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Life doesn’t always fit neatly into the frame of a typical digital SLR. When you look out on the world, sometimes you see all of it, a long sweeping panorama that is so beautiful you can’t possibly fit the feeling you have in your eyes into that little frame. This is especially true when you’re traveling. Scenes like the one below, taken at Shiloh National Battlefield in Tennessee are a perfect example.

james-schuck-panoramaPhoto Courtesy of James Schuck

 This is a reasonably good photograph by itself, but it doesn’t quite tell the whole story of what the photographer saw on this walk through the site. So, it became necessary to bring back eight images taken side-by-side and stitch them together to form the image at the bottom of the blog, which is much more satisfying to the eye. It takes in the whole story.

Shooting the Individual Photos

Through a series of trial and error experiments, it was easy to use the guidelines inside the camera viewing area to overlap each of the eight images that made up the single panorama. Make sure you get at least a twenty-five percent overlap, and with images with items in the foreground, as much as fifty percent.

File . . . Automate . . . Photomerge . . . then you will find yourself here:

james-schuck-panorama

Sizing Your Files

Click on the Browse button to find your files. Once you’ve selected them, the software will begin the sorting process, and it may take a while depending on the size of your files. To control the size of your files, you’ll need to open one of your files in Camera Raw (CS3)  and adjust the size.

james-schuck-panorama

At the bottom of this dialog box, you will see the blue, underscored Adobe RGB hot-link with the sizing specifications. Click on this hot-link and you will find yourself at this dialog box:

james-schuck-panorama

If you want your panorama to be really big for printing, you’ll need to select a large file size and bump the resolution up to 300dpi. For web use, 72dpi and a smaller file size will suffice. Click OK and move on to the next step.

Once you’ve gotten the sizing right, you’ll wind up at the Photomerge screen:

james-schuck-panorama

Make sure you the box labeled “Interactive Layout” is checked, otherwise your photo is going to look like one of the other choices that the software is going to make for you, something you want to avoid. You’re here to make your own choices, not let the computer do your work for you!

Waiting for the Software

The next step is to say OK! It may take a few minutes (or more depending on the size of your original files, but once the software finishes aligning the files, it’s going to bring you to:

james-schuck-panorama

If the stitched photo looks good, you can simply hit the OK button and move into Photoshop. Two things can happen at this point. Either you can manipulate the images individually or there can be alignment problems. This can happen if you haven’t shot the sequence correctly to begin with. Oftentimes what may happen is an up-and-down alignment problem where the picture tends to drift up high as you go along to the right when you’re shooting left to right.

Final Touches

Once the software has finished doing it’s thing, and before you flatten the image (which will reduce the file to nearly fifteen percent of its original size), crop out the extraneous space at the edges and save it as a JPG, you may want to save that “raw” file as Photoshop PSD file. If you ever need to go back and work on the file again, it will be much easier to start from your “Master File” than a JPG. Here’s the rendered version with of course a bit of manipulation in Camera Raw:

james-schuck-panoramaPhoto Courtesy of James Schuck

It won’t take long for you to master the technique. Keep shooting and great things will come to pass. You can make many different sized photographs depending on the situation and the amount of stitched photos you use to create a unique scene that makes you the photographer that shoots “Out of the Box”. Here’s a couple of images made by one photographer who tried this technique:

james-schuck-panorama-falls-trailPhoto Courtesy of James Schuck, Falls Trail, Angeles Crest, California

james-schuck-panorama-hurtles-beachPhoto Courtesy of James Schuck, Hurtles Beach, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

James Schuck

James Schuck is a writer and photographer working in Southern California. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has photographed everything from Architecture to Auto Parts to Cookies to Portraits and Weddings.

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