Photographer and educator Jan Kabili shares weekly tips and techniques to help you work smarter with Photoshop, Lightroom, Instagram, and other post-processing tools.
- [Voiceover] Hi, this is Jan Kabili with another episode of Photo Tools Weekly. I'm going to show you a useful little trick in Lightroom for dealing with those pesky white edges that you almost always get when you merge individual photos into a panorama. Wholesale cropping away of those white edges is often not an option because that could delete content that you want to keep in the photo too. And jumping to Photoshop to fill in the edges around a panorama that you make in Lightroom won't work for those of you who don't have or don't use Photoshop. So, here's an alternative for filling in those edges right in Lightroom.
Here in Lightroom's Develop Module, I have three raw photos of a scene that I shot from a boat in the Alps. The view of this brilliant blue lake and the forested mountains and the moody sky was really breathtaking, but, it was too wide to capture in a single shot with the lens that I had on my camera at the time. So, I shot a few overlapping photos with the idea that I'd stitch them together later in Lightroom which is something that you can now do in the latest version of Lightroom without having to transfer photos to Photoshop for the merge. I won't bother to make develop adjustments to these individual photos before the merge.
One of the reasons is that when you merge a panorama in Lightroom, the resulting panorama is a raw file, in Adobe's DNG raw format. And that file will have all the editing latitude of any raw file so I know I'll be able to make all my Lightroom Develop Module adjustments after merging these photos into a single panorama. Also, some adjustments that you could make to these individual photos like spot removal or using the upright feature wouldn't carry through to the panorama anyway. So I'll leave these individual photos uncorrected and just select them so that I can merge them.
I'll go up to the Photo menu and I'll choose Photo Merge, Panorama. The Panorama Merge Preview window that opens displays this low resolution preview of the panorama that Lightroom's going to make for me. Over on the right, I'll leave Auto Select Projection checked so that Lightroom will choose what it thinks is the best layout for piecing these photos together. Now, I like this result, but I'm worried about those white edges, which are a result of Lightroom having to tilt each of the individual photos to get them to match up seamlessly.
The simplest way to eliminate those white edges is to let Lightroom automatically crop them all away. But the tradeoff is that doing that might chop off content that I would like to keep in order to get the best composition in my panorama. To preview how the panorama would look if I allowed Lightroom to automatically crop all the edges, I'm going to check this Auto Crop checkbox. As I suspected, I don't really love the result that I'm getting with Auto Crop on this panorama, although it works fine on some panoramas.
Now, I don't mind cropping away some thin slices at either edge, and even some of the bottom, but, I think that up here at the top, particularly on the left side, the photo just needs more headroom, needs more sky there to improve the composition. So, I'm going to uncheck Auto Crop and I'll click the Merge button, and Lightroom will go ahead and perform the merger, leaving the white edges in the resulting panorama. And here's the resulting panorama in Lightroom's Develop Module. You can see from the name of the file at the top of the film strip that this is a DNG file.
DNG is a raw format, as I said, so I know that this panorama has lots of raw data from the three merged photos, so that I have lots of latitude to make corrections without worrying about introducing artifacts, for example, introducing noise by opening up shadow areas. And here in Lightroom's Develop Module, I can apply adjustments to this panorama, using the same familiar controls that I use on all my photos in Lightroom. So, I'm going to close the film strip so there's more room to work. I'll go over to the Basic panel. I'm not going to do a full develop edit there, but just to show you, maybe I'll add a little Exposure and I'll bring down the Highlights, and I'll add some Clarity, and then, instead of dragging the Tonal Adjustment sliders in the Basic panel, I'm going to click the Tone Curve panel, and there, I'll use one of the preset Tone Curves down at the bottom of this panel.
I'll use Strong Contrast. And that's making the bright areas brighter, the dark areas darker and adding some mid-tone contrast in the middle. So, now we come to the heart of the matter, which is how to fill in these white edges here in Lightroom. We don't have the sophisticated retouching tools in Lightroom that we do in Photoshop, but we do have the Spot Removal tool that you can use to cover up circular and non-circular areas. So I'm going to get the Spot Removal tool here in the Tool strip. I'll come into the image and I want to try to cover up this white area at the top left, so I'll click and drag.
