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If you like to shot landscape photos, I am sure you have been in a situation where you were faced with a really good looking wide vista, but you couldn't take it all into one photo because your camera lens wasn't wide enough. The next time that happens to you, you can shoot a number of photos in succession and then ask Photoshop to stitch them together for you using its Photo Merge technology. If you know that you are shooting for a panorama, there are a couple of things you can do to make the result better. If you have a tripod, use that. If you don't, you can handhold, but try to keep your camera even.
If you have an Auto Exposure feature in your camera, turn it off if you can so that the exposure stays the same as you shoot the entire scene, and try to overlap your shoots by 20 to 30% so that Photoshop has a lot to work with when it's stitching them together. I shot these four photos of the Flatirons Mountains in Colorado handholding my SLR, and now I am going to ask Photoshop to put them together into a wide panorama. You can access Photoshop's Photo Merge features either from Photoshop Proper or from here in Bridge.
I prefer to do it in Bridge, because then I can select the shots visually that are going to go into the panorama. Here in Bridge, I am looking inside of the Chapter 13 Exercise Files, where I am going to select flatirons1, 2, 3, and 4 by clicking on the first of those thumbnails, holding the Shift key, and clicking on the last to select all in between. Then I am going to go up to the Tools menu in Bridge and down to Photoshop and over to Photo Merge. That launches Photoshop with the Photo Merge dialog box open. You can see my four files listed here in the Source Files area.
If I wanted to add to these, I could click Browse and go out and select some more files. The Layout column on the left lists several formulas that Photoshop can use to put these files together. I usually give Auto a try first and if that doesn't work, I will try one of the other options. There are a couple of new options here. One is Spherical. This method is designed to work particularly well on panoramas that have a wide field of view in two directions, both horizontal and vertical. The other new layout option is Collage, which is designed to try to match images by their locations, their orientations, and their sizes, which is what these arrows are trying to convey.
At the bottom of the dialog box are several options. I am going to leave Blend Images Together checked, because I do want Photoshop to blend the edges of these images. Vignette Removal really isn't relevant here. That comes into play when there are some dark vignettes on your photos and you don't want those to interfere with the blending of the images, and the Geometric Distortion Correction is useful when you need to remove barrel or pincushion distortion. So that's not relevant here either. So in this case, I am just going to click OK, and set Photoshop to work merging these four images into one wide panoramic composite.
You can see the result here. Photoshop has gone in and placed all four images as separate layers in a single file and has added a layer mask to each layer in an attempt to blend them nicely together. It also aligned the content of all the images, which is what it accounts for the transparent pixels that appear here and the angle of this photo on the left. All of that can be fixed using the Crop tool. I will just come in and drag to set a crop boundary and then I will adjust the boundary by clicking on any of the edges and dragging in and I am trying to get as much of the photo in here as I can, while cropping away the transparent pixels on the edges.
If you have any trouble doing that, go up to the View menu and look at the Snap feature. If there is a checkmark there, select Snap to remove the checkmark and then you'll find it easier to precisely adjust the crop boundaries. Now I am going to click the Check mark in the Options bar to compete the crop and there is my finished panorama. It needs some more work, some adjustments, and some sharpening, but the basic photo is there, nicely blended among the four individual photos that I started with. The Photo Merge technology in Photoshop CS4 is better than ever. The next time you are out in the field and you are faced with a wide or a tall vista, try shooting some photos that you can use with Photoshop's new Photo Merge feature to make a panorama of your own.
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