Try to pick an aperture for maximum depth of field as well.

The same goes for focus. Find a point where as much of the image will be in focus, (the “hyperfocal distance,” typically a third of the way into the scene), focus there and turn off autofocus.

Lens selection

There is no “just right” lens focal length to use when making panoramic images. The field of view that represented in your stitched image will be dictated by how many photos you make and the sweep of your pan, not the lens focal length.

One might think a wide-angle lens would be a good choice, as fewer shots would be required. But that’s not necessarily true. The best choice is a lens with the least distortion as any lens distortion will be magnified as you stitch images together. Thus, a good, basic 50mm prime lens could be a great choice.

Sometimes, depending on the scene you want to capture, a longer telephoto might work well. Lens quality and minimal distortion trump wide focal lengths here.

A panoramic tripod head allows you to mount the camera so that the lens nodal point is centered over the pivot point of the pan. Thus, minimizing parallax errors.

Nodal point and parallax issues

Wazzat!!?? Yes, you can get complex very quickly and encounter cryptic terms if you want to when making panoramic photos.  Attention to detail results in higher quality panoramas. And, if you decide to pursue this technique, you will want to learn about these things in time.

Very briefly, the nodal point is the spot within a lens where the light rays converge.  Setting up your camera such that the pivot point of your pan is at that spot will produce an image with the least distortion.  This is most important in images where objects in the shot are both close and far in your scene.

Parallax is the difference in the apparent position of an object when viewed along two different lines of sight.

To see a quick example, hold your hand out at arm’s length with your thumb up.  Close one eye and put your thumb over a distant object.  Now close that eye and open the other. You will see your thumb “jump” off the object to a different position.  This is parallax.

When setting up your camera, pivoting around the nodal point will reduce or even eliminate this. And serious panorama photographers will purchase special panorama tripod heads to get this exact spot for any given lens they might use.

Highly serious gigapixel panorama photographers making images with hundreds of composite images might even use motorized computer-controlled heads like the Gigapan to make their shots.

Check out some of the Gigapan images like this made from some 12,000 individual shots. Alternatively, look at this taken from a similar setup on the Mars Rover.

Bringing it back down to Earth, you need not get nearly that sophisticated if you don’t want to.  There are less expensive heads for panoramic photography if you choose to try that and many Youtube videos and instructional articles on setting nodal points.

For starters, you needn’t even worry about all of that to give panoramic photography a try. The beauty of ICE is that even with something as simple as handheld images shot with a cellphone camera, it does a very nice job of assembling a panorama image.

Step-by-Step

Here are some things to do when making your images for use in a panorama:

  • Consider your composition – Good composition is just as important in making a panorama image as any other photo.  If your cellphone supports the sweep panorama feature, you can sometimes make a shot with it to help pre-visualize what you want to do with your DSLR.
  • Level the tripod – You will know your tripod wasn’t level if you get an “arched” looking composite panorama.
  • Mount your camera in a vertical (portrait) orientation – You will get a taller aspect ratio in your final shot and an image less “ribbon-like” when you assemble your panorama.
  • Hand-marker – Shoot a photo of your hand in front of the camera as the first and last in your panorama sequence. This will make it much easier to determine which images belong to a panorama “group.”
  • Camera Settings – Use full manual exposure and focus for the reasons outlined above.
  • Overlap – As you pan making each shot, overlap each image about a third so ICE will more easily find the match points when making the composite.

This is the screen you will see when first opening Microsoft ICE.

Bringing it into ICE

Bringing your images into ICE and letting it assemble your panorama is the easiest part and a big reason to like this program. ICE accepts most Raw photos, .jpg of course, and even layered Photoshop files.  You will need to know this is a Windows-only program and won’t work on your Mac. However, there are plenty of iOS alternatives. One which is also free and well-regarded is Hugin.  I can’t say I have any personal experience with it, however, being a PC guy.

Here’s where you will find the download for ICE. Be sure you get the proper version, 32 or 64-bit for your particular PC. The program will work in Windows 10, 8, 7 or even Vista SP2. There is a lot of good information as well as an interesting overview video on the page.  The installation usually goes quite smoothly.

After you have the program installed, there are various ways to bring your images in for compositing into a panorama:

  • Running ICE as a stand-alone – ICE can be run just fine as a stand-alone program and you can bring your images in from wherever you have them stored. You can do this either by opening ICE and clicking New Panorama from Images or by opening another window in File Explorer and dragging and dropping the images into ICE.
  • Launching ICE from a Folder – Typically, once you install ICE, if you select all the images you want in your pano from a folder and then right-click, you will see an option to Stitch using Image Composite Editor.  Select that, then ICE will launch with your selected images brought in.
  • Using ICE as an External Editor from Lightroom – You can set-up Adobe Lightroom to use ICE as an External Editor.  This is my preferred way as I often do some basic pre-editing to my shots in LR before bringing them into ICE.  Once you have set-up ICE as an External Editor, select all the images in the pano group you will be using. Then, in the Lightroom menu, click Photo -> Edit In -> Microsoft ICE.  You will have the option to Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.  Pick that, click Edit, and ICE launches with the images ready for compositing.

There are four basic steps in ICE; Import, (the images have been imported here), Stitch, Crop, and Export.

Four basic steps in ICE

1. Import

If you’ve used one of the three methods above, you’re likely already seeing your images in ICE ready for Stitching. If you are running ICE in stand-alone mode and have not already imported your images, you will see three Options across the top of the screen:  New Panorama from Images, New Panorama from Video, and Open Existing Panorama. Choose the first option, navigate in Windows Explorer to where your images are located, select those that make up the panorama group, and click Open.  Remember, ICE opens Raw files, Tif, Jpg, PSD, and perhaps some other image file types.

You will find that in most cases, the default setting for ICE works well. If you are confused about some of the terms and menu options, you can click Next (at the top right of the screen), and ICE proceeds to the next step using the defaults.

