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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
With our images prepped, we're now ready to start our stitching process. Stitching is very easily launched from within Bridge itself. First, I need to select the images that I want to stitch. So, I've clicked on the first one, and then I'm going to hold down the Shift key and click on the last one. That gets a contiguous selection of all of them. And then I'm up to the Tools menu, down to Photoshop and choosing Photomerge. Now as soon as I pick that, I'm back into Photoshop, and this box appears. This is Photoshop's Photomerge dialog box. I can also invoke this from down here in the Automate or Scripts menu.
To be honest, I can't remember which one it is. If I had brought this up from within Photoshop, I would be able to use the Browse button to go choose images that I wanted to choose them by hand. But it's very easy to launch a particular selection from Bridge right into here. Over here, I have different stitching algorithms that I can choose from, from Collage and Reposition, which do an old- school type of panorama, which is they just layer images on top of each other, to these three: Spherical, Cylindrical, and Perspective, and then finally Auto, which tries to make the best choice on its own.
These are the ones you're going to want to work with for a seamless panorama. The way these work as they take each individual image, and they wrap each image around a virtual sphere, or on and off axis 3D plane of some kind. And they use that to correct the perspective. Here's the perspective problem that we're facing. This image here has a vanishing point in its center. All lines recede to this point. This image also has a vanishing point but in a different place. In the last image, lines were vanishing onto this rock. Now they are vanishing over here.
How do we reconcile those? Well, through this cylindrical or planar mapping that will happen, we can cheat the perspective out of the picture and then use tone blending to the hide the seams. So these are different algorithms. Why would they give me this choice of these vaguely geometric things? Well, you'll see that when we do a couple. There are advantages to one over another. We're going to start with Perspective, just so you can see precisely what it is. Now, I want my images blended together. This is the default.
The times you would not want this is if you were doing a reposition or collage, and you'd like that David Hockney look of just a lot of different images laid on top of each other. If I had noticed any vignetting in the image, I could have taken it out in Camera RAW on my own. If these were non-Raw files, this would do some vignette removal for me. Same thing if there was geometric distortion like their Barrel or Pincushion distortion. These are in here because sometimes you'll shoot panoramas with a wide-angle lens, and so it's nice to have the ability to remove those at stitch time.
So, I'm going to hit OK, and a lot of processing is going to happen here. The first thing that happens is Photoshop is going to copy all four images into separate individual layers within one document. That's what's happening now. You can see that here's one of my Raw files open, and here's an Untitled_Panorama. So it's just opening each document, copying the contents into this Untitled_Panorama document, and then it's going to go through a process of aligning those images. It's going to try to figure out how they overlap to create a more seamless layout.
And you can see that here; they're all overlapping. And now, it's going to and just trying to blend them, so that the seams don't show. Right off the bat, you can see that this leftmost image has been mapped onto a plane that's been tilted off axis along the way. That's how they're matching the perspective here. And it's that tilting that's going to create some trouble for us, for two reasons. Here's our finished panorama. Look what we have got here. We got four different layers. Each one has its own layer mask, which controls which parts of the image are visible and which aren't. We aren't going to need the ability to edit any individual images.
If there were trouble with the exposure along a seam, this might be a way we could fix it by working on an individual image. We don't need that, and having multiple layers is going to slow the machine down. So I'm going to flatten this image. So this was Perspective mapping. Look what we've got here. We have got, on the plus side, we have got this really big, wide vista. It's definitely feeling expansive and big, and that's nice. That's why we stopped to shoot this image in the first place. There is a price to pay for Perspective mapping, and the most obvious thing is boy, I'm really going to just have to crop this image to death.
I've got all this stuff up here that's got to be cropped out of the way. I've got a whole lot of content down here that's got to be cropped out of the way. It's a very odd shaped image, and it's probably going to have to be cropped down to about here, which means I'm going to loose a lot of content. More importantly though, look what's happened to these rocks over here. They've been stretched. This whole part of the image has been stretched. This entire mountain range has been stretched. Look at these rocks. They're very oblong. Let's go back and look at the original, and you'll see that, naw these were pretty round. And look at this ridge. It's not real long as it passes over the southern little mountain here.
Here, that little mountain has been stretched like raffy or like, I guess, molten rock, and stretched to be much much longer. So, this stretching has, on the one hand given us this really wide expansive view. It has also really distorted the image and pretty dramatically changed the reality of at least this section of it. We would probably find the same thing if we went and examined this area. So let's keep this image, and let's do another stitching. I'm going to select these again and go up here and launch Photomerge.
This time, let's try Spherical mapping. We could do either, actually. I just know from experience that I think Spherical mapping is going to work pretty well on this image. I'll hit OK. And it's going to go off and do the same thing again. It's going to copy these four images into a single document, align them, so that the same things in each image are overlapping, and then it's going to blend those seams. Now, we're going to end up with, this time, with an image that's not going to require as much cropping, and is not going to have all that weird distortion in it. The down side to it is it's not going to have that huge, wide, expansive-feel of the other image.
So, we would be left with an aesthetic decision: What more evokes the sense that we were feeling when we were standing there shooting? Do we want it to be really really wide, or it is something like we're starting to see here, good enough or better even? So, it's just creating a seamless composition, which is just going to take a moment, and here we go. Right away, you can see some differences. First thing you might notice is there's this big, bad stitching seam thing. Don't worry, as I zoom in, that goes away. It's just when I zoom out at different zoom ratios, Photoshop is having to choose which pixels to display, and sometimes these seams become visible.
I'm going to a flatten the image like we did on last where in. That's going to take care of that problem once and for all. Those would not have shown up in print, by the way. So, look at the difference here. I've got an image that doesn't seem as wide. More importantly, it's not going to require huge cropping. And these rocks over here are back to looking round, and this thing is back to looking more the size that it was originally, as compared to this. So, while I like how wide it feels on the side of the road over here as compared to this, I still think I'm going to go with this image because I prefer it not being distorted and stretched.
It's not going to look so much like a packed together, stitched panorama. Which is right for you is really just going to be very depending on what you want and with the individual subject matter. But I'm going to save this image now. I'm doing a Save As, and I'm going to save this as Cylindrical Panorama. And in the next lesson, we're going to look at, what are some of the obvious problems in this image? It's got to be cropped and we got to figure out how to do that, and then we're going to needs some tonal adjustment.
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