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How to Create a Panorama with Photoshop and Photomerge

This post on Creating a Panorama with Photoshop and Photomerge has been submitted by Matt Dawdy from www.TheRightPic.com.

Panorama

A panorama is simply a wide-angled view of a physical space. To the photographer a panorama is usually several photographs that are stitched together horizontally to create a seamless picture.

This is going to be a pretty simple tutorial in which we create a panorama using Photoshop’s Photomerge utility.

Here are the tools I am going to use to create panoramic photos:

1. A digital camera
2. A tripod or a stable surface or platform to take pictures from that allows some horizontal rotation
3. A computer and Adobe Photoshop and the Photomerge utility

When I started thinking about this tutorial I began to wonder what I should shoot. Just about any subject can be used for a panorama, however traditional panoramic photography subjects are typically landscapes or city skylines. I will show you a few different panoramas that I created, some typical, some a little different than what you would normally see for a panorama.

Setting up for your shoot:

A stable position to take your panoramas from is important. Isn’t it always when taking pictures? Well, with panoramas it is more important because the Photoshop process that joins your photos together is good at what it does but it is not perfect and when it has trouble putting the individual pictures together it either leaves ragged white lines in between the photos or chops large sections out of the photos because it doesn’t know what to do with them.

I would recommend you use a tripod since it allows you to turn your camera slightly in order to take successive shots. If you can’t use a tripod some sort of flat surface like the top of a wall, fence or a board may work as long as it is possible to take a picture and then rotate your camera slightly and then take another picture without vertical movement.

Once you find your potential spot and set your camera up, rotate it to the extreme right and left edges that you want to include in your photo and make sure that there isn’t anything that is too big of a visual or physical obstruction. Something else to keep in mind is to try to set up so that the full range of your shot does not show shadows from you or your camera.

The actual shoot:

For the panoramic pictures I take I start at the extreme left of what I want to capture, set my timer and take bracketed exposure shots. I then stop and check the photos without moving the camera. If one of them looks OK I am ready to continue. If not, I adjust my settings and shoot again from the same spot.

When you have the settings you want and have taken your extreme left pictures it is time to grab a reference point in the viewfinder about 20%-30% away from the right side of your viewfinder. You do this because you are going to swivel the camera so that this reference point is at the far left but still in the viewfinder so that there is some overlap between your photos.

Panorama-2

The green arrows show my chosen reference point, which is a point that I will use to make sure I don’t swivel too far to the right and leave a gap in between my two pictures. The dotted line represents the overlap that I am going to have between this and my next picture. The second picture is shown diagonally lower than the other one for display purposes only.

As far as overlap is concerned, you are shooting digitally so snap away, overlap 30-50% if you want, but err on the side of overlapping too much. If you don’t overlap enough, as Photoshop’s Photomerge app attempts to blend the shots it will not have enough of a fingerprint to blend well and your panorama will end up with the ragged white lines that I wrote about earlier or look like Frankenstein’s version of a panorama.

Once you mentally choose a reference point such as a tree or prominent peak swivel the camera to the right until your reference point is almost at the left edge of the viewfinder. Try not to move the camera position, vertical pitch or height. Once you have swiveled far enough repeat the process that you did to take the first picture.

Now simply repeat this process until you come to the extreme right end of your desired panoramic shot:

1. Choose a reference point about 20-30% away from the right edge of the viewfinder
2. Swivel the camera to the right until your reference point is at the left edge of the viewfinder
3. Take the picture
4. Repeat until you have taken photos that cover the entire area you wish to capture in your panorama

Make your panorama:

Now you are ready to ‘stitch’ your photos together.

1. Open each photo that you wish to add to the panorama in Photoshop. Open them sequentially, starting with the leftmost one first.
2. In Photoshop CS3 (or CS2, not sure about other versions) go to File > Automate > Photomerge
3. In the dialog that appears choose Auto and then click the “Add Open Files” button
4. Check the filename numbers of the photos that are added, assuming you allow your camera to number your photos. If you started off shooting from the left of the panorama the lower numbers should be at the top. In other words, it should read something like this:

Panorama-3

If the filenames are out of order remove all of the ones that are before the one that should be first. Now just click Add Open Files again and it will add the pictures back in. Keep removing files and adding them back until you have your files in order.

Click OK. Now Photoshop goes into action. It analyzes and blends the photos. This could take several minutes. Once it is finished you will see what Photoshop and Photomerge could make out of your photos.