If you choose to try some other things, here are a few options:

Rather than use Auto-detect in Camera Motion, you may wish to use Rotating Motion. It will give you more options for adjustment later. I have not found the Planar Motion options to be useful, (and to be honest, don’t really understand them. Such will be the case with ICE for most people – there are options and terms that will take more knowledge of the process. And, while they might have applications, most times will not be necessary.  Keep things simple, and you’ll most often be pleased with the result.)

This is the Stitch step. Ice has composited individual images.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the Projection options. ICE will almost always choose the correct one by default. If you wish to try the others, go ahead and see what you like best.

2. Stitch

Click Next or select option 2 – Stitch from the menu. The screen will show Aligning and then Compositing Images with progress bars as the work is done.  Depending on the size, number, and complexity of your images, this could go quick or could take several minutes.  Once done, your stitched image will appear.

Depending on the camera motion type chosen, you may have another set of options under Projection with terms like Cylindrical, Mercator, and a collection of other types you may not understand. I suggest trying the different options and seeing which makes your panorama look best and the least distorted. You can also zoom into your image with the slider or by using your mouse scroll wheel. Clicking and dragging above or below the panorama will allow you to adjust the shape further. Try various things – whatever helps to make your panorama look best.

3. Crop

Click Next, or Crop to move on. Here you can crop the image to choose what to include in the finished panorama. Usually, you will have some rough edges, depending on how you shot the images and composited them. If you click Auto-Crop, the program will crop to the largest points where it can make a rectangular image. You can also manually drag the sides of the crop.

Auto-Complete works like the content-aware fill in Photoshop and will try to fill in missing pieces in the image. Sometimes, especially with things like the sky, it works amazingly well. Other times with more complex patterns, not so much.

Give it a try and see if you like the result. You can always turn it off if you don’t like it.

The Crop Step. You can crop manually, Auto crop, and use the Auto Complete feature if you like.

Note how the Auto Complete feature has filled in missing parts of the image at top and bottom.

4. Export

Once complete, you will want to save your resulting panorama.

Because you have stitched together what are often high-resolution images to start with, your panorama file can be huge. That’s great if you need to print a wall-sized poster. If you don’t need something that big, consider turning down the Scale by inputting a smaller number. If you know what size (in pixels) you want the finished image to be, you can also enter that number in the Width or Height boxes, and the other will adjust to maintain the aspect ratio.

For example, to print a 12 x 48-inch poster at 300 dpi, you would need an image 3600 x 14,400 pixels.

If your panorama at 100% is over 20,000 pixels wide, that’s overkill and may result in a much larger file than you need.

Or, if you’ll be displaying your panorama on the web where you may only need a file 2400 pixels wide, why make a monster file?

You can also input numbers into the width or height, and the image will adjust the other setting to maintain the aspect ratio. Your use for the panorama will dictate how large you need to output it.

The Export Step. If you were to export this image at 100% scale as a .tif image it would be 19772 x 5833 pixels and be 149MB. For use on the web, you could drop to something like 2400 x 708 (scale just 12.14%) as a .jpg at 75% quality and it would be just 372k. Export your images according to how you will use them.

You also have the option to choose the file format. ICE can output as .jpg, .psd, .tif, .png, or .bmp. Again consider how you plan to use the image. A .tif file will be much larger than a jpg. If you choose jpg, you can also choose the compression level with the Quality settings.

When you’ve made your selections, click Export to Disk and ICE will give you the option of where to save the file. If you came from Lightroom, you will still need to specify the output location. ICE does not automatically put the resulting panorama back into the Lightroom folder where you started.

One option not immediately evident is the ability to save a panorama project. Before exiting the program, look in the top left corner of the screen for the icons there. The last two, which look like disks if hovered, will say Save Panorama and Save Panorama As. These allow you to save your project as an .spj file. This is an ICE file type which can be loaded back in using Open Existing Panorama from the main menu. This could be useful if you intend to make various output sizes or file types from your original images.

32 images shot in two rows to get more of the sky.

ICE does a great job stitching even more complex images.

The final result of the previous multi-row stitch.

Set your camera in continuous mode and shoot, panning with your subject. Bring the images into ICE and stitch as usual. You can get a sequence like this very easily.

Same technique with continuous mode.

The final result.

Nifty tricks – Video, Tiny Planets, VR, and more

There are a few other things ICE will do beyond simply making panoramas.  It is beyond the scope of this article to outline the specific steps to do these things, but I simply wanted to make you aware of them so you can explore further if you like.

This is a 360-degree pano shot as video and imported into ICE. The video will not be as high resolution. 360-degree panos, however, open VR possibilities.

Video Input

First, your input file can, instead of being a group of still photos, be a video file. Video is lower resolution than images taken with most still cameras, but there may be other reasons you want to use it as an input format.  One of those is multi-image action. (See the sample photos). You can do this with multiple images shot as stills or using a video. Capture the action, input the video into ICE, choose the portion of the video you like and then select the action points you want in the finished pano.

Give this a try, and doing it will make the steps clearer.

ICE can also be used to create “tiny planets.”

Virtual Reality

Use ICE to make a 360-degree pano from still images or a video.  Then create an image that can be viewed as an interactive pano and be rotated by the viewer.  Post it to Facebook or view it on a VR device.  There are numerous online tutorials teaching how to do this.  Drone footage can make for an especially interesting VR image.

Conclusion

Microsoft ICE is powerful, can produce high-quality panorama images, and is very easy to use. It also does a good job when accepting the default choices. ICE can use simple images made handheld from a cellphone or hundreds of images on a Gigapan robotic system with a DSLR. There are also fun things like multi-image motion images, tiny planet creation, and virtual reality possibilities.

Oh yeah…and it’s free!  What’s not to like?

Go download it, give it a try, have fun, and share your images with us in the comments below.

 

panoramic images with Microsoft ICE

The post Make Easy Panoramic Images with Microsoft ICE appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

Walk Through and Review of Autopano Giga – Image Stitching Software

A six image photostitch of BC Place in Vancouver

A six image photostitch of BC Place in Vancouver

My first image editing software was Photoshop Elements 6 and the photostitching function was really erratic to say the least. I was doing real estate and architectural photography and needed a reliable and accurate tool that could quickly and properly stitch images together. I tried a few, but was not happy with all the results. The software was difficult to use and the results were irregular.

