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38 Special: photographic special effects > Automated Pano Stitching with Photom...

Automated Pano Stitching with Photomerge

If you’ve taken the time to get your pano set up right during the shoot (in other words, you used a tripod and overlapped the shots by about 15 to 20% each), then you can have Photoshop CS’s new “Photomerge” feature automatically stitch your panoramic images together. If you handheld your camera for the pano shoot, you can still use Photomerge—you’ll just have to do most of the work manually.

Step One.
Open the photos that you want Photomerge to stitch together as one panoramic image. In the example shown here, I had three shots already open in Photoshop.




Step Two.
There are two ways to access Photomerge: (1) Go under the File menu, under Automate, and choose Photomerge (as shown here), or (2) you can choose Photomerge directly from the mini-menu bar within Photoshop CS’s File Browser. In fact, you can save time by selecting the photos in the File Browser that you want to merge, then choosing Photomerge from the Browser’s Automate menu (pretty darn convenient).

Step Three.
If you choose Photomerge from the Automate menu, a dialog appears (shown here) asking which files you want to combine into a panorama. Any files you have open appear in the window, or you can change the Use pop-up menu to Files, then you can choose individual photos or a folder of photos to open. Make sure the Attempt to Automatically Arrange Source Images check box is on if you want Photomerge to try to build your pano for you.

Step Four.
If your pano images were shot correctly (as I mentioned in the introduction of this technique), Photomerge generally stitches them seamlessly together (as shown here). By default, Photomerge creates a flattened image, but if you want a layered file instead (great for creating panoramic video effects), turn on the Keep as Layers check box in the bottom right-hand corner of the dialog.

Step Five.
Click OK and your final panorama appears as one image (as shown here). This is what we call the “best-case scenario,” where you shot the panos on a tripod and overlapped them just right so Photomerge had no problems and did its thing right away, making it perfect the first time. But you know, and I know, life just isn’t like that.

Step Six.
More likely what you’ll get (especially if you handheld your camera, or didn’t allow enough overlap) is a warning dialog that lets you know that Photomerge “ain’t gonna do it for you” (that’s a technical phrase coined by Adobe’s Alabama tech office). In other words—it’s up to you.

Step Seven.
Once you click OK in that warning dialog, Photomerge at least tries to merge as many segments as possible. The segments it can’t merge are placed in the “Lightbox” (the horizontal row across the top). Although Photomerge didn’t do all the work for you, it can still help—just make sure the Snap to Image check box (in the bottom right-hand corner) is turned on (as shown here).

Step Eight.
Using the Select Image tool (the hollow arrow at the top of the Toolbar), drag a segment from the Lightbox down to your work area near the first image. When you get close, release your mouse button. If Photomerge sees a common overlapping area, it snaps them together, and blends any visible edges. It actually works surprisingly well. If you need to rotate a segment to get it lined up, click on it with the Select Image tool first, then switch to the Rotate Image tool, and click-and-drag within the segment to rotate. See, it’s not that hard (especially using “Snap to Image”).



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