Easy Panoramas with Photoshop Elements

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The “ordinary” is the amazing, the fascinating and the liberating with which we have become so familiar as to have ceased to see it for what it actually is.

Today’s recommended site for exceptional photography: Randy Halverson’s astounding time lapse photography in video with music: Temporal Distortion http://dakotalapse.com/2012/02/temporal-distortion-2/

The photo above is of a winter storm coming onshore near San Diego, California. I expected the clouds to obscure the sunset. However, changing weather has a potential to produce dramatic sunsets. I was rewarded with this one.

This scene, with its complex light and color changes, was perfect for a panorama composite. Panoramas are not difficult with today’s (or even five year old) software. This tutorial is for photographers just beginning with panorama composites. I am using Photoshop Elements. This information applies to any version of Photoshop Elements from 7 up to the current version ,which is 11. (For those who have a limited budget, but want versatile processing software, I recommend Photoshop Elements versions 8 or 9. (Ebay and nextag often have low prices.)

Technique to create a panorama

  • Use a tripod.
  • Shutter remote control or release cable.
  • Use the same settings and focus for each frame by shooting in manual mode and with manual focus.
  • It’s important that your manual settings be based on the brightest portion of your panorama and usually with a +1/3 to + 2/3 exposure compensation. (If you are not familiar with “Manual” shooting mode, here is a good work around. In Aperture Priority shooting mode with auto focus active, set aperture to f/16 and ISO to the lowest number that your camera offers. Shoot an image of what will be the brightest portion of your panorama. In playback mode, if you like the exposure and focus, note the  shutter speed that your camera chose. Now, without touching the focusing ring of the lens, change to “manual” shooting mode . Enter the shutter speed that your camera just used. Also enter f/16 and the ISO you used for the Aperture Priority shot. Change to manual focus, again without touching the focusing ring of the lens. The previous auto focus setting will still be active. This just locks it in.)
  • Position the camera level (easiest if you have a level that attaches to the flash attachment hot shoe).
  • Adjust tripod/tripod head so that side to side rotation during the panorama series will be level.
  • Shoot from side to side in sequence with 1/3 overlap between frames.
  • I recommend beginning with 3 frames and building to more when successful with this.
  • Practice this with scenes that are not important. During a sunset the light changes rapidly. It is easy to forget a crucial aspect of the technique.

Photoshop Elements panorama processing (many other software programs also give great results)

  • Open all the images that you wish to combine in “full edit mode”.
  • Click on “File” (at the top left of the window). Then (in the drop down menu) click “New” ;then “Photomerge Panrama”.
  • In the Photomerge dialog window leave “Layout” on “Auto” (the default).
  • At the bottom of the dialog box, choose “Blend Images Together” (if not already done by default) and check “Geometric Distortion Correction”.
  • Click “Add Open Files”, then “Ok”.(If you have some open files that are not panorama parts, remove them from this list)
  • Photomerge will then work its magic. (This may take a few minutes)
  • The panorama created will have uneven edges. Crop to make it rectangular.
  • If the panorama composite looks weird, go through the same actions as above, except when you get to the Photomerge dialog page, under “Layout”, click on“Perspective”.
  • The panorama image is now on separate layers (which will make a huge file size). To fix this, go to “Layers” at the very top of the editor window. In the drop down menu click “Flatten Image” (at the very bottom of the drop down list).
  • Click “File” (at the extreme top left of the window)  and “Save As”.

That’s all there is to it.I hope this post leads someone into the fascinating world of panorama composites which has provided me with lots of fun and satisfaction.

I welcome comments and suggestions.

My website for image enhancements is NaturePhotoRehab.com where I help people to transform their ordinary nature images into impressive art to give as a gift or to hang on their own wall for inspiration.

J. Michael Harroun©2013

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12 comments on “Easy Panoramas with Photoshop Elements

  1. arjun bagga says:

    Hello Michael
    I love what you doing here. May I ask you queries when they come up?
    Warm Regards
    Arjun

  2. Stunning. I can imagine this enlarged, filling up a room. Love it.

    Also thanks so much for the very careful description of the process. I doubt I could get anything this gorgeous, but your step-by-step instruction will make it an easy project to try.

  3. Breathtaking colors and composition. I am a fan.

  4. Heather says:

    I saw the huge panorama, and thought: I want to try this! Thanks for the excellent tutorial. I might just have to get a trial of Elements now 🙂

    • Thank you very much.
      I am thrilled that you want to try this technique. It has given me lots of fun.
      (If you run into problems, please feel free to ask me for advice.)

      • Heather says:

        I suspect I will run into problems 😉 I’m using a tripod my parents had for their old (at least 30 years) Canon. Since I’m just a hobbyist, I don’t feel like I can shell out for a good tripod yet. We’ll see. Thanks again!

      • Any tripod will work fine. For objects at least 20 feet from the camera, any tripod head will also work well.
        I have an unused copy of Photoshop Elements 8 that has never been used.
        If it would be a help to you, I will be glad to give it to you as a gift.
        If interested, you can use my email address to give me your mailing address: mike_harroun@yahoo.com

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