Then I heard about Autopano. I downloaded a trial and was pretty amazed at how quickly, and more importantly, accurately the software stitched scenes together that other pieces of software had not been able to. The stitching was seamless and effortless. I was impressed with the ease of use and the speed at which the software worked. I had found my tool of choice, Autopano Giga. Autopano Giga is a tool that is made by a company called Kolor. They develop image stitching software, pano tour software and 360 degree software, they are a specialist photography software company.

5 shot photo stitched image of the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver BC

Five shot photo stitched image of the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver BC

The first step in making effective panoramic images is knowing how to photograph them. That is beyond the scope of this article so for the purpose of this review we’ll assume you have some panoramic images already shot and want to stitch them.

Time to stitch

For the image stitching part of this process, I am going to be referring to the interface in Autopano Giga. This product works extremely well. It has been rated as one of the best stitching packages available. I have used it to stitch some pretty crazy panos together and it has been able to process almost anything I have thrown at it. I have done normal photostitches and I have done some multi-row stitches too. Autopano Giga has handled these with ease, and in some cases I have been pretty surprised how well it worked.

Let’s look at how this process works in Autopano Giga:
Panoramic images work well for architectural photography

Panoramic images work well for architectural photography

  1. Open Autopano Giga and on the first screen that you see, click on the second icon from the left to select your images to be stitched.
  2. Navigate to the images that you have processed and select them.
  3. Click on Detect on the top left hand side of the screen.
  4. Autopano Giga will now scan your images and do a preliminary stitch. This preview stitched image will be displayed on the right hand side of the screen that is open. This process may take a few minutes.
  5. Once the preview image is displaying, click on the Edit button (right-hand side of the screen) this will open the image in the Autopano edit screen. This is where you want to check the image to see that it has stitched together properly, and verify that there are no errors on the image.
  6. There are a number of options here, below is a high level overview of the most important functions
Detection and preview screen in Autopano Giga

Detection and preview screen in Autopano Giga

Autopano functions on the edit screen:

Autopano has a number of options you can use to render your panoramic image. These projections help with distortion and skewing. Below is an explanation of the most commonly used projections.

  • Spherical - The spherical function allows any panorama to be assembled. It is a commonly used option for building panoramic images.
  • Planar or rectilinear projection - This is a good choice if the angle is low. It’s recommended for architectural shots because it is the only mode that does not curve lines that are deemed to be straight lines. Sometimes if the angles are too extreme there may be a loss of sharpness, so just be aware of that.
  • Cylindrical projection - This projection can be used up to 360° (horizontally).
  • Mercator projection – The mercator projection can also be used up to 360° (horizontally). The effect of stretching up and down, the image may seem to become distorted.
  • Pannini projection – Keeps vertical lines vertical and straight radial lines. This can give a strong sense of perspective on views whose horizontal field of view is wide, and has a single and central vanishing point. It can however makes horizon lines seem curved. This can be corrected in the sliders that pop-up when you are editing in this projection.
  • Little planet projection – The Stereographic projection (also called fisheye projection) can be used to create a little planet. A right way up panorama achieves a planet effect and a backward panorama (180° rotation) makes a tunnel effect. Allows you to create an original view of a panorama, mainly using equirectangular panoramas (360°x180°). Using this projection with panoramas, whose horizontal field of view is less than 330°, is neither aesthetic nor usable.
  • Hammer projection – This projection is similar to a flattened world map, mainly used in astronomy applications. I use this for cityscapes too as it can correct some perspective distortion.
  • Orthographic projection – This is the view point of a sphere, whose panorama is viewed from afar, mapped to the outside and not inside like most other projections.
  • Mirror ball projection – This projection is the result of a visualization of the whole panorama on a spherical mirror, like looking into a crystal ball.
Projection function in Autopano Giga

Projection function in Autopano Giga

 Some of these projections are more useful than others. You may find that you will end up using only two or three. A good idea is click on each of them to see how they affect your image. The key factor in choosing a projection is in how the it affects your image visually. Does it work for the subject matter? Does the image look correct? Is the perspective distortion correct? Ask yourself these questions as you experiment with the projections.

Once you are happy with your projection and the way the image looks, you can now save the image to a folder on your computer.

Rendering

This is the process of saving your panorama.It is called rendering because the software needs to perform the final stitching and edits to your image. On the rendering screen, you will need to take note of the following:

Render and Save screen on Autopano Giga

Render and Save screen on Autopano Giga

Interpolator - The interpolator is the method used to assemble the pixels of your panoramic image, and will determine the quality and sharpness of your image. There are a few different options here, but the most commonly used option is Bicubic. The others are useful for advanced stitching.

Blending settings – The purpose of the blending settings is to allow combining of the overlapped sections of your panoramic to look smooth and seamless. You will notice the following presets:

  • Simple – This is fast, but it is possible that defects may be seen where the areas overlap.
  • Anti-ghost – Conserve the image’s strong characteristics (stops, lines, curves) when mixing while automatically removing objects that have moved
  • Exposure fusion – To be used if the panorama was created with a set of bracketed shoots. Keeps the best of different exposures.
  • HDR output – To be used by users who wish to create a “.hdr” format file in order to create post-production or special effects. Don’t use this on these images if they have already been processed as HDR images.
  • Custom - This is enabled when you manually change the parameters and they no longer correspond to a profile.

On the advanced settings, I generally leave that on the default.

Some of the features that I appreciate in Autopano Giga are as follows:

Exposure and colour blending – The software works hard at sorting out colour and exposure in the blended images. In the past, one of the worst problems with photo stitching was that sometimes the colour or exposure drifted and there was banding in the scene where the light or colour changed. This is a non-issue in Autopano Giga.

Panoramic detection – Sometimes I have shot more than a few panoramic images. When I get back to my computer, I can’t always see or remember which images were which. No problem, you can simply point Autopano Giga to a folder and it will detect all panoramics in that folder.