Panorama-4

Here is my neighbor’s fish tank. A lot of it got lost in the Photomerge process, in fact I would guess that I lost about 50% of my picture material which is probably due to the fact that the images are dark and very similar and Photomerge probably had a difficult time piecing it together. Still, the picture isn’t a total loss. One thing that did happen that is common with Photomerged pictures is that it is on a slight tilt to the left.

If this happens to you, first flatten your image and then do an Arbitrary rotation until the picture looks level.

Next, crop the picture. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this just press C. Click and drag a box over the area of the picture you want to keep. Press ENTER and the rest of the photo will be gone.

Next, you might want to adjust your saturation, exposure, hue levels, etc, until you are happy with the photo. Make sure you zoom in all of the way to 100% and look the photo over, zoom back out and move around. Look for obvious problems with the picture.

As for me, I have a fishtank with a couple of blurry fish but a decent looking photo that ends up being 88″ wide by 23″ long, give or take a little.

When you are done playing with the coloring and exposure do a Smart Sharpen by going to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. I would set the Amount to 60% and set the Radius to 1.0. Click OK.

Go ahead and save your picture and you have a panorama! Here is mine with the default Photoshop frame action added (the photo has been shortened and saved at a low res to make it more web palatable) (click to enlarge the following image):

Panorama-5

Given time I would add a couple of good looking fish from other photos and clean up some of the rough spots, but this is a good start.

Here are a couple of other panoramas that I took (click to enlarge):

Panorama-6

A field near where I work. The actual panorama is 204″ x 24″.

Panorama-7

Here are some homes and a range of mountains with the waste from a giant copper mine. Actual panorama is 94″ x 23″

Matt Dawdy is one of the contributors and a blogger for the free stock photography site, www.TheRightPic.com

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Michael

    Hi, I hope Im not intruding in the normal questions and answers with my query.
    I have tried to make a panorama with photomerge in my CS3 but am running into trouble and I havent a clue
    how to sort it out. I notice that ‘ADD OPEN FILES’ is greyed out and I suspect this is the problem. Photomerge does its best to create a pan it only goes so far and then stops. I suspect that ‘add open files’ being greyed out is the culprit…..question is.. how to I get ‘add open files’ to work. is there some way that it can be ‘switched on’. Much thanks in anticipation. Michael.

  • Martin Butcher

    I own a copy of Photoshop CS5 and am attempting to produce panoramic photographs from several images. The images are scanned in from old negatives and so do not necessarily have the necessary overlap for an automated merge. Normally I am content to use ‘Photomerge’, however, where the images do not overlap sufficiently the system is unable to provide an automated solution to producing the panoramic photograph. How can I manually move and arrange the individual images to overcome this problem. I recall that with Photoshop Elements I was able to do this, but I am unable to work out how to do it with CS5. Is it possible and if so how do I do it? Can I do it from within ‘Photomerge’ or do I have to open the images separately? As an aside if I attempt a ‘run’ in ‘Photomerge’ and the system cannot automatically merge the images is there a shortcut to enable me to repeat the ‘run’ but using a different layout (eg Reposition vice Auto) without having to close down ‘Photomerge’ and then open it up again.
    Any assistance would be gratefully received.
    Martin Butcher

  • http://www.articlespy.com/article/22661/Easily-Selecting-The-Best-Cookware-Set/ Michaela

    I every time used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of web thus from now I am
    using net for articles, thanks to web.

  • http://alisyed88.tumblr.com/ Syed Ali

    I have just created quick and smart Video Tutorial. That how you combine two images in Photoshop.
    Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijST98

    You can Subscribe my MY Channel
    MY Channel For more Tutorial Videos.

  • Panohrama

    I find it easiest to take panorama photos with the iPhone and started this fun project to share your panorama photos on http://www.panohrama.com

  • Anonymous

    A lot of digital cameras, not including smartphone cameras, do not have panorama functionalities right now, the article shows you how to do this on a computer. Please do not advertise your own projects, its rude!

Some older comments

  • Syed Ali

    September 10, 2013 10:40 am

    I have just created quick and smart Video Tutorial. That how you combine two images in Photoshop.
    Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijST98...

    You can Subscribe my MY Channel
    MY Channel For more Tutorial Videos.

  • Michaela

    June 13, 2013 11:12 pm

    I every time used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of web thus from now I am
    using net for articles, thanks to web.

