Adobe Photoshop’s Photomerge Function

This Hoover Dam fisheye image was one rendering of the scene. I also had success shooting this as a two-panel panorama.
This Hoover Dam fisheye image was one rendering of the scene. I also had success shooting this as a two-panel panorama.

While there are several software suites available to create panoramic images from multiple frames, the one I use is Adobe Photoshop’s photomerge function. The reason is simple: I have Photoshop. I don’t make that many panorama shots, so I don’t feel the need to spend more money or clutter my workflow with another piece of software.

Panorama photography, like high dynamic range (HDR) imaging, is useful only very occasionally, and has the potential to be the overused tool in the toolbox. Applied sparingly, however, it can add to a portfolio of images in some situations.

One recent situation in which I utilized this tool was when photographing Hoover Dam. I have some very wide-angle lenses, including a 10-17mm fisheye, but on the day we visited, the lenses alone weren’t quite cutting it.

This is the left-side image of the Hoover Dam panorama.
This is the left-side image of the Hoover Dam panorama.

To make the images from which you will later construct your panorama only requires that you keep your horizon in roughly the same place in all the frames, and that you include a small amount of overlap between them. I usually use just two or three frames for my panoramas, but you could use as many as you want to achieve up to and including a 360˚ image.

This is the right-side image of the Hoover Dam panorama.
This is the right-side image of the Hoover Dam panorama.

To use the photomerge function, you simply select the images you want to combine in Adobe Bridge, select Tools>Photoshop>Photomerge… from the dialog, and let it go to work. There are some options, but the automatic selection works pretty well. If your images aren’t in order from left to right, you need to rename them in alphabetical order so Photoshop tries to put them in the right place. Also, if the images aren’t closely-aligned enough, Photoshop will give you an error message. If this happens, try using another blending method in the photomerge dialog.

In the examples shown here, you might note my hand at the top of the frames, particularly in the right-side panel. The sun was right above the river to the south, and giving me a massive flare, even with the excellent lens hood provided with my Tokina 12-24mm. Removing my hand from the top of the frame was easy, using a combination of the rubber stamp tool and the spot healing brush.

I made some 10mm fisheye frames from this same spot, and while they include much of the same scenery, the panorama has a very different feel to it.

This two-panel panorama of Hoover Dam looks downriver from the center of the dam. (Click, then click again, to see the image larger.)
This two-panel panorama of Hoover Dam looks downriver from the center of the dam. (Click, then click again, to see the image larger.)
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2 Comments

  1. I too have Photoshop, but v7.0, which has no Photomerge function. 🙁

    I hope you don’t mind* this plug, but for Windows users without a recent version of Photoshop, there is free software available for merging (stitching) panoramic images; I’ve used it with great success; any faults in the results are mine, not the software’s.

    Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) can be found here:
    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ice/

    I’ve often run into situations when my lens wasn’t wide enough, and there wasn’t enough room to back up for better composition with a long lens.

    A couple of examples of multi-image stitches using ICE:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintseminole/4637375527/ (2 images)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintseminole/5084367557/ (5 images)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintseminole/5385446480/ (15 images)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintseminole/4436556684/ (5 images)

    ICE is pretty good with matching color at the edges, correcting for image curvature, etc., while the major downside is it’s almost completely automatic. It’ll occasionally misjudge where to stitch an image.

    (One major upside is that the images don’t necessarily have to be in any particular order.)

    *Note: I figured you wouldn’t mind, since the software is free, and I may not be your only reader who uses Windows. 🙂

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