You can shoot freehand – The software has some really good functionality built-in that can work out multiple viewpoints. So, if you shoot a panoramic without using a tripod or a pano head, the software will be able to detect the scene and make adjustments for it, within reason. Nice to have though, I have shot many handheld panoramic and then dropped them into Autopano and they stitched quite easily.

Format

This section allows you to determine the format in which you want your image to be saved. The two formats I use most are TIFF and JPEG. TIFF is an uncompressed file (which means all the information is still in the file, this is great if you are planning to print the image large) The downside to TIFF is that the files are big. JPEG is a compressed format, that means that some image information has been discarded, the quality will still look the same to the naked eye, but if you print a JPEG image up really big, you may notice some image degradation. Depending on your final output and your space constraints you can choose the format that works best for you. Take the quality up to 12 and set the DPI to 300. This will ensure that you have the best quality image saved.

Output

On this screen, the software needs to know where to save your panoramic and what you want to call it. Choose your destination folder and name the file. Once this is done (it sounds more complicated than it is) click on the render button and the software will begin rendering your image. Depending on the size of the files being stitched, this rendering process can take a few minutes. Once complete, a screen will pop-up to let you know that the image is now rendered.

Edit the final image in Lightroom or Photoshop

Your image is now stitched together, but the final step in the process is to edit the image in your choice of editor. You may want to correct any perspective distortion in Photoshop using the transform tools. If your panoramic image is of a cityscape you will want to make sure that your horizon line is straight and that the buildings are vertical in relation to the horizon. From there you can follow your normal image editing workflow. Once you are done, you will have a fantastic, high resolution, panoramic image.

Final edited panoramic image of Medicine Lake in the Canadian Rockies

Final edited panoramic image of Medicine Lake in the Canadian Rockies

My comments on Autopano Giga

Autopano giga has made my editing and processing time much quicker and easier. I do a fair amount of panoramic photography, and the time saving when using this software is significant. I have used it to photograph landscape scenes, hotel rooms, building exteriors and architectural photography. It works exceptionally well in all of those areas. If you make sure that you overlap the images enough, it will stitch your images with ease.

The editing process in Autopano Giga is also very easy to use. Simply click on the projections to see how your image looks, make a choice, and you are done. You can make some technical adjustments within the editing area, but I recommend only doing that if it is absolutely essential.

The perspective control of Autopano Giga is fantastic. For the most part, the final stitched images look correct and I almost never pick up an error on the stitch. It is always a good idea to zoom in to the image to make sure that there are no issues like duplicated areas or bad stitches. This is not normally a problem if your overlap is good.

Autopano Giga is a great tool and if you enjoy shooting panoramic images, download a trial and see how it works for you. Panoramic photography is a lot of fun, I am always excited when I see the final stitched image, very often it is not what I was expecting and thats part of the excitement of these types of images. Having a tool that takes the frustration out of the process is a great advantage. So, go out there and experiment.

The post Walk Through and Review of Autopano Giga – Image Stitching Software by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

tfttf670 – Primes Are Great Teachers – Q&A

Chris shares his most important tip on buying a smaller camera, Paul wants to find out what the deal with prime lenses is, Ryan asks about composition guidelines for panorama pictures and Tony wonders what the best photo backup strategy might be. Show Links: Iceland 2015 – Photos by Chris Marquardt Obama with a selfie … Continue reading tfttf670 – Primes Are Great Teachers – Q&A

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Step By Step How to Make Panoramic HDR Images

Panoramic HDR image of Coal Harbour - Vancouver BC

Panoramic HDR image of Coal Harbour – Vancouver, Canada

I am convinced that digital photography has changed so many aspects of photography forever.  HDR and photo stitching are just two of those aspects. In the film era you could achieve a lot in the darkroom with blending, dodging and burning, but not to the extent that HDR allows us to achieve now. Photostitching has also allowed us to produce images that were not possible a few years ago. In the days of film, panoramic images were possible, but required a camera made for that purpose, nowadays we can shoot panoramic shots with any digital camera, they can even be shot using an iPhone. So the merging (excuse the pun) of the HDR and Photostitching was inevitable.

This process is a little time consuming and needs to be planned beforehand, but the results can be really spectacular and make your images very dramatic. This article will give you a starting point into exploring the world of bringing HDR and Photostitching together.

What is a panoramic HDR image?

A panoramic HDR is quite simply a series of HDR images that have been stitched together using photo stitching software. It is an image comprised of any number of images, sometimes up to 60, depending on how you plan your shots. Sounds complicated right? It’s really not. If you follow a simple plan, it’s actually pretty easy. It is all in having the correct workflow, so here it is.

The panoramic HDR workflow outlined

The quick process we will be running through is as follows:

  1. Plan and shoot your HDR and panoramic images
  2. Edit your HDR images
  3. Stitch your HDR images together
  4. Edit the final image in Lightroom or Photoshop

That’s it, simple and we will do it in small steps, so it is easy to follow.

Step 1 – plan and shoot your HDR and panoramic images

HDR Images

I have written Getting Real with HDR – a Step by Step Tutorial for Realistic Looking HDR. Take a look at that if you need a refresher on how to get your HDR images into good shape. Normally, when you shoot an HDR image, you will be using between three and seven images of the same scene to create the HDR. In panoramic HDR shots, you will repeat that HDR shot across the scene for five to seven shots that will capture the panoramic. The key point to remember when shooting a panoramic image is your subject matter. Choose a scene that works in the panoramic format; i.e. a seascape, mountain range, forest or a cityscape from a distance. If you are too far away from your subject, the stitched photo may lack impact, so choose your scene with that in mind.

Panoramic Images

Of course, it’s up to you how many images you want to shoot for your HDR shots. In the example shot at the top of the article, I used three shots per HDR set and used a total of seven images to capture the scene panoramically. Keep in mind that you may want anywhere between three to seven shots per HDR image and use as many images as you need to capture the scene.

Here is a visual breakdown on how this shot worked. I have broken the shots I took into sets. Each set consists of three HDR images. So, Set #1 consists of three HDR images, Set #2 consists of three HDR images. Set 1 and Set 2 overlap by 30%. Set 2 and Set 3 overlap by 30% as well, and so on.

