How to Easily Make Epic Panoramas

Panorama photos are huge, sharp, and fascinating. In this article, I will show an easy way to automatically stitch a panorama in CameraRaw and finish them off in Photoshop.

From time to time, I make a panorama. There can be several reasons for this: To increase the number of megapixels of the final photo and thereby making it sharper, or if I do not have a lens which is wide enough and I want to capture the entire scene. In this example, it is both. In the last part of the above video, you can see me flying my drone around the gorgeous Reine area in Lofoten, Norway. To capture the entire collection of islands you have to make a panorama and a drone does not have a great amount of megapixels to work with, so all the better to make a panorama. When I take photos for my panorama, I start in one end with locked-down settings, take a photo, pan the drone to the side, and take the next photo. I usually aim to have between 30% and 50% overlay of the photos. DJI drones do come with built-in panorama modes, but for the most part, they do not fulfill my needs. You will have to play around with that yourself.

When I have my photos, I download them to the computer and open them in CameraRaw, which is the raw file converter to Photoshop.

When I have opened the photos in CameraRaw I select them all by selecting one and use the shortcut Ctrl+A to select all. I right-click on one of them and choose “Merge to Panorama”. If you are photographing in a high contrast scene, you can also bracket your photos and make an automated “HDR Panorama”.

When CameraRaw has stitched the panorama, the window “Panorama Merge Preview” pops up. Here there are three different merge types: Spherical, cylindrical, and perspective. All options stitch the panorama differently and I seem to have the most success with the cylindrical option.

Underneath the projection option I play around with the other settings and in this particular, I decided to deselect everything. I went with uncropped as I felt the mountains got a bit close to the edge of the frame relative to the length of the panorama. I also skipped doing any kind of boundary warp as the edges and horizon became distorted. The “Fill Edges” tab works acceptably in this example, but some of the waves did not fill properly so I skipped that too and I wanted to do my own adjustments, so I did not choose “Apply Auto Settings”. When you are done with the panorama, you select “merge” and save it to your hard drive.

Now you simply just apply whatever adjustments you want to the photo. In my case, I decided to change the aspect a bit, as I felt the panorama was a bit too wide.

When you are done with your adjustments in CameraRaw you open it as a smart object in Photoshop by holding down Shift and left-click on “Open Object”.

Within Photoshop I crop the Panorama a bit on either side by using the “W x H x Resolution” crop option as shown in the below photo.

Hereafter, I press Ctrl+T, while the layer is selected, to transform the layer and right-click and choose “Warp”.

I use the warp selection to stretch out and cover the gaps. I would suggest playing around with the corners first.

Now there are many ways you can fill those gaps. You can also make a new layer and use the clone stamp tool to fill them, with a slightly different outcome, or something third. I, however, found this to be the easiest in this example.

When you are done, it is just about making the final adjustments and you are done.

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have another way to make panoramas? Let me hear down below.

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Kai Hornung's picture

It’s an epic pano. Nice step by step article

Christian Lainesse's picture

How does it compare with Serif's Affinity Photo panoramic stitching?

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Not sure as I have not used it.

Robert Nurse's picture

That hike! DAMN!!! Success, IMO, would be the visual impact the scene has on you. Photos are a nice bonus.

Bill Patterson's picture

Very well done and the steps are excellent.

Aritz Atela's picture

Great article Mads!! Really useful tips.

Fred Teifeld's picture

First off; excellent article.

Second: Most panoramic stitching software can easily freak out depending on the complexity of the image (Details, buildings, anything in motion during the capture of the images).

A number of years ago I shot a panoramic in Istanbul from Galata Tower, a beautiful landmark tower that offers the opportunity of a most beautiful view of all of Istanbul. With the amount of boat traffic on the Golden Horn and the Bosporous, using Photoshop's stitching function created a very education time for me. Boats without wakes, wakes without boats and some very interesting (and occasionally hilarious) image issues. The first print I did was about 22" high and over 16 feet wide. I laid it out on the floor of my studio and spent about an hour with a "sharpie" marking all the flaws that appeared. Then I spent hours editing the individual images as necessary to create the better end result. Also due to the complex background (All kinds of architectural details in the distance as well as changing levels of terrain) after stitching them all together some mismatches occurred but were easily remedied after making another proof print.

That lead to the final result which I still enjoy looking at today. I also sold a few prints which was a nice bonus.

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Thanks! And yes, always a nice bonus to sell a few prints ;)

Sam Tang's picture

“Epic Panoramas”?
Will we soon be seeing articles about aromatic portraits and tactile B-roll?

Tim Crapnell's picture

Fred Teifeld: Most panoramic stitching software can easily freak out depending on the complexity of the image.

I made the above image from pictures taken hand held at the 2013 British Grand Prix. It shows hundreds of people moving in a crowd. I was amazed when Lightroom stitched into a panorama effortlessly. I've made no manual corrections to this image.

Fred Teifeld's picture

Nicely done! Also- I learned just that (most software freaking out) as well, not long after what I described above.