  • Martin Butcher

    September 4, 2012 08:39 pm

    I own a copy of Photoshop CS5 and am attempting to produce panoramic photographs from several images. The images are scanned in from old negatives and so do not necessarily have the necessary overlap for an automated merge. Normally I am content to use ‘Photomerge’, however, where the images do not overlap sufficiently the system is unable to provide an automated solution to producing the panoramic photograph. How can I manually move and arrange the individual images to overcome this problem. I recall that with Photoshop Elements I was able to do this, but I am unable to work out how to do it with CS5. Is it possible and if so how do I do it? Can I do it from within ‘Photomerge’ or do I have to open the images separately? As an aside if I attempt a ‘run’ in ‘Photomerge’ and the system cannot automatically merge the images is there a shortcut to enable me to repeat the ‘run’ but using a different layout (eg Reposition vice Auto) without having to close down ‘Photomerge’ and then open it up again.
    Any assistance would be gratefully received.
    Martin Butcher

  • Michael

    January 21, 2012 06:33 am

    Hi, I hope Im not intruding in the normal questions and answers with my query.
    I have tried to make a panorama with photomerge in my CS3 but am running into trouble and I havent a clue
    how to sort it out. I notice that 'ADD OPEN FILES' is greyed out and I suspect this is the problem. Photomerge does its best to create a pan it only goes so far and then stops. I suspect that 'add open files' being greyed out is the culprit.....question is.. how to I get 'add open files' to work. is there some way that it can be 'switched on'. Much thanks in anticipation. Michael.

  • Raghav

    October 12, 2011 03:27 pm

    Nice post Darren!!! Photoshop works for cylindrical panoramas only, like others suggested Hugin would be great for stitching as it can handle spherical too.
    Not just for landscapes, this technique can get you a wide angle look(with an ordinary kit lens) by getting upclose to an object, click lot of tiles & stitch them together. Higher resolution + the nice distortion.

  • Prakash Nair

    July 25, 2011 12:14 am

    Hello Darren, thanx for the info! I use a Canon Powershot G9 and was looking for help with Panorama and photostitch! The website and info provided by u will definitely come in handy! thanx!

  • Typeaux

    June 16, 2011 03:32 am

    @Nicole -- The link to your photo doesn't seem to work. Can you repost?

  • Typeaux

    June 16, 2011 03:32 am

    @Nicole -- The link to your photo doesn't seem to work. Can you repost?

  • Nicole

    May 23, 2011 02:34 am

    Wow, thank you for this tutorial. I used it to create my first ever panorama with 6 pics from Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. You can see the result here: http://elementyl.zenfolio.com/p1029160173#h212befa

    Much appreciated Matt!

  • karcoos

    April 27, 2011 12:54 pm

    Another choice for photo stitching is http://www.acropano.com

  • florin

    April 18, 2011 11:02 pm

    You could also use a simple application for the same purpose: http://bstdownload.com/reviews/acropano-photo-stitcher-2/

  • Typeaux

    April 13, 2011 09:08 am

    I've been making panos since 2001 when I got my first quality digital camera (a point and shoot, but a good one). It came with some rudimentary stitching software that I used when I traveled to create panos like this one from Fubo Hill in Guilin, China in 2002. This is about a 220-degree shot.

    http://tgregner.home.comcast.net/panoramas/fubohill270panoguilin_380pxH.jpg

    A couple of years later, I discovered Autostitch, a free pano-stitching application from the University of British Columbia in Canada. It was much better, understood multiple pans and produced good results, as in this one taken at the summit of Sonora Pass in California:

    http://tgregner.home.comcast.net/panoramas/SonoraPassPano_sm280H.jpg

    When I finally got Photoshop CS3, it outstripped Autostitch in many ways in terms of blending, placing each section on its own layer (with it's own mask) and providing a lot of options for how to stitch the images. This one, which is six shots handheld in low light at daybreak, was taken at the Grand Canyon just as first light was dawning in the east:

    http://tgregner.home.comcast.net/panoramas/GrandCanyonSunrisePanoramaFromElTovar-FirstLight_2400px.jpg

    All of the panos shown above were of course edited in Photoshop.

    -- Typeaux

  • bob

    February 19, 2011 12:18 am

    i would like to leave a comment

  • akheer

    October 18, 2010 02:44 am

    Thank You!

  • macbot2000

    September 2, 2010 03:16 am

    I have photoshop 7, is there a photomerge option in PS7 or do I need to get a newer version?

  • Halgeir

    June 17, 2010 08:01 am

    Many of you have to learn about tools outside of the Adobe world. Hugin is great free software alternative and you can do more advanced panoramic work in it. The new version is even greater which gives you options to include and exclude layers and auto crop. The combination of the Hugin 2010.1 development version, the panomatic control point tool and Lightroom 3 produce great panoramic pictures.