HDR sets and flow for the image of coal harbour. Note the overlaps

HDR sets and flow for the image of coal harbour. Note the overlaps

What you will notice is that you must take your HDR images and complete the set before moving your camera for the next set. This ensures that you will get the best possible HDR shots, and that they will blend properly. Once you have your HDR shots done on Set #1, move your camera over to frame and shoot Set #2. With panoramic photography, you must overlap your images by at least 30%. It’s not necessary to overlap much more than this, but less than 30% could cause the software to struggle to find linking points in the images. If you have a scene that has lots of detail in it, 30% will be good, if you have a scene that is not very detailed (let’s say a beach scene with sand, water and sky) you may need to overlap more to make sure that the photos can stitch. Continue this process until you have captured your scene in the sets you have decided on.

Some quick tips to remember when you shoot Panoramic HDR images

1. Choose a preset white balance setting that works well for the scene, avoid using auto white balance. If you use auto white balance (AWB), your overall colours in the scene may change as you shoot your panoramic and this could cause some unusual colour  shifts in your image
2. Keep your aperture between f/8 and f/11. Once you have chosen your aperture, don’t change it throughout the sets.
3. Use a tripod to make sure that your images are sharp. Also, as you move the camera onto the next set, be sure to overlap by 30%.
4. Be sure not to allow the camera to move up or down as you shoot the images. If it does, the result will be that the images might stitch but the resulting shot will be dropping down or sweeping up and you may not be able to get it right afterwards.
5. The best idea is to use a tripod and keep the focal plane as flat as possible, to avoid distortion, particularly with a wide angle lens.

Step 2 – edit your HDR images

Edit your images by set. Start with Set #1 and take them into an HDR product such as Photomatix Pro. You could used Photoshop too, but my preference is Photomatix Pro. For more details on making your HDR images, take a look at my HDR article to get into the details of the editing process in Photomatix.

Save each set and name them chronologically. I will name my images as follows: SCENENAME – HDR PANO 1, SCENENAME – HDR PANO 2 etc. Once you have taken all your sets through the HDR process and named them in order, the photostitching part is pretty easy.

Step 3 – stitch your HDR images together

For the photostitching part of this process, you can use the photo stitching function in Photoshop or any other photo stitching tool of your choice. I have used Photoshop in the past and it works well, but for more complex stitching I find that Autopano Pro works extremely well. It has been rated as one of the best stitching packages available. I have used it to stitch some pretty crazy panos together and almost anything I have thrown at it, it has been able to process.

Lets look at how this process works in Autopano Pro:

  1. Open Autopano Pro and on the first screen that you see, click on the second icon from the left to select your images to be stitched
  2. Navigate to the HDR images that you have processed and select them
  3. Click on “detect” on the top left hand side of the screen
  4. Autopano will now scan your images and do a preliminary stitch, this preview stitched image will be displayed on the right hand side of the screen that is open. This process may take a few minutes.
  5. Once the preview image is displaying, click on the “edit” button (Right hand side of the screen) this will open the image in the Autopano edit screen
  6. There are a number of options here, below is a high level overview of the most important functions
Autopano Pro - Images selected for the pano stitch on the left and a preview of the stitched image on the right

Autopano Pro – images selected for the pano stitch on the left and a preview of the stitched image on the right

Autopano edit screen with preview of stitched image

Autopano edit screen with preview of stitched image

Autopano functions on the edit screen:

Autopano has a number of options you can use to render your panoramic image. These projections help with distortion and skewing. Below is an explanation of the most commonly used projections.

  • Spherical - the spherical function allows any panorama to be assembled. It is a commonly used function for building panoramic images.
  • Planar or rectilinear projection - this is a good choice if the angle is low, It’s recommended for architectural shots because it is the only mode that does not curve lines that are deemed to be straight lines. Sometimes if the angles are too extreme there may be a loss of sharpness, so be aware of this.
  • Cylindrical projection - this projection can be used up to 360° (horizontally).
  • Mercator projection - the mercator projection can also be used up to 360° (horizontally). The effect of stretching up and down the image may seem to become distorted.

The key factor in choosing a projection is in how the projection affects your image visually. Does it work for the subject matter? Does the image look correct? Ask yourself these questions as you experiment with the projections.

Once you are happy with your projection and the way the image looks, you can now save the image to a folder on your computer.

Choose the projection that works best for your image

Choose the projection that works best for your image

Rendering

Render screen and options

Render screen and options

This is the process of saving your panorama.It is called rendering because the software needs to perform the final stitching and edits to your image. On the rendering screen, you will need to take note of the following:

Interpolator - the interpolator is the method used to assemble the pixels of your panoramic image  and will determine the quality and sharpness of your image. There are a few different options here, but the most commonly used options is Bicubic. The other options are useful for advanced stitching.

Blending settings - the purpose of the blending settings is to allow the combining of the overlapped sections of your panoramic to look smooth and seamless. You will notice  the following presets:

  • Simple - this is fast, but it is possible that defects are seen where the areas overlap
  • Anti-ghost - conserve the image’s strong characteristics (stops, lines, curves) when mixing while automatically removing objects that have moved
  • Exposure Fusion - to be used if the panorama was created with a bracket shoot. Keeps the best of different exposures.
  • HDR output - to be used by users who wish to create a “.hdr” format file in order to create post-production or special effects. Don’t use this on these images as they have already been processed as HDR images.
  • Custom - this is enabled when you manually change the parameters and they no longer correspond to a profile.

On the advanced settings, I generally leave that on the default.

Format

This section allows you to determine what the format in which you want your image to be saved. The two formats I use most are TIFF and JPEG. TIFF is an uncompressed file (which means all the information is still in the file, this is great if you are planning to print the image out large) The downside to TIFF is that the files are big. JPEG is a compressed format, that means that some image information has been discarded, the quality will still look the same to the naked eye, but if you print a JPEG image up really big, you may notice some image degradation. Depending on your final output and your space constraints you can choose the format that works best for you. Take the quality up to 12 and set the DPI to 300. This will ensure that you have the best quality image saved.

