Photoshop is such a complicated beast. I have been using successive versions of this software for over a decade, and am still learning how to use it, discovering new features and tricks fairly regularly. Today’s discovery was that Photoshop is capable of stitching a panoramic image…
Seriously. Of course it is. Photoshop is probably capable of flipping the Earth’s magnetic field, if you know the right menu options.
All this time, I’ve been using Hugin when Photoshop could have done the trick. Now don’t get me wrong, Hugin is totally amazing freeware, and if you don’t have Photoshop, it’s excellent for pano stitching. But given that I do the vast majority of my image processing in Photoshop, it’s nice to have the feature included there, which eliminates the need to have multiple editing programs open for handling one image. Doing so gets complicated quickly and uses a lot of processing power, so there are many would-be panos I’ve taken and just never gotten around to stitching together because of the hassle involved.
To my knowledge, Hugin is unable to handle RAW images, meaning that prior to creating a pano in Hugin, you must do all of your RAW image processing in Photoshop, save each image to .JPG format, and then import them into Hugin. This is why I’m lazy about panos.
Photoshop, on the other hand, is capable of handling RAW images, meaning that you don’t have to save each image to .JPG prior to creating your pano. In terms of handling your RAW editing of the individual photos comprising the pano, you have two different options, and I will cover both; which one you choose will likely depend on how much TLC your photos need in Camera RAW. However, both options are still a lot easier than using Hugin.
Here’s how this works
First of all, this requires quite a lot of physical memory on your computer, so make sure you don’t have a bunch of junk open, or it’s going to take forever.
This tutorial will be done in CS5, but I think the process is the same in other versions of CS, including CS6.
Open Photoshop, and navigate from the file menu as shown.
The below window will then pop up, allowing you to select the series of images you’d like to use for your pano and what type of projection you’d like. Since I just discovered this, I haven’t really messed around with the different projections, so I don’t really know what they look like. A strength of Hugin is that it allows you to preview different projections before stitching a pano, whereas Photoshop appears not to offer that option. I started off just selecting cylindrical projection because it usually produces workable results in Hugin, therefore I felt the results in Photoshop would also likely be useable.
(Note: in this tutorial, I’m using standard .DNG images instead of Canon’s .CR2 format because of issues with incompatibility between my S110′s .CR2 files and CS5 Camera RAW, which is covered in my review of the S110, but it’s the same process for any type of RAW file)
Now, the resultant image is a mildly wonky looking, as panos so frequently are without some gentle touching up.
My solution was to just modify it a bit with Puppet Warp instead of going back and creating a whole new pano using a different projection setting. Puppet Warp definitely seems like the path of least resistance to me.
Once you’re happy with your pano, you can just crop and go about editing right in Photoshop as you normally would.
As I mentioned, there are two ways you can go about editing your individual RAW files:
1. Edit each RAW file in Camera RAW (open the RAW file, make adjustments, then click “Done” instead of opening the file in Photoshop), then import them all to Photoshop as above. My sense is that this will produce a better final image, but the degree to which it will make a difference depends on the quality of your original images. If your original images are good, then this will likely be overkill, and you can just use the method in option 2 instead.
2. Import all the RAW files into Photoshop as above without any pre-editing in Camera RAW. Put together your pano and save it as a TIFF. You can then open the TIFF in Camera RAW for touching up, if you feel it’s warranted, which allows you to do all of your Camera RAW work in one go, instead of going through each individual photo. You won’t have full Camera RAW capabilities going this route because it’s technically not a RAW image you’re opening, but you can still make some minor adjustments. I tried to see if I could save the pano as a Photoshop .RAW file because intuitively it seems that file extension should be compatible with Camera RAW, but for reasons that are unclear to me, this doesn’t work.
Actually, there’s really probably a third option as well: do nothing in Camera RAW at all because your original photos are awesome.
For the above tutorial, I went with option 1 simply because I took crappy pictures at Niaux, and I still wasn’t able to fully correct them in Camera RAW (sky is way blown out). I guess you reap what you sow, and I have a mediocre pano of Niaux to show for it.
The verdict: WAY faster and easier than using a separate program for stitching panos. I cranked these out in, like, no time, folks.