Creating a panorama image from multiple images.

There are times when capturing the scene in front of you requires more than one frame. In scenes such as these we photograph a series of images and then merge/stitch them together in editing software.

During our last #LILSplashRetreat we set the alarms for 3.50am on a Sunday morning and asked ‘the Universe’ to please deliver a sunrise worthy of getting out of bed that early! We arrived on the eastern side of the island well before 5am.

The weather was a tad wild – windy, cold and cloudy all around except for a few patches of sky here and there. We decided to stay and kept our fingers crossed for an amazing sunrise despite the gloomy weather. Our perseverance was rewarded as shortly after 6am the sun made a grand appearance.

The lens on my camera, at the time, was my 100mm macro lens. We’d been photographing textures and abstracts while waiting for the sun to appear so when I turned and saw the stunning sun rays shining down on the ocean I knew straight away I’d do a series of images and stitch them together later (a better option than changing lenses in the sandy, windy conditions). We didn’t have long as those glorious sun rays were disappearing fast.

Usually when shooting for a panorama (pano) it is best to set your camera up on a tripod, shoot in portrait (vertical) orientation, dial in manual settings, set your focus and switch it to manual, then pan your tripod around to get your shots (remembering to overlap frames by approximately 30%). My method was handholding my camera while trying not to get blown away, dialling in my settings, manually focused and then took a series of images, in landscape orientation, hoping I wasn’t moving too much! My technique was definitely not textbook style however I was confident I could make it work. *For those interested in camera settings: ISO 160; f4.5; 1/1000th

The example below is not a frame by frame explanation, it is an overview of how easy it is to create a panorama image.

Once back in the comfort of our apartment, I downloaded the images into Adobe Lightroom (LR) which is my preferred cataloging software program. I found the images I’d taken as a series – there were 5 that lined up nicely along the horizon (allowing approximately 25% overlap on each image). I decided to only stitch 4 of them. You can see from my screen shot below that I have the 4 images selected in LR, I’ve applied some basic processing to 1 image and ‘auto synced’ the information across all 4 images (predominantly white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows). I now tell LR to merge to a pano in Adobe Photoshop (PS) and wait to see what it produces.


As you can see below in the next screen shot the ‘auto’ stitching program in PS was unable to join my 4th image to the far right hand side of the pano. I contemplated leaving it off however I liked the extra framing the tree and shadowed edge gave to the scene. I decided to manually stitch/move that image into place. First I extended the right side of the canvas to accommodate that layer and moved the layer into position (carefully lining it up) and did a little cloning to match things up nicely. I must say, usually PS is great at creating the pano images automatically however there will always be times when a little tweak is needed.


Once I had my image lined up, I custom cropped the image.  I often apply a 10:5 crop ratio, however this image required something more specific.

The final processing always comes down to personal taste and I wanted to give the feeling of ‘golden rays of light’ so I applied a couple of actions to enhance the yellow/orange colours and another contrast layer before being satisfied that I’d achieved the look I was after. I hit save (save as .psd file first) and then resized a couple of times for different outputs – one size for facebook and one size for this blog!


I love black & white too so I took the image into the software plug-in Alien Skin and customised one of their wet-plate looks.


Are you wanting to learn more? I offer one on one tuition, small group tutorials or perhaps you’d love an excuse to get away for a whole weekend of photography and fun with likeminded people.  Join us on our next Ramada Couran Cove #LILSplashRetreat, weekend photography retreat, registrations are now open.

Sheryn Ellis
Portrait Photographer
Photography Retreats and Tuition
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