Output

On this screen, the software needs to know where to save your panoramic and what you want to call it. Choose your destination folder and name the file. Once this is done (it sounds more complicated than it is) click on the render button and the software will begin rendering your image. Depending on the size of the files being stitched, this rendering process can take a few minutes. Once complete, a screen will pop up to let you know that the image is now rendered.

4. Edit the final image in Lightroom or Photoshop

Your image is now stitched together, but the final step in the process is to edit the image in your choice of image editor (Lightroom, Photoshop, Gimp or any other) You will want to follow the basic workflow I outlined in a previous article.  Once that is done, you will now have a fantastic Panoramic HDR image. Not too many photographers attempt these images as they take some time to get right, but the results can be spectacular. Give this a try, let me know where you struggled or any insights you had during the process, above all go out and have fun with it!

Panoramic HDR image of Coal Harbour - Vancouver BC

Panoramic HDR image of Coal Harbour – Vancouver BC

The post Step By Step How to Make Panoramic HDR Images by Barry J Brady appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop

In addition to being able to send single images from Lightroom to Photoshop for editing you can also send a series of images to Photoshop to assemble into a panorama. This is a useful because the Photoshop panorama merge feature is pretty good (certainly since the improvements in Photoshop CS3 & CS4) and other Photoshop tools such as Content Aware Fill and the Lens Correction Filter are handy for finishing your panoramas. When you are done, click Save and the completed panorama will be sent back to Lightroom for further processing.

To see how this is done, begin inside Lightroom and select the images to assemble into a panorama. I like to put these into a collection so they are handy if I want to try multiple panorama options to select the best of them. I don’t typically process the images before sending them to Photoshop and, instead, I process the completed panorama when it returns to Lightroom. One exception to this is fixing the white balance if it were incorrectly set on the camera at capture time, for example.

Photoshop can assemble panoramas both vertically and horizontally and it can also take a mix of images such as I used here. This sequence is six shots horizontally across the front of a building and one extra shot to handle the building’s tower which wasn’t captured in the original sequence. If I’d been thinking, I would have captured some extra sky to use but we can solve that in Photoshop.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 1

Select the images, right click and choose Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 2

Photoshop will open with the images you sent to Photoshop listed in the Photomerge dialog. Now you need to determine the Layout to use. In most cases the Auto setting will be a good choice – when you select this, Photoshop will analyze the images and determine the best of the other layout alternatives: Perspective, Cylindrical and Spherical to use.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop  3

Check the Blend Images Together checkbox so that the images will be seamlessly blended together – then you won’t have to do it yourself. You can also click Geometric Distortion Correction to remove the effect of any barrel, pincushion or fisheye distortion in the original images. If the edges of your images have some edge vignetting click Vignette Removal. If you’re unsure what to choose, check all three checkboxes. Click Ok and wait as the images are aligned and blended.

Once the panorama is assembled you can straighten the image if desired. To do this select all the layers and target the Ruler tool. Now drag along a line in the image which should be perfectly horizontal – you won’t be able to click the Straighten Layer button to rotate the image because you will have multiple layers selected. Instead, choose Image > Image Rotation > Arbitrary and click Ok to straighten the entire image to the angle of the Ruler line.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop  4

Most panoramas will then need to be cropped to a rectangle to eliminate uneven areas around the edge of the image. However, before you do this you may want to fill in some of the empty areas of the image using the Content Aware Fill tool so you can crop larger than you would otherwise be able to do. To do this you’ll either need to flatten the image to a single layer or you will need to create a new layer with the entire image on it to use. To flatten the image choose Layer > Flatten Image. To make a new layer with the image on it (but still retain the individual layers below) click the topmost layer and press Control + Alt + Shift + E (Command + Option + Shift + E on the Mac).

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop  5

Select the area that you want to fill and then choose Edit > Fill, from the Use list choose Content Aware and click Ok. Photoshop will attempt to fill the missing area with details from the image around it. If the image contains sufficient detail you should be able to build up missing areas of sky and foreground, for example.

If you encounter problems with the Content Aware Fill feature this post will show you how to mask a layer to get better results when using it: http://digital-photography-school.com/smarter-content-aware-fill-in-photoshop. Crop the image when you have filled the edge area.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 6

To fix unwanted distortion in an image you can use the Lens Correction tool. This tool works on a single layer and you run it by choosing Filter > Lens Correction > Manual. Adjust the Horizontal Perspective slider to fix problems with an image which has not been captured face onto the point of interest. Use the Vertical Perspective slider to adjust for keystoning – generally you will drag this slider to the left. Use the Geometric Distortion slider to remove barrel and pincushion distortion.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 7

Once you have finished assembling the panorama choose File > Save to save the image and return to Lightroom where your panorama will be ready for further editing.

LR PS panoramaMerge 8

If you are not using Lightroom you can assemble a panorama from Bridge or from inside Photoshop. In Bridge select the panorama sequence and choose Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge in Bridge. In Photoshop, first open the images to use then choose File > Automate > Photomerge and click the Add Open Files button. In either case you will probably want to fix the image in Photoshop once the panorama is complete. If you are using Lightroom you may prefer to finish processing the panorama in Lightroom.

Layout Options

Each of the panorama Layout options in Photoshop results in a different looking panorama. Choosing Auto tells Photoshop to select the best of the options Perspective, Spherical and Cylindrical for your particular sequence of images.

Here is the result of each of the other Layout options used with our image sequence, these results haven’t been edited except to straighten the image and brighten it a little. You may want to experiment with any given sequence of images to see which of these options gives you the most pleasing result:

Perspective Layout

The panorama is assembled in relation to the middle image of your sequence of images. The middle image is placed in position and the other images arranged either side of it and skewed and repositioned as needed. This often results in edges which are taller than the middle giving rise to the term ‘bow-tie” distortion.

LR PS panoramaMerge perspective

Cylindrical Layout

This layout avoids the bow-tie distortion by showing the images as they might look if placed on an unwrapped cylinder.

