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Creating Panoramic Images - Stitching Photographs Together in Adobe Lightroom

There are many, many different photograph aspect ratios out there, so it can all become a little confusing at times. By aspect ratio I’m referring to the ratio of the width to the height of the image (or sensor or film) in your camera. The aspect ratio of the old 35mm film and modern full frame “35mm” DSLR cameras is 3 X 2 as are the so called “crop sensor” cameras. The Micro Four Thirds cameras (like those from Panasonic and Olympus) are just that - 4 X 3, your TV set probably has an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 and the old panoramic Fuji and Linhoff panorama cameras were 6 X 17. The Hasselblads, Rolleis and a few other cameras were square - 1 X 1. Of all these, it's the wide, panoramic formats that I enjoy most and as a result I create a lot of panoramic images, some extremely wide and narrow - others closer to the 16 X 9 format.

In the early days of digital photography, stitching together photographs to create a panorama was a nightmare. Actually shooting the images meant attaching the camera to a panoramic head on your tripod and then rotating the camera around the lens’s nodal point (don’t ask… 🙄🙄🙄) as you shot the images. Once shot and carefully processed (each image had to be processed with exactly the same settings) the resultant (non RAW) images were imported into specialist software for merging. This involved matching up common points in the images and… Well, nuff said!

Image Number 10103448-Pano. You don’t need to restrict yourself to shooting scenery - wildlife shots also work but the subject needs to be static and you need to work quickly in case it does move.

Nowadays? It’s a different matter. Of course, if you are shooting architectural photographs (or other very technical genres) then you still need to take a huge amount of care how you shoot the images but for scenery and wildlife pics the process is much simpler.

Before we get going, a few notes:

- It’s easier to stitch together images shot on a longer lens (say, above 50mm) than a shorter, wide angle lens.

- The wider the lens the more overlap you should allow between each image - at least 50%

- All the camera settings should be locked down on manual settings - no auto functions here. Set manual shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus and colour balance (daylight if you are outside).

Image Number 10121692-Pano. I stitched 4 images together of these wildebeest in the pouring rain in Serengeti National Park. Fortunately they were all standing still - if it was a moving herd there would be some ghosting in the individual animals.

Image Number 10121692-Pano. I stitched 4 images together of these wildebeest in the pouring rain in Serengeti National Park. Fortunately they were all standing still - if it was a moving herd there would be some ghosting in the individual animals.

Once the exposure has been set in the middle of the area to be photographed, shoot a series of pictures, remembering to keep the camera level, stopping at each position, allowing that 50% overlap. In most instances there is no need for a tripod or panoramic head. Just make sure that your shutter speeds are sufficiently high to prevent camera shake, that you keep the camera level and that you stop each time you hit the shutter release.

That done, let's head over to Adobe Lightroom.

Import the images into a folder in Lightroom. The only adjustment I’d make at this stage is to Enable Profile Corrections under the Lens Corrections tab in the Development Module. Select the set of photographs, right click them and select Photo Merge > Panorama. (insert pic Select Panorama here). Lightroom does some thinking and then pops up with a preview of the panorama and a few options for you…

The first option is to select the projection method - Spherical, Cylindrical or Perspective. The best advice I can give here is to try each one and pick the one that works best for the pics that you are stitching together. Sometimes there is quite a profound difference between each one and at other times, not so much.


The panorama merge settings dialog box.

The panorama merge settings dialog box.

At this stage, make sure that none of the tick-boxes are selected. Unless you are very lucky, there will be some white area surrounding the panorama preview - you need to get rid of this. Quite often, dragging the Boundary Warp slider all the way to 100 will fix this but on some images you will get a bit of distortion at the edges, which will mean you’ll have to find another solution.

You can try Fill Edges and Lightroom uses Content Aware Fill to try to fill these spaces. It works very well on skies and other even toned subjects but fails if there is detail near the edges of the white areas as in the case of this pic of the wildebeest.

The third solution is to try Auto Crop. It works with this image and it may very well do so with your pics if none of the other options work.

The other two options are optional: Auto Settings simply does an auto levels setting on the image and the Create Stack simply stacks the individual pics behind the panorama to make for a less cluttered catalogue of images.

After you click Merge, Lightroom does its thing. This can take quite a while depending on the computer you have, the size (pixel count) and quantity of images. Once the pano appears you can edit it as you would any other raw (or jpeg if that’s what you used for the source images).

If it helps I have created a YouTube video tutorial of this process and the editing (enhancing) process. I’ll be uploading more videos about photography and editing pics in Lightroom so feel free to subscribe and click the reminder icon.

The beauty of editing photographs in Lightroom is that you can create the panoramas horizontally, vertically or in grid format, which is ideal when you need to shoot a wide angle view and you don’t have a suitable lens with you.

Where the wheels start to come off is if you are using a wide angle lens and photographing a room with floor tiles, or exteriors of decking, to highlight a few examples. In these cases you will probably need to head for photoshop where there are a bunch of controls that can solve these issues but that involves masking and various other techniques - a little beyond the scope of this feature.

You may like to have a look at our 25 Quick and Dirty Tips for shooting better wildlife photographs now.

When using a wide angle lens be sure to shoot more individual images with a large amount of overlap - about 60%.

When using a wide angle lens be sure to shoot more individual images with a large amount of overlap - about 60%.

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