And you can see that Lightroom has come down here and used this area as a patch, and it's trying to put that patch over the white area at the top left, but it's not able to do so. This is usually as far as people get with this technique and then they give up, but we're not going to give up. Instead, we're going to understand what's happening here and then we're going to perform a workaround. So what's happening is that because this is a raw panorama, a raw file, there is no data in that white area to cover up. So the key is to make another copy of this panorama that's in a non-raw format, like PSD or a TIFF.
And then, we'll be able to use the Spot Removal tool to cover up these white areas. So I'm going to delete this spot by pressing the delete or backspace key, and then I'll go up to the File menu and I'm going to Export another copy of this panorama. I'll Export to the same folder as the original panorama. I want to Add the result to this catalog. I don't need to add a stack. I'll scroll down and I want to make sure to choose TIFF or PSD, I'll go with TIFF, here in the File Settings section.
There's nothing else to change here. I'll just click the Export button. Now let's open the film strip again. Here you can see the DNG version, and right next to it is another copy of the same panorama, but in another format. As you can see, this is a TIFF. I'll press the i key so you can see the name of the photo up here. Because this is a TIFF, now I can use the Spot Removal tool on it. So I still have the Spot Removal tool selected. I'll move into the image and I'm going to click and drag in this area.
I don't want to go too far. I like to do this in small chunks. And notice that I now have a source stroke on the right and a destination stroke on the left. I'm going to move the source stroke to another part of the blue sky, and as I do, I'm selecting that area and asking Lightroom to cover up the white at the top in the destination area. And it's done a pretty good job of doing that and then blending in the result. If you take a look over at the options for the Spot Removal tool, I'm using this tool with its Heal option, and with the Heal option, Lightroom tries to blend the patch it's making in terms of color and tone and texture with the rest of the photo.
So, now all that's left to do is continue to do this all the way across the photo, but it's not as easy as it sounds. For one thing, as I said it works better if you work in small patches, and if you have lots of spots here it can be hard to make strokes in adjacent areas, so I'm going to zoom in so you can see this better, and notice that if I move over the first destination stroke, I don't get a brush tip, I just get this hand icon. So the way that I handle this is I start at the other edge of each stroke and then I move toward the preceding stroke.
And then I'm able to overlap the patches a bit. Now, usually, I'll just drag the source pin, but I want to let you know that you can try pressing the forward slash key on your keyboard and each time you do, Lightroom will try to choose a different source area, but it's really not choosing the area that I want so I'm just going to drag it down here and then I'll continue across, making strokes, dragging the source area, and sometimes I'll even drag the destination stroke if I need to.
I've another option here, which is, if I'm not getting the result that I want, I can switch the Spot Removal tool to the Clone option, and that gives a more hard-edged result as you can see up here, and then, if I do that, sometimes dragging the Feather slider to the right will blend things in a bit. But I think in this case, I'm getting better results with the Heal option, so I'm just going to continue across the top, filling in all the white areas. I won't make you watch me do that. So now I'm done patching up the top edge of this TIFF copy of the panorama using the Spot Removal tool, and I've zoomed back out so we can see the entire top edge.
I think that this is pretty convincing, and it's added content at the top of the photo to improve the composition, particularly over there at the left side at the top of the mountain, where I just wanted more sky. I could continue in the same way all around this image, but as I said, I don't mind losing a bit at the bottom and the sides of this particular panorama. So I'll select the Crop tool in the Tool strip. I'll make sure that the lock is unlocked so that I can move each of the boundaries independently, and I'll just drag the right edge, the bottom edge, and the left edge in until they just touch the content, and Crop away the white edges, and then I'll press enter or return on the keyboard, and there's the result.
Now, I must admit that the results aren't always this good on every panorama. The Spot Removal tool blends in new content best when you have organic, soft patterns like these clouds, rather than content that requires exact matchups, like the edge of a manmade object. And Lightroom's Spot Removal tool can't do as much as Photoshop's content aware tools, because Lightroom's not a pixel editor. Lightroom is doing all this patching and blending by writing and rewriting many text instructions on the fly. It's really amazing, if you think about it. Even with those limitations, the Spot Removal tool has improved this panorama, and is sometimes all you'll need to create matching content to hide the white edges around a non-raw copy of a Lightroom panorama without having to jump to Photoshop.