Panoramic photos are a cool way to showcase seamless images of more expansive physical spaces. Traditional panoramic views are typically of landscapes and cityscapes, but you don’t have to limit your photos to just those.
Most photographers create these wider images by stitching together several photos horizontally or vertically from different angles using Adobe Photoshop and its various plug-ins. In this post, we’ll talk about how to make a panorama using Photoshop and the right photos in 9 simple steps.
Tools You Need
The first thing you need is a digital camera to take high-quality photos. You will also need a tripod, a stable surface, or a platform to ensure your camera stays at the same height and doesn’t move. The last thing you’ll need is Adobe Photoshop editing software, the Photomerge utility, and a computer to upload all of your photos.
Step 1: Set Up for Your Shoot
Once your camera is ready, and you have a stable surface to rest it on, it’s time to set up for your shoot. Your camera must rest at a steady position. Otherwise, stitching the images together later with Photomerge will be difficult. Photoshop may leave jagged white lines between individual photos. Photoshop could have taken chunks out of them if they don’t match exactly.
Using a tripod is the easiest way to make slight adjustments to your camera’s angle in order to take successive shots. However, a flat surface, like a wall or board, can work if you are able to rotate your camera slightly to take consecutive photos without moving it off the area.
Step 2: Capture a Series of Overlapping Images
Once your camera is stable and secure, aim it at the far left of the scene you want to capture. Take test photos first to see if it looks the way you want it. If not, adjust your camera’s settings and try again in the same spot.
When you’re happy with how the test photo looks, choose a reference point, like a tree, a building, or another arbitrary object, about 20-40% away from the right side of your viewfinder.
The reference point will be in the far left of your next shot and give some overlap between your photos. You don’t want to overlap too much as the Photomerge app will blend the images it doesn’t have enough of together.
Repeat this process until you have covered the entire area you want in your panorama. Then it’s time to edit them together, starting with Adobe Bridge.
Step 3: Open Adobe Bridge and Select a Sequence of Images
Once your camera is connected to your computer, open Adobe Bridge, a program that houses all of your creative files such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. Select the pictures you want to stitch together for your panorama. These will be uploaded into Adobe Bridge, where you can edit them before putting the images together.
Step 4: Edit Images
Two editing plug-in programs you can add and use within Adobe Bridge are Camera Raw and Lightroom.
In order to use Camera Raw, your photos need to be shot in raw format. You can upload and enhance these raw images by adjusting its overall white balance, exposure, contrast, and saturation, among other features.
Lightroom is a cloud-based service that combines photo management and raw image editing while allowing you to access your edits on multiple devices. It also includes in-app tutorials that teach you how to use specific editing tools and enhance your photos.
Lightroom and Camera Raw have similar editing features, but if you want to make more specific or detailed edits, use Photoshop. Use the same corrections for all the photos you will include in your panorama to look like one coherent image.
Step 5: Open Photomerge in Photoshop
After editing your photos, it’s time to stitch your panorama together with Photomerge! Open Photomerge through the menu by going to File > Automate > Photomerge. The Photomerge dialog box should open.
Once the Photomerge dialog box opens, you can choose either “Files” to select individual files or “Folders” to use all of the images stored in a separate folder in Photomerge.
From the Photomerge dialog box, browse through your images or folders to select the images you want to stitch together in sequential order. It is important to keep your photos in sequence because the panorama will be created according to the order you set.
Step 6: Choose the Layout Option
Once you choose your photos, Photomerge will ask you to determine the layout option you want for your panoramic view. You can choose from several options, but some may produce a better photo merge depending on your preference or style.
The first option is Auto, where Photoshop analyzes your files and chooses the layout for you from Perspective, Cylindrical, and Spherical, depending on which merges the photos best.
Perspective designates the middle image to be the reference for all of the other files. The other photos are then transformed in order to match that one, often being repositioned or stretched as necessary. It often creates a “bow-tie” effect on the panorama.
Cylindrical straightens your panorama into more of a rectangular image. It is the best layout for creating wide panoramas without the “bow-tie” distortion that often occurs with the Perspective layout.
The Spherical layout creates a 360-degree panorama to create a spherical experience with your image. If you’ve shot a series of photos covering 360 degrees of an area, this is the best format to use in order to create a panorama with a cool 3D effect.
Collage and Reposition are two options that align all of the layers of your photo and match any overlapping content, but Collage transforms your source layers by stretching or rotating them. Reposition only ensures that your images are cohesive without altering them.
Select “Blend Images Together” by default to have Photoshop blend the colors and exposure of your photos.
Step 7: Select Options and Run Photomerge
Once your images are in order, there are a series of other options for you to adjust and create a panorama in Photoshop.
“Vignette Removal” adds more exposure to the sides of images that may have darker edges because of a flaw in your lens. You don’t need this option unless your lens creates a vignette around your photos.
“Geometric Distortion Correction” is another option that corrects any distortions to your image because of the lens. Distortions happen when you use a distorted lens that creates a barrel or fisheye effect on your photos. If you didn’t apply any geometric distortion correction in Camera Raw or Lightroom, tick this box.
Lastly, you can click “Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas” to fill any blank areas in your photos with similar content. Content Aware Fill is also great for 360-degree panoramas to avoid any transparent pixels on the edges of your image. However, leave this box unchecked if you do not want any added content, or Photoshop isn’t filling it in correctly.
Once you’re ready, click OK to start the merge.
Step 8: Check for Imperfections
It may take several minutes for Photoshop to combine your images, but once the photos are analyzed and blended, the stitch image appears. Check for any imperfections, such as uneven editing on individual sections, jagged white lines, or slight tilts.
You can make some general edits while you create a panorama, such as adjusting the color and exposure, to enhance it or correct it.
Step 9: Crop and Finish
Once your image looks the way you want it to, you want to save it as a new file. You can do this by clicking all of the layers in the Layer panel, then going to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object to merge all of the layers for a clean finish.
Net, crop away any unwanted areas. There may be some white space around the edges if you didn’t choose to have Photoshop fill it in. Save your new file, and then your panorama is done and ready to be shared. You can make any final edits on the completed image back in Photoshop or Lightroom.
Other Panorama Options
Though using Photomerge is the simplest way to create these wide images in Photoshop, there are other ways to create cool panoramic images. One option is creating a 360-degree effect using several images, and another is manually stitching images together.
Creating 360-Degree Panoramas
In order to create the 3D effect, use the Photomerge app to create a standard panoramic photo. You will need to have shots of the full 360-degree area. Then, click the Spherical layout option, which will wrap the panorama around in a connected circle.
You can do this by clicking 3D > New Shape From Layer > Spherical Panorama. Tick the “Content Aware” box to fill in any pixelated blank space on the edges of your sphere. The top and bottom images are optional but can be included manually to complete the circle.
Manually Stitching Images Together
Though Photomerge makes stitching images much more straightforward, often doing it manually in Photoshop can provide better results if you are using photos with geometric distortion or don’t have enough overlap.
First, edit your pictures and crop out any problematic areas, leaving enough room to overlap between files. Save the cropped images, and then manually align the pictures to create a natural-looking panorama. Finally, blend images together using masks.