P a n o r a m a s!

Here in the Bay Area
, where I do most of my work, there are killer views in every direction. Generally speaking, we’re talking about views of the Oakland Bay San Francisco Bay, but of course the Oakland and Berkeley hills are pretty scenic, too. And a few weeks ago, I made a series of photos at a house that was situated at the very crest of the hills and had views of the Bay to the west, as well as the Orinda/Moraga hills to the East!

Anyway, in addition to a view shot (or three) in the standard 3:2 aspect ratio, I usually make a panoramic view shot as well, and I thought I’d run through my “quick and dirty” method of doing it. Essentially, we’re going to use Photoshop’s “Photomerge” function to do all the heavy lifting for us, but there are a few steps to take to make sure we’re feeding it quality material.

First, of course, you have to capture the pieces in the field. Here’s the setup I had the other morning, on the roof of a nice little apartment on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill (we’re about a hundred feet below Coit Tower, for those of you who know the area).

Note that the camera is rotated for a portrait orientation, even though my final image will be (very) landscape orientation. Because of the geometric projection that has to take place to put this much arc together into a single continuous image, I need some extra room at the top and bottom for the software to warp into shape. You’ll see what I mean in a minute. For this shot, I”m using a 50mm lens, and I made a total of nine frames, panning the camera roughly one half of the field of view for each frame. Here they are:

Once that’s done, I’ll take these images into Camera Raw and tweak them. In this case, I used some Fill Light, Brightness, and Saturation to bring this flat, cloudy light to life a little bit. From here, I’ll open them in Photoshop CS5. Unless the end use is going to be a very large print, you can do yourself a favor and open them in a smaller pixel size to save some processing time. Remember that there are nine tiles being stitched together; even after the overlap is cut out, that’s the sum of a lot of pixels in the final image! Your file can get un-necessarily huge. Since I’m capturing in RAW, I can always go back and re-build a pano of truly impressive pixel dimensions if need be.

Once all the images are open in Photoshop, I’ll select Photomerge. You find it under the File menu:  File>Automate>Photomerge. In the next dialog box, leave it on “Auto” (What?! Scott using an “auto” setting? *gasp*) and then click the “Add Open Files button. Your tiles will populate the “files” box in the middle of the dialog. Click “OK”, and maybe go make a sandwich, depending on how fast your computer is, and how big your files are. When you come back, you’ll have something like this:

See how the edges are all warped? That’s why I shot the tiles vertical, with lots of room for cropping. But I don’t want to crop this much, so I’ll need to build back some of the sky in the upper right, and some of the architecture in the lower left. This is where CS5 and the Content Aware Fill function really shines. Follow along with me:

First, I’m going to crop just a little bit, like this.

Now, I’ll use the Magic Wand tool to select the white areas that need to be filled in. That’s one click in the upper right, one click in the lower left. Hit the “Delete” key and you get the new dialog box. Choose “Content-Aware”, make sure the Opacity is at 100%, and the Blending is “Normal” and click OK. Again, if your file is big, and/or your computer slow, you might want to go get a beer to go with your sandwich. But when you come back…..voilà!

Content-Aware is pretty cool. In the past, I would have had to use the Clone Tool, and/or the Healing Brush to re-build that sky; not as easy as it looks. And the more complex stuff along the bottom of the photo….good grief! But check out this detail from down there:

Is it perfect? Probably not. Good enough? Heck Yeah. I could search and find little issues, but for the purposes of this photo, it’s absolutely no problem, and this method kept both me and my client on-budget.

Here’s the final result, with some Curves adjustments, and a little color correction:

Click to see bigger.

3 responses to “P a n o r a m a s!

  1. Very cool. I have done some panoramapanoramas in the past and would have killed for content aware fill. I just finished up a residential shoot and content aware fill saved me tons of time filling in blanks after perspective correcting shots with the 17-40.

  2. I like these that you’ve posted. I’ve shot a few myself recently, but have made the mistake (arguably) of including the home itself, which then gets a funky sway to it during stitching. Still, my clients have been happy, and that’s what counts.

  3. Thanks Scott,

    I did a couple this weekend and they turned out great. I’ve learned a lot from the blog keep up the incredible work.