  • Aisha

    May 30, 2010 08:13 pm

    Wow and hello
    Sorry its that way around lol.
    Im new to DSLR photography. I kind of thought that I needed a new lens to be able to do this say a fisheye or wide angle lens (or maybe those lenses are really expensive?)

    Still now I know I can do this without buying a new lens then I can have fun and try this.Super cool.
    Thanks

  • Joel

    November 29, 2009 02:50 pm

    Here's a recent one I took of Munich's skyline: http://www.shutteria.com/2009/10/oktoberfest-and-munichs-skyline.html

    Look closely and you'd notice the Oktoberfest towards the right of the shot.

  • alex

    July 16, 2009 11:08 pm

    a great article. i made my panorama. thanks.

  • Eafotoson

    July 11, 2009 01:21 am

    Here's my second attempt on panoramic photo. This time it is the city of Athens

    eafotoson.blogspot.com/2009/07/city-of-athens-in-panoramic-shoot.html

  • Jonas

    June 16, 2009 12:55 am

    Hi, I just tried your tutorial (I actually just looked at it and immediately understood what to do! and it worked fine!
    The only thing that was a bit wrong was the geometry. I tried to take a panorama of my room. But won't be a problem outside.

    1 question, wat would it do with a 360° picture?

  • Brandon Cage

    June 12, 2009 02:07 am

    Hello all. This is very helpful and I will try my first panoramic. The question I have is, how the heck do you make a print of this once you are done? Some of the picture sizes I see above are rather large.

  • Bryan Chin

    May 20, 2009 08:06 pm

    This is cool
    I might try them with my D60

  • Eafotoson

    April 5, 2009 12:31 pm

    Hi! This is cool!
    This is skill~ though I admit I'm being lazy trying to use free software
    You may check out my first panoramic photo here, that I have created using Autostitch
    http://eafotoson.blogspot.com/2009/04/batam-view-resort-in-panoramic-shoot.html

  • Joshua

    December 18, 2008 08:48 pm

    Joey, They are AMAZING bike shots and a creative use of panoramic shots - I am enthused!

  • Crane

    December 12, 2008 02:58 am

    what if you use an old version ps, like ps 7?

  • Delwynne

    December 3, 2008 09:12 am

    I love taking panoramic photos and have been lucky enough to travel and take panos. I have been using PTGui (http://www.ptgui.com/) for the stitching.

    You can see some of my panos on my Photoblog: http://www.thebokandroo.com/pixelpost/index.php?x=browse&category=5
    or others on Flickr: http://flickr.com/search/?w=26303188@N00&q=panorama&m=text
    or one of my favourites at JPG Magazine (New York from the Empire State Building): http://www.jpgmag.com/photos/251984

  • Aseem Kishore

    August 27, 2008 02:41 am

    Great tutorial, but there are lots of free programs that can do all the work for you, no need to use CS3 or any other tool like that! Check out my article on how to create panoramas for free.

  • Aseem Kishore

    August 16, 2008 07:28 am

    This is great, but a little complicated for me. If you are looking for a simple way to create panoramas using free software, check out my post. Hope it helps!

  • veggiefrog

    November 26, 2007 03:51 pm

    For those on a Mac, I've found the DoubleTake (http://echoone.com/doubletake/) software to be really useful. Just drag the photos (from Aperture/iPhoto/Finder) to DoubleTake and viola you have a panoramic.

    thx for the great site!

  • Thomas R. Stegelmann

    October 16, 2007 12:28 pm

    Thanks a lot - I used these instructions for my first panaroma which was much easier than I expected.

    http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=1583583154&size=l

  • macstrat

    October 13, 2007 12:51 pm

    made with this tutorial:
    www.digitalreality.ws/photos/panoramas/index.html

    Thx a bunch!

  • Matthew Corenlisse

    October 13, 2007 12:05 am

    It is best to shoot panos in portrait that way you get more information up and down. For wider pictures you just need to take more shots.

  • Photothusiast

    October 12, 2007 01:14 pm

    Did this one with the stitch assist program that came with my Canon s3 (actual size is much bigger).
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2024/1547579879_a24154485b_b.jpg

  • therightpic

    October 12, 2007 08:48 am

    Those sound like good packages to try. Thank you for the responses. I will try out some of those packages.

    Matt Dawdy

  • Scott

    October 12, 2007 07:29 am

    Great tip thank you.

    Here's my effort using this utility from a recent trip to Bora Bora, French Polynesia -

    http://tinyurl.com/yst7c4

  • Graeme

    October 12, 2007 05:03 am

    A tip:

    If you're stitching together photos, they don't have to be *horizontally* displaced from one another. You can always stich together shots taken vertically!

