First off, you must make sure that when you are shooting a panorama, you use manual exposure settings and in the first stages of editing (which I will cover soon), the edit on each picture in the same. If you don't follow these 'rules', it can be very hard, if not impossible to stitch the final image together.
First Edit of Raw Files
When creating a panorama you are going to be working with quite a lot of files and so, you will want to stay organised. I personally use Photoshop and Camera RAW for post processing, and to stay organised I give each photograph a star rating. I was working with two sets of images and so I gave one set (seen below) as 5-star, these were the sky exposures. I then also gave the other set of images a 3-star rating, these were the foreground exposures.
To start, you want to just pick one image from the panorama, this means you should find one image that covers most of the aspects of your final shot. As you can see from the screenshot above-left, the image I chose to edit first included the sky (clouds and sun) and the foreground).
You may notice that I have circled one of the tabs, this is 'lens correction' and is vital to any image. It will remove chromatic aberration, lens distortion (important with landscapes and wide-angle shots) and vignetting.
- The temperature for this image is set to 'cloudy' because, although technically the true white balance of the scene would be somewhere between that and 'daylight', I wanted to accentuate the sunset colours by warming the image.
- Exposure is purely a choice of yours and how bright you want your image to be, at this stage in the edit, I use the exposure slider to balance out the histogram and make sure I have detail over the whole dynamic range which I can then exploit in a later edit of the full panorama.
- To directly affect one part of the histogram (i.e. dark and light parts of the image) use the highlights and shadows sliders. Usually in a landscape shoot, the sky will be brighter than the foreground and you may not have the right filter to even out the exposure, this is when the highlight slider is useful. In this shot I have it at -100 to make the area of the sun smaller. It is hard to explain, but if you try this out with your own images will you know what I mean. I have set the shadows to +100, simply to make the blending later easier, this will again become apparent later.
- Next is the whites and blacks sliders, I don't like to play with contrast sliders until right at the end of my edit, but I will use these two sliders to get the best 'looking' histogram before proceeding to the next stage. Sliding the whites up will stretch the right side of the histogram toward the right edge and you want to stop just before the histogram touches the side, and vice-versa for the blacks. This basically means that your whites are white and your blacks are black, which is an important part of the edit if you have played with the highlights and shadow sliders (which will flatten your image).
Now you want to apply the same techniques to the second set of images. After this is complete you will have a set of images exposed and edited for the sky and another set of images exposed and edited for the foreground.
Now it is time to stitch, and I although there are a few different ways to get to the final point this is a breakdown of how I do it.
Open the first set of images (sky or foreground) and go to File >> Automate >> Photomerge
It is likely that after you complete the stitching, your image will be quite distorted, here is an example of how the foreground stitch actually came out:
Repeat the process once more and you should have two panoramic images, like shown below:
This part of the edit is very long and so I thought that I would create a timelapse of the edit from this point onwards. I could have easily written twice as much as I already have on the next section alone - because of this I will be making a future blog about blending specifically!
Feel free to comment with anything that could help both myself and any other readers.