When on location, your peripheral vision tends to give you a much wider perspective than your camera’s lens, which is why landscape shots often lack the sense of space you experienced at the scene. Here, we’ll show you how to use Photoshop Elements’ picture-stitching powers to combine six shots into a 360° panorama composite that reveals much more about the location. We’ll also show you how to adjust the image to get a more balanced composition, which is especially important when creating an architectural 360° panorama.
We’ll explain how to batch-process our raw source files to reveal more tonal detail and boost the colours. By shooting in raw you have more information to work with, but as older computers may struggle to stitch such large images together, we’ll also show you how to resize the source images’ dimensions to something more manageable.
Once your source files are looking their best and are at a suitable size, we’ll show you the optimum settings to use in Photoshop Elements’ clever Photomerge command to create a cylindrical 360° panorama that will start and end at the same point, without any visible seams.
You can then share your amazing panoramas with friends and family, or you can go one step further and follow our bonus technique to turn your panorama into an interactive QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) movie that people can explore themselves, as if on location.
All you’ll need for this Photoshop tutorial is Photoshop Elements 9 or higher, and about 20 minutes. Here’s how to do it…
Step 1 Open the images
Open Photoshop Elements in Full Edit mode. Go to File>Open and browse the ‘before’ images you want to merge together. In this tutorial we selected 6 images, then clicked Open. They’re all raw files, so they’ll open up in Adobe Camera Raw.
Step 2 Look for clipping
Click on your first ‘before’ image. Press O to turn the highlight clipping warning on. Red patches will reveal over-exposed highlights that will lack detail in print. By dragging the Recovery slider to 70 you can reduce the spread of the clipping warning and reveal more sky detail. Set the Recovery slider to 0 for now.
Step 3 Batch edit
Each before file we used in this tutorial was captured using Manual settings of 1/125 sec at f/11, so they will all benefit from the same Recovery adjustment. Tick Select All in the raw editor’s panel, then we drag Recovery to 70 to apply that edit to every ‘before’ shot.
Step 4 Boost colour
Each thumbnail will feature an exclamation mark while it is being processed. Once highlight detail has been recovered, a file’s exclamation mark will vanish and its thumbnail will update. Push Vibrance up to +55 to boost the strength of the shots’ colours.
Step 5 Open the images
Once you’ve finished batch-processing the before files’ colours and tones, click Open Images to take them into Photoshop Elements’ standard editor. These 12MP images could take ages for the Photomerge command to process, so you’ll need to resize them to more manageable proportions.
Step 6 Resize multiple files
Go to File>Process Multiple Files and tick Resize Images. Set Width to 15cm and Resolution to 200. The command will automatically constrain the Height. In Destination, tick Browse. Create a new folder on your desktop – we called ours Panorama_before (low res). Untick any caption options to avoid adding text labels.
Step 7 Choose a layout
When you click OK, the files will be resized, saved and then closed. Go to File>New>Photomerge Panorama. The Photomerge command window will appear. Tick the Cylindrical option so that the end of the stitched panorama will blend with the start.
Step 8 Blend the images
Click on Browse and locate the Panorama_before (low res) folder that you created in step 6. Shift-click to select the six smaller source files and click Open. The files will appear as a list in the Source Files field. Tick Blend Images, then click OK.
Step 9 Create your panorama
Photomerge will now automatically create a new wide canvas and place each shot onto a separate layer. Photomerge will reposition each shot so that its edges overlap and align with the others. Click No when asked if you want to automatically fill the edges.
Step 10 Crop the shot
Go to Layer>Merge Layers. Grab the Crop tool and crop the shot to remove any transparent edges while preserving as much sky as possible. Lose the railing spike on the left, but include it at the right. This will ensure that you have a full 360° image.
Step 11 Spot the join
Go to Filter>Other>Offset. Ensure Wrap Around and Preview are ticked. Set the Horizontal field to ‘-300 pixels right’. This creates a more balanced composition, but you can see where the two ends join, so you’ll need to tidy up with some cloning.
Step 12 Hide the seam
Grab the Clone Stamp tool and create a new layer (Layer>New Layer). Tick Sample All Layers and choose a soft brush tip. Alt-click to sample grass or sky adjacent to the seam, then spray to extend over the seam to hide it. Sample and extend bits of railing .