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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How To Go Wide

Pointers For Panoramas • The Dark Side Of Wildlife Photography • Presentation Preparation • Filter Essentials

This sunset panorama of Morro Bay, Calif., has a bright sky and little detail in the foreground. I exposed for the colored sky and opened up the city and bay using tools in Photoshop CS4. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, EF 28-135mm lens, eight images, ISO 200.

Pointers For Panoramas

Q Okay, I admit you have me hooked on composite panoramas, and I’ve been working on perfecting my capture and processing techniques. But two problems keep coming up. First, how do you set your exposure on a panoramic sequence when the light fluctuates from one capture to the next, or when there’s a lot of contrast, such as with a bright sky and dark foreground? Second, I’ve been assembling my panoramas in Photoshop, but I’m getting a result that stretches the outside and compresses the middle. What’s wrong?
D. Mitchell
Corvallis, Oregon

A Panorama or not, in any high-contrast situation you must expose for the brighter areas; lost detail in overexposed areas can’t be recovered. Check your histogram to see if the lighter areas are blown out (pixels lined up against the right wall have no detail). Manually set your exposure for the area of the entire scene that contains the brightest area with detail (such as a sunlit grassy area versus a shady area under a tree). Capture every segment of the panorama in RAW format using this same manual exposure. This will underexpose the darker areas, but these can be improved later, using either Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.

If using Lightroom, select all of the images from the panorama sequence, then bring a representative image (in terms of content and exposure variation) into the Develop module to optimize it, using all the tools available to sharpen, open shadows, hold back highlights and improve color, for example. Then Sync the rest of the images in the panorama sequence to the optimized image, so that all improvements are applied equally to each image. Save the images into a folder.

To process the images in Photoshop, first find the files in Adobe Bridge, then open them in the Raw converter. Click on one representative image and it moves to the main window. Then Select All; as you optimize the representative image using the tools in Camera Raw, identical improvements will be made to every image in the sequence. Save the set of images into a folder.

Finally, to composite the panorama, in Adobe Bridge select all of the images in the folder (whether they were optimized in Lightroom or Bridge); select Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge. In the Photomerge dialogue box, choose Reposition (the default Auto skews the assembly with odd compressions and curvatures), then click OK. The program will assemble the panorama, which you can then crop, flatten and finish in Photoshop.

There’s another way to deal with uneven lighting that I’ve been using regularly on panoramas with areas of high contrast. I shoot each image in the composite using HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing of multiple exposures.


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