LR PS panoramaMerge cylindrical

Spherical Layout

This layout arranges the images as if to cover the inside of a sphere. It is a good choice for 360 degree panoramas and can also give good results with other shorter panorama sequences.

LR PS panoramaMerge spherical

Collage Layout

This layout aligns the images matching overlapping content. If necessary, image layers are transformed and rotated.

LR PS panoramaMerge collage

Reposition Layout

This layout aligns the images matching overlapping content but without transforming or rotated the images.

LR PS panoramaMerge reposition

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop

The post Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Stitching Images For Larger Prints

For this image I decided I wanted to cover all of Lower Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty (far left) to the Empire State Building (far right, under the Brooklyn Bride, colored red, white and blue. I was using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. My EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 70mm covered the skyline and water with some sky vertically, so I positioned the camera vertically and proceeded to take 9 shots, moving the camera by turning the tripod head on it's rotating base. I overlapped portions of each frame so Photoshop would have a point of reference when stitching. Each of the nine exposures was taken at ISO 200, 90 seconds, at f/16.

For this image I decided I wanted to cover all of Lower Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty (far left) to the Empire State Building (far right, under the Brooklyn Bride, colored red, white and blue. I was using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. My EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 70mm covered the skyline and water with some sky vertically, so I positioned the camera vertically and proceeded to take 9 shots, moving the camera by turning the tripod head on it’s rotating base. I overlapped portions of each frame so Photoshop would have a point of reference when stitching. Each of the nine exposures was taken at ISO 200, 90 seconds, at f/16.  If printed at it’s native resolution at 300 dpi, it would measure 18.39 inches by 88.25 inches.  My photo lab maxes out at 108″, which it says it can print this image to.

Several months ago I was asked by a potential client if I had any images that were capable of being printed very large- up to 20 feet across! It pained me to explain that, no, based on my camera’s resolution, I did not have any images capable of being printed that large.  I had never gotten into doing many stitched panoramas or other prints, and couldn’t afford a Gigapan or other panorama photography tool.  For the most part, I’d had no call for it in my daily business. Generally, when shooting landscapes, I think in terms of one frame, and fill it with my composition. This has worked well for the most part, as long as I didn’t want to print much larger than around 48″ inches across.  Suddenly, however, I had a desire to go much larger.

This past week in the United States, we commemorated the 12th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Every year New York City remembers the victims with a tribute in light- two columns of light representing the fallen towers of the World Trade Center.  It seemed a perfect opportunity to start playing with panoramics, especially since one of the images the aforementioned client wanted was a skyline shot of New York City.

The general rule of thumb for printing on standard inkjet printers is to print at 300 dpi.  To find out how large you can print an image, simply take the pixel dimensions and divide by 300. From a camera such as the EOS 5D Mark III, that means an image of 5760 x 3840 pixels can be printed at about 12.8 inches by 19.2 inches.  It is true, using various resizing techniques you can print larger.  I have on many occasions. But to get to the extreme sizes beyond approximately 48″, you’ll need to start combining images by stitching them together.

There are currently a few automated panoramic photo options on the market, including Gigapan’s and Panogear’s. Both can be somewhat pricey.  But just because you don’t have these nice accessories does not mean you can’t make stunning panoramic images.  A tripod is helpful, but not completely necessary if you can handhold the shutter speed your camera is set to.  A tripod is helpful for locking your camera in place from shot to shot. The reason a tripod is helpful is that if your tripod head has markings for panoramics on the base, you can use these for reference when repositioning the camera for each shot. More on that in a bit.  Another helpful tool is an L bracket. This will help you position your camera vertically if desired to shoot verticals to stitch the final piece.  L brackets can be purchased from several manufacturers and are usually camera-specific.  Acratech makes a universal L bracket with a quick release that any camera can attach to using an Arca-Swiss style plate.

You’ll want to start by defining your image in your mind. Where does it start, where does it end? Then, how far up does the image go, and how far down?  can you cover the up and down with one vertical?  Or would you be better off shooting two rows of images. Or more? Keep in mind when planning that you’ll want to shoot with some extra area around the image to leave room for cropping if needed.  You’ll also want to make sure you leave some overlap in each shot so the stitching software can find a point of reference to see where the next shot goes. I used Photoshop for these, but there are other programs out there. Feel free to suggest your favorite in the comments below.

For the first image in this article, I wanted to shoot the Lower Manhattan skyline, from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building.  I had a 24-70mm lens, and at 70mm I covered exactly what I wanted, from top to bottom, with a vertical shot.  I took 9 shots in that orientation, while rotating the tripod head incrementally until I got my last shot.

For the second shot in this article, there was a more prominent foreground element, the pilings from the old pier.  I decided to do this one in a horizontal orientation, using two rows of three shots.  This was again taken using the 24-70mm lens, at 70mm.  I shot this one starting at the far right, shooting in columns- upper right, lower right, lower center, upper center, upper left, lower left.  I used the playback feature on the camera to check my reference points. Again I stitched it using Photoshop’s Photomerge feature.

This shot was six horizontal shots stitched together. Because of the overlap, the 3 shots across and 2 up and down will not add up to the full resolution of the individual images simply put together. This image came together at  10,531 pixels by 5904 pixels. At 300 DPI the file can be printed at 19.68 inches by 35.1 inches. My lab, however, tells me they can print this image up to 8 feet wide.

This shot was six horizontal shots stitched together. Because of the overlap, the 3 shots across and 2 up and down will not add up to the full resolution of the individual images simply put together. This image came together at 10,531 pixels by 5904 pixels. At 300 DPI the file can be printed at 19.68 inches by 35.1 inches. My lab, however, tells me they can print this image up to 8 feet wide. They are not using inkjet printers and thus are not subject to the same parameters.  The same still holds true however.  The larger the file, the larger it can be printed.

I have not yet heard anyone say that any photo stitching program is perfect.  There will be errors in stitching.  A misplaced post, a skewed building. To correct these, I simply opened the source file and added it to the stitched file on a new layer.  Then I created a layer mask to show only the area I wanted shown, which would correct the issue.