  • David

    October 12, 2007 04:47 am

    I suggest Hugin. It uses autopano and enblend to create some incredible Panoramic images. You have much more control over the photos going in and the way it looks coming out, also you get an incredible end product.

    Plus, it's free.

  • Cristos L-C

    October 12, 2007 03:46 am

    1. I second (or third, or umpteenth) AutoStitch -- http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~mbrown/autostitch/autostitch.html

    2. Recently, I ran across http://viewat.org -- a cool site for publishing cylindrical/spherical panoramas (that is, panorama shots you can pan through online). There are some great panorama photos there, and you can upload your own.

  • Allen

    October 12, 2007 01:13 am

    I also agree with Brian, and he has a great website for those of you who haven't checked it out. I recently did a pano from the stands of a college football game and it did a very nice job even though I couldn't setup a tripod for the images.

  • Matthew Corenlisse

    October 11, 2007 11:53 pm

    I personaly use Auto Pano Pro. Not free but works amazingly well. For best results shoot manual and shoot each shot as quick as possible to reduce light change. I have found that pictures turn out the best with exactly the same settings(apeture,shuter speed) focal length does not matter (atleast with autopano pro.)

    Here are some of my panos: http://visiblephoto.com/index.php?link=cat_R57

  • Joey Rico

    October 11, 2007 05:00 pm

    i don't really take panoramic shots but use stiching in my bike photos!!!!!!!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/alienscream/374007959/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/alienscream/471916194/

  • Jollence

    October 11, 2007 11:28 am

    It took me a long time waiting infront of my computer for the Photoshop to stitch it all but the result is good, better than other stitching software. you can see some of it here:
    http://jollence.blogspot.com/2007/10/borneo-rainforest-lodge-panorama-photos.html

  • Hora

    October 11, 2007 11:00 am

    Nick, that's a great idea, I love them, I think I'll try that next time I get the chance.

  • Nick P

    October 11, 2007 08:12 am

    I too can recommend autostitch.

    And as well as regular panoramas, its sometimes fun to try to create a panography. Its pretty much the same but not everything fits together nicely.

    Couple of examples:
    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/207/448422819_ec33f98412_b.jpg

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/168/459944877_b394f425ff_b.jpg

  • vince

    October 11, 2007 07:41 am

    zut is right...using the same exposure for every shot can help

  • Patrick Alessi

    October 11, 2007 07:23 am

    I think that the most important thing while photographing panoramas is to use the manual or aperture priority setting. You want to keep a constant aperture across all of your shots so that the depth of field is consistent. I agree that you should also set the focus to manual.

  • Jan

    October 11, 2007 04:18 am

    I agree with Brian. Autostitch is amazing. Just feed the photos into the software and it does everything automatically with exceptional results. I usually cannot see at all where the different parts were blended together. It looks as if the panorama was taken just like that. And it's completely free.

  • Hora

    October 11, 2007 03:28 am

    I love making panoramas, here's a recent one I've made:

    http://hhalmaghi.com/photos/blacktuskpanoLARGE.jpg

    Too bad the main thing I wanted to capture in the pano was in the clouds...

  • Brian Auer

    October 11, 2007 03:02 am

    I don't do a whole lot of panoramas, but when I do I use a stitching software called "Autostitch". It's free and it does an exceptional job. The neat thing about it is that you don't have to worry about alignment, tilt, and order because the software takes care of it automatically (hence the "Auto" in Autostitch). The other cool thing about it is that it will handle 2D stitches so you can shoot a whole area and stitch the photos together to make a super-photo. Anyways, neat software to play with.

  • Zut Le Flash

    October 11, 2007 01:31 am

    Here's the link to the image:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/88603711@N00/434168261/in/set-72157594235690125

  • Zut Le Flash

    October 11, 2007 01:30 am

    I've read somewhere it was a good idea to set the camera to manual (exposure and focus) and have the setting for every shot taken. The results feel more like one big photo. I haven't tried yet.

    Also, from my own experience, don't use a short focal lenght (like a wide angle), you will have less distortion to cope with, like with this picture:

  • AC

    October 11, 2007 01:23 am

    Whoops- meant this one: http://sightings.loneroad.info/index.php?showimage=105

  • AC

    October 11, 2007 01:22 am

    Panorama photography is very interesting stuff. As you say, a tripod / stable surface is very important in this process - however, it is not always required.

    I like taking skies and water body snaps in panorama - here's one of mine (yay, plug!) that I like a lot : http://sightings.loneroad.info/index.php?showimage=104

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