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Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are convenient, travel-ready, and inexpensive. They're also more capable—and complex—than ever. In Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera, photographer Derrick Story shows how to use a compact camera to take photos that rival those of far more expensive cameras. Derrick shows how to get the most out the camera's lens as you shoot wide-angle, telephoto, and even macro shots. Derrick also discusses the camera's exposure system and clarifies the differences among ISO settings and scene modes. He also shows how to get the best pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, including making judicious use of the flash to supplement existing light.
Well, I am really excited about what I am going to show you right now. We're going to take the elements that we shot out in the field, these individual shots here, as part of our creating a super wide lens for your compact camera. We're going to put them together into aone shot. Now initially, if you first see the image processws, it'll look something like this. This is part of the panorama stitching process but we're going to play with it a little bit, and we're going to end up with something that looks like this. Wow! Isn't that crazy? Now that is a super wide lens, isn't it? Now one thing I didn't tell you when we were out taking pictures.
Here are the individual elements here by the way. One thing that I didn't tell you is that there is a way to make a super high resolution image from a compact camera too, because each of these shots are these pixel dimensions and over 2 megabytes. So you can imagine when we stitch them together into one image. Wow! That's a pretty high resolution image. That's like something that goes from 10 mega pixels to, wow, a lot more than that. So, not only is it making super wide. It's super high resolution, and the software that we're going to use is just fabulous.
Now I'm going to show you how to take these pieces here to make this, using the Photoshop Elements 8 actually, and the reason why I'm using Elements is because it works on Mac. It works on Windows. It works the same on both essentially, and it's affordable, less than $100, and it does all sorts of other great stuff. Now you don't need to go buy Elements in order to do this, especially if you have a panorama scene mode on your camera. If you have the scene mode, then chances are very good that you have stitching software too.
So just go to the software disk that came with your camera and look for that stitching software. So you don't have to buy anything and there are third-party applications that do this too. So you have a couple of different ways to go. I'm going to show you on Photoshop Elements, because I really love this merging technology. I think it's very smart. So let's get to it. Let's make a panorama. So first thing I'm going to do is I am going to go over to Photoshop Elements right now. Now the way you begin this process. You just go up to File > New, go to Photomerge Panorama.
You get this dialog box here, and so we have to feed it the elements. So here are our assets here. That's what I like to say sometimes. Let's do this right here. So, here we are. Here are the pieces that are going to be stitched together. I use Auto. Auto has worked great for me and let the software decide how to stitch it together, and then I just click OK. This is really easy but it's amazing. So the first thing that's going to happen is the software goes to work and it aligns our pictures.
Now that's why we need to have the overlap when we capture them. So there is enough information, so the software can piece these together. So that's what it's doing right now. It's reading those images. It's finding those hooks where it can hook up together, and then align it. Now after it does that, it's actually going to good blend and this is really wonderful technology. So you'll see that the sky will look pretty continuous when it's done here and that's that great blending technology. You will not be able to see the seams, because blending is so smart.
Now-- and it does take a few seconds right and on your computer it could take a little bit longer. It could do be a little bit shorter. It depends on how powerful your computer is because this is pretty heavy stuff here. This is what we end up with, and actually what we have now are a number of individual photographs that have been stitched together. You can see them right here. Look at that. There is one, there is another, there is another, and they've all been stitched together right here. These are actual layers. So the first thing I am going to do is I am going to go up to Layer and I am going to go to Flatten Image.
This just makes this a single layer image. So I can play with it a little bit easier and not have to worry about layers. If you want to work on those individual layers, you can do that in Photoshop. I like the way this looks right now and then I am just going to make a little adjustment right here. I think what I want to do actually is I am going to go to Enhance and I am going to go to Adjust Lighting. I'll just go to Levels. I just want to make a minor Levels adjustment. I just want to bring up and make these blacks a little bit blacker, saturate the midtones a little bit there. Good, all right.
I like the way that looks. Okay, now the next thing we have to solve is what are we going to do about this stuff up here. You could print it out this way and some people like that look and that's great. If you do, I am going to warn you, this is a big shot. Let's go down here and look. At 180 ppi, which is very reasonable for printing, here at 61 inches wide by 19 inches tall. [ So you better have some big paper if you're going to print this out at this resolution.
However, of course, you can always print it at smaller resolutions too, and actually we're going to take care of that in a second. So the first thing you could do to sort of clean this up a little bit is just go up here to Image and go to Crop right here and you get a little cropping tool and you just kind of do this and you do this. That's pretty nice. The edge here and you pull out over here. abulous! That looks great, really nice! So even though we lost some information as part of the stitching process, we still have a pretty exciting image here.
If I were to hit Return, it would throw away that other stuff and then I'd have my master image here and on we go. But I want to show you a different way also and then you can pick the way that you like best. So that's the cropping way and that's where you just basically take out the meat of the image here. So I just go up here and say Don't Crop. Now the other one I want to show you is called Free Transform and this is kind of neat. We go up to Image > Transform > Free Transform. Now before I do that, I am going to give you a little tip.
You're going to need a little elbowroom here, so you want to make your image a little bit smaller. So I'm going to do a Command+Minus on the Mac, Ctrl+Minus on Windows to make the image a little bit smaller. Then I am going to drag this window back out. I want this elbowroom here and you'll see why in just a second. So now let's go back up here. Transform > Free Transform. We get this little handles and this is really a fun tool, like all I have to do is just kind of pull and pull that up there and I'll pull this out here just little bit. Or I usually make two passes.
Like that, like that, and just sort of fill up the frame here, just like that. Look at that. That's kind of neat, isn't it? It looks pretty good. It doesn't really look distorted. Sometimes it might look a little distorted and you'd go with a straight crop. If you like the way it looks when you try this and you go with this. Either way, you have some pretty good alternatives and you just go ahead and apply it. The computer does a little work because you've actually moved some pixels around and now we have our image.
Now this is a big image. This is your master, and so when you save it, you may want to save it as such. Save it as your master. Now this isn't the something that you really want to send to people because it's ginormous. Or publish on the web. So you probably want to make a scaled down version, so let's just do that real quick. We're just going to go up to Image. Now remember, you've already saved it as your master image. So now we're working with something that's been saved. So we're going to resize. We're going to go to Image Size here.
We're going to make sure Resample Image is checked and let's make it something like 1200. You may want to use Bicubic Sharper for reduction or just leave it at Bicubic and then sharpen later on to your own taste, which is what I like to do. Click OK. It only comes up small here because we're still at 8.33%. Worry not. I just hit Command+Plus or Ctrl+Plus. Let me bring it back up. There we go. There is our image there.
Now this is much more manageable. Now we're at a 6x2 printing at 180 ppi and it's something that you can send [ around the folks and it still looks great. So this is really wonderful stuff. I want to show you one other thing. Let's go back to-- remember I was talking about this is a high resolution sort of image here. So let's undo this Image Size and let's bring it back down here. I want to show you just how high resolution it is.
All right, here we go. So I'm just going to do Command+Plus. So now we're at 12.5%, now we're at 16%, now we're at 25%. I'll hold down the Spacebar and navigate around and look. You can start just like checking out all the stuff that's going on here. Wow! There are people in this shot. Let's go a little bit higher. Let's go up to 50%, and you can start seeing. Look at all this detail here. This is really crazy and you will see no seams, believe me. This is amazing technology.
So I am going to go to back, back out here. So we have successfully converted our little compact camera into a super wide-angle lens camera and a super high resolution camera at the same time, just by taking a series of shots and then stitching them together using simple software. This is wonderful stuff and I highly encourage you to give it a try.
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