For your exposure, you’ll need to be in manual mode. You need the exposure to be uniform across the image.  If you leave your camera in any auto mode where the camera helps set the exposure, you run the risk of your exposures varying.  For the first image in this article, my exposure was 90 seconds at f/16, ISO 200 for each image.  This is important, particularly when photographing the area around the statue of liberty which had huge dark areas.  In auto mode, the camera will try to brighten these areas, which will cause problems when the stitching if the skies or water don’t match from shot to shot. In the interest of full disclosure, I made this mistake myself with the second image, the six-shot stitch.  I shot in aperture priority and there was a variation of plus or minus 2/3 of a stop from shot to shot.  This caused all kinds of headaches in my first attempt at stitching.  I was able to correct this by reproccessing the RAW files with an exposure adjustment to match the exposures.  In addition, if your camera has a feature for vignette correction, such as Canon’s Peripheral Illumination Correction, turn it on.  This will even out the exposure so there are no dark areas in the corners, which can be difficult to correct later on.

I’ve toyed with stitching panoramics before, but never seriously.  This is one of my first attempts at a serious pano.  It’s well worth exploring more in the future.  I might even start saving for a new piece of equipment just for that purpose!

 

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Stitching Images For Larger Prints

Using AutoPano Giga To Create Panoramas With Gigapan Heads Or Freehand Shooting Grids

I know, it’s a long title but I want to show how easy it can be to assemble panoramas with either a Gigapan head or by shooting freehand, gridded panoramas. AutoPano Giga has been my panorama product of choice after starting with huggin, a free option that does quite well it its own right.

One ability AutoPano Giga excels at is the ability to take images and information from a number of automated shooting heads, such as Kolor’s own PanoGear or even other brands, such as the GigaPan EPIC Pro, which I reviewed for DPS two years ago. I noted in that post that Gigapan’s software was in its first stages and was quite basic and while the software has been upgrade over the intervening two years, it’s still not as robust as Kolor’s AutoPano Giga. Plus, it can not handle freehand panoramas

Utilizing AutoPano Giga to produce stunning panoramas shot with Gigapan’s heads (mine were shot with the EPIC Pro) is fairly simple.

Shoot

Shooting with the Gigapan EPIC Pro is explained in the previously mentioned post. That much hasn’t changed.

Import

Bringing images into your computer is no different than your normal shooting method. The nice thing about AutpoPano Giga is it will understand your RAW files no problem, so there is no need to convert (but you can if you are impatient and want smaller file sizes). I have found it handy to shoot panoramas, especially large ones, on a separate memory card reserved just for panoramas. That makes finding the files all the easier.

With all your panorama files in one location, it is time to use the stitching wizard in AutoPano Giga.

Wizard

The first step in the wizard is to pick the device that was used, in this case we select Gigapan.

The next screen asks for input. If your shot went off without a hitch and you have a nice grid of images, AutoPano should know this. For instance, when I select the 98 images from my demonstration shot from Maui, Hawaii at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farms, AutoPano knows this shot was 7 rows and 14 columns. The nice thing about this method is there is no need to import a control file that explains the grid to the software. This is also why, with careful execution, freehand panoramas can be imported.

With a straightforward shot like this, there is little else for me to do, but let me show you what the other screens do, if you are curious.

The next screen allows for changing of the panorama shooting direction. One thing I wish this screen had is the ability to pick a grid shot top to bottom, then back up the next column, down the next, and so on, for those times when I shoot a panorama freehand, such as this 2.2 gigapixel image of the Taj Mahal (shot without a tripod and head because they are restricted).

After that screen, custom overlap or forcing a 360 degree view can be selected.

The last two screens deal with control points and that can be left on auto unless you have a particularly good reason to change them. This software works quite well on auto (with some manual tweaks to come).

Press “Finish” and AutoPano takes you to the main screen and starts detecting and stitching. I like that, while I can tell the program the pattern of a shoot and the amount of overlay, it will still automatically detect control points and I can even set this number to 200 by default, to ensure the best matching.

Output

Things aren’t always perfect right out of the box because the software doesn’t know which type of projection you want. Below you will see the resultant output on the right, which has a planar projection.

This is easily changed in the Edit screen, where a number of adjustments can be made if desired. I decided on a spherical projection to keep my sides straight.

From there, the only change I saw that needed to be made was to crop the image, which is dead easy: click on the crop tool and it automatically selects the crop dimensions. Changes are made by dragging corners or sides and rotations can be made (in case your tripod wasn’t level when shooting).

The last bit of editing I tend to do in the program is to set the levels, which is as easy as setting them in Photoshop or other programs.

Before being completely done, we need to get the resultant image out of AutoPano Giga and that is done by clicking on the gear in the main screen in order to render the image. Settings on this screen allow for the resizing of the image once rendered (handy if you are sending this out as a JPEG as the max dimension for those is 30,000 pixels) as well as file type, compression, color depth and more.

What Else Can Be Done?

AutoPano Giga is a robust panoramic creation and editing program. This post is not intended to be a complete review of all the features as that list is rather long. Some of the highlights include:

  • Ability to handle HDR bracketed shots (it is available in the first screen of the wizard and is labeled Nb image per location (bracketing)
  • Manual removal of ghosts via masking(although the automatic option works well)
  • Saving results in a variety of file types, including .PSB and .TIFF
  • Batch processing
  • Editing vanishing points and pitch, roll and yaw

Results

How did it come out? Great! But…unfortunately DPS isn’t set up to show case large panoramas but I have hosted the resulting image on my blog. The final image is 43MB large and will take a little time to download with the amount of traffic DPS typically sees.

Click here to be taken to the image. Zoom in and use Full Screen mode for the best experience. Can you spot the airplane taking off? What about people surfing?

For references sake, the panorama was made with a Canon 7D and 28-300mm L lens. It was composed of 98 images shot in Manual Mode at ISO 100, 135mm, f/9, 1/400. The Gigapan EPIC Pro was lent to me from Borrowlenses.com.

AutoPano Giga is available for free trial download here.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Using AutoPano Giga To Create Panoramas With Gigapan Heads Or Freehand Shooting Grids