How To Make A Wee Planet

How To Make A Wee Planet

A panoramic photo is capable of showing a 360° angle-of-view all around. Such an image is difficult to print and see as a whole due to its extreme aspect-ratio. One way to show everything at once is to transform the panorama into a wee planet. This creates an unusually interesting image that looks like a small planet shot from above using a fisheye lens.


The technical term for wee planet is stereographic projection, although if you Google that you will see a lot more math than simply searching for wee planet. This technique requires a panorama with an angle-of-view of exactly 360° and distorts is so that it gets wrapped in a circle which fits nicely into a square image.

The first step in creating a wee planet is therefore to make a 360° panorama photo. Because the horizon gets looped into a circle, anything other than 360° will not make a seamless planet. If you stitched images using panorama software that handles 360° panoramas, edges should exactly match as long as the horizon is level. Although it is better to assemble a panorama photo from level shots, modern panorama software can often level things for you.


If you used your camera’s built-in Sweep Panorama (Sony) or Motion Panorama (Fuji), you may have more than 360°. In that case, it is important to crop the opposites sides of the panorama so that they match exactly. Do so after the leveling because it affects edges.

With your panorama ready, it only takes a few moments to make the wee planet in Photoshop. The first step is to open the panorama and to transform it into a square. This is done using the Image -> Image Size dialog. Start by unchecking the Constrain Proportion box. Then make the width, in pixels, the same as the height or one more. So, if your image was 20636×6515, you can size the image to 6515×6515 or 6516×6515.


If you added the extra pixel, the outside of the planet can be filled with a color of your choosing. Otherwise, the pixels on the edge of the planet will streak out. To add that color, use the Image -> Canvas Size dialog:

  1. Change the units to pixels
  2. Add one to the number of pixels in height
  3. Click on any box in the lowest row of the Anchor grid
  4. Select the Canvas extension color
  5. Click OK

Then you need to rotate the image by upside-down. This is done using the Image -> Image Rotation -> 180° menu item. Skipping this step will result in a tunnel rather than a planet. The next step actually creates the planet: Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinates. Just make sure the Rectangular To Polar option is checked and click OK.

There you have it! You now have your own miniature planet. While this article ends here, the planet can be enhanced further. While you are in Photoshop you can be more creative and replace the sky with another sky photo for example. What is neat is that the wee planet image is square and much easier to print than a traditional panorama.


Itai Danan is a travel photographer and leading expert on digital photography who has been demystifying digital cameras since 2006. He regularly leads photo tours to Ecuador and other exotic destinations. Plus, he teaches group and private photography classes in Montreal, Canada where he currently lives.

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Some Older Comments

  • hugh April 3, 2013 03:19 pm

    This is the only tutorial that I've run across that deals with the streaming of the pixels by changing the canvas size.
    Thank you.

  • Jeet October 23, 2011 06:32 pm

    I did my first wee planet and its on the webpage. But I can't get it here, the link isn't working.
    I did it using The GIMP, the Panorama was stictched by 'autostitch' (can be googled).

    @sillyxone: thanks for the links

  • sillyxone October 22, 2011 02:30 am


    As I mentioned, Hugin has Enblend and Enfuse integrated, so it can address the seams very well. I've only seen seams in Hugin when my photos don't align correctly due to my mistake while taking the shots. For 360 degree panorama, Hugin should treat the first-last pair the same as the other pairs.

    Just in case the seam you had was a result of misalignment: you need to rotate your camera around its nodal point. On my D40, I found the nodal point near the middle of the 18-55 lens, so I just put my thumb there and rotate the camera on it.

  • Jeet October 19, 2011 11:59 pm

    sorry, that should read "exactly the same" in stead of 'exact' in the first line of my post above

  • Jeet October 19, 2011 11:55 pm

    @David: the best way to avoid a seam is to make sure the exposures are exact in the first and the last shot.
    otherwise, you could use software to make them match (some have the function of making it 'tileable' where the opposite edges are almost identical.

    Otherwise, you may try making a Mirror, as mentioned in point 3 in my post above.


  • David Meyer October 19, 2011 11:28 pm

    I've been working on making one of these little planets for a while. We live in the Andes mountains and it makes for some really great little planets. I just have one big question not covered in the tutorial: Could you give us some further suggestions on how to get rid of the seam that is created? No matter how perfect the image, there is always a seam for me. I think that needed to be touched on in this article.

  • Jeet October 16, 2011 08:23 pm

    a. I think even the GIMP allows conversion to Polar co-ordinates, but the learning curve for Hugin might be less steep.

    b. I'm not convinced about having exactly 360° Panorama. While it is ideal, any image should be OK as long as the opposite edges are not different in terms of horizon, colours, brightness etc.

    c. In case a Panorama is not available, you can take your favourite landscape, mirror it horizontally and use the same. Crop out some sky if need be.

  • Andy October 16, 2011 07:48 am

    It definitely works best if you can get hold of a fish eye lens, and stitch it as if you were making a VR environment, then if you take that output and then do the polar coordinartes thing. I did a couple of these a few years back when I had access to a fish eye lens and it sorts out the centre and sky nicely.

  • Alekos October 15, 2011 11:12 pm

    I have some examples of this in my website...

  • Inguan October 15, 2011 06:16 am

    nice one :)

  • David October 15, 2011 04:55 am

    Actually, I think this is a better example of what Hugin can do for little planets:

  • David October 15, 2011 04:12 am

    I'm with Sillyxone. Use Hugin. Not only is it free, but the image that comes out actually looks like a seamless planet. No distortion, no visible center point, and it looks awesome.

    I also took a little planet shot at Tikal in Guatemala (like above), but I used Hugin's stereographic projection:

  • Gnslngr45 October 15, 2011 01:43 am


    Thanks for the translation for us low budget people. I used Hugin often and it is astounding for an open-source (GNU? Freeware? etc..) panorama program. It's even better than the panorama than came with my paid photo manipulation (aka Photoshop knockoff) program. Did not know it could create this effect. I will try it soon.


  • sillyxone October 15, 2011 01:16 am

    for those who live in your mom's basement and eating instand noodles on a daily basic (or Photoshop is non-budgetable), the same effect can be made relatively easy with free software Hugin too (the tutorial might be outdated):

    Hugin is a panorama stictcher, with the powerful Enblend and Enfuse engines. The little planet is just one of the output projections/views. So, you can benefit from other features in Hugin too.

    At our staff meetings, we usually sit in a circle, and the island planet photo of the staffs around it looks really fun. It's awkward to view on screen though, printing out and cutting into a square or circle is preferred.

    P.S. didn't intend to hijack the post, just a complement for users in different sectors :-D

  • cathode October 15, 2011 12:50 am

    Watermark all the things!

    Watermark all the things BIGGER!