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Do you find your panoramas a bit flat? Would you like to create a whole little planet out of a single street or square? Do you want to make fun, eye-catching images in just a few minutes without any new equipment or apps? Then this article is for you!
Maybe you’ve heard about the “tiny planet” or “little planet” effect but don’t know exactly what that is. Maybe you have seen them but don’t know how to do them. Well, let’s start by explaining that a tiny planet is a spherical panorama and is technically called a stereographic projection.
The result of this effect is that your traditional landscape will now be circular and thus look like a planet floating in space, water, or sky depending on the background of the panorama you’re using.
Little planets are very trendy since it became possible to capture 360 x 180 degree panoramic shots. However, in this tutorial I’m going to show you how to do them from any straightforward bi-dimensional rectangular photo. I’m using Photoshop for this, but you can do it in most post-processing programs, even the free ones like GIMP.
A landscape or a panorama are the best choices, however you can get interesting results applying this effect to other kind of scenes. For example, I used it in this photo from the interior of a library, see how the spiral lines add depth to the space?
Also, if you apply it to a portrait the result is like looking through a peephole.
Okay, back to the instructions. First you need to open your image in Photoshop and alter the proportions of your photo so that it becomes a square. To do this go to Menu > Image > Image Size. Once the Image Size pop-up window opens, make sure you deactivate the “constrain proportions” option or else the entire image will resize proportionally. Once you do that, make sure the width and the height values are the same.
Now you will see your image distorted, like stretched out. Don’t worry about it, that’s what we were looking for here.
Now that you have your square you need to rotate it. To do it you go to Menu > Image > Image Rotation > 180 degrees.
Now you will see the image upside down.
*Note: if you want your planet to be inside out you skip this step! At the end, I’ll show you the results with and without this rotation.
The final stage is to apply the effect. Go to Menu > Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. In the pop-up window you will see a preview of your little planet; make sure that the Rectangular to Polar option is marked and click OK.
There you go, your own little planet! You can rotate the image (like you did in step 2) until you find the orientation that works best for your image. You can also use the clone tool if you need to blend the merging of the borders or iron out any final details. And of course, you can fix contrast and exposure, as you would do with any photo.
And here is the one inside out if you skipped the second step and didn’t rotate the image:
So you see, it was only a matter of three steps. However, to get better results, especially if it’s your first few planets let me give you some tips and tricks:
Use a photo with a wider ratio, like 2:1 and more. If you don’t have that, a landscape (horizontal) photo will still do better than portrait (vertical) one.
Compose your photo with the rule of thirds leaving the top and bottom sections with minimal information and the details in the middle area. In this example, I have the sky on the top, trees in the middle, and ground on the bottom.
Make sure the horizon line is completely straight. If it wasn’t like that in the original shot, it’s very easy to fix. First, pick the ruler tool from the toolbox (if you don’t see it just press and hold the eyedropper and you’ll find it). Then click and drag a straight line from one side to the other. Finally, click on the Straighten Layer button on top.
The edges will merge better in the planet if the left and right edges of your panorama are similar. When possible, like it would be in the case of a forest, for example, you can copy the left side, flip it and paste it on the right side. That way they will match perfectly.
Now you can create a whole universe of little planets from nature to urban landscapes, the possibilities are endless.
I invite you to share your planets here in the comments section below.