Photography Tips and Tricks: Wide Format Photography. Blending Together a Panoramic Photo with Autopano Pro Software.

           

            Those who have been following me for a whip might have noticed that I really like panoramic format of photographs. I love the elongated fields of view and details that can only be reached by piecing together multiple photos. Recently, I started working with the latest version of panoramic software Autopano Pro 3.7 and now I would like to share my opinion on it. Goes without saying, that one can use Photoshop for this purpose (thankfully, on new versions the plug ins work well). But I find, there are some major drawbacks to the PS method: Photoshop does a good job blending together shot made with 50mm and up where the distortion is minimal. But with photographs shot with wide angle lenses there are certain issues, including inability to change some settings or correct the exposer, etc.. So, you can use Photoshop Pano plugin, but is not always convenient or effective.

 

            There are many software out there that are used for piecing panorama together. I’d like to tell you about one of the easiest, comfortable in use software that gives amazing results with minimal work - Autopano Pro 3.7. So, here we go.

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          #1 To create a panoramic photograph, we need a series of sequence shots. To make it more difficult for the testing purpose, I chose images taken with a wide angle lens Samyang 14mm f2.8, which gives pretty bad distortion on the edges. Let’s open the photos in Lightroom and make the general corrections (white balance, contrast, chromatic aberrations, vignetting, prospecting distortions, color correction, etc - your usual process of conversion from RAW). For the example I chose these images I took in Dolomite Alps, Italy in June of 2014.

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           #2 Here are the seven photos (components) of my future panorama:

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 Do not forget to synchronize all the corrections done in LR for all the photos you are working on.

 

          #3 Export from Lightroom. You can convert the photos to JPEG to piece the panorama, but I would not recommend doing it! JPEG is a graphic format of the photograph that compresses it, leading to the loss of details. And you might need to finish your photo in PS after rendering it. So, I would recommend to save the photos in 16b TIFF to save most of the details for further work.
Here are my exported TIFFs:

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          #4 Starting Autopano Pro. The software’s interface is pretty easy and understandable. The working area is decided into two windows. You have your files on the left and on the right you will see the pieced product.
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           #5 Click on the left far icon with a magnifying glass and locate your folder with exported from LR TIFFs:
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I am deselecting the Autodetect function, so we can manually piece the pano.

            #6 Here is how the imported file will show in Autopano:

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           #7 First, I go to the General:

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There you see the EXIF image information and do some optimization. As you can see, my lens was detected incorrectly as 50mm. So I change it manually to Samyang 14m f2.8:
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Type of lens - general.

           #8 Next click on Settings and in the Detection section de-select Color Auto-correction. Honestly, I am not a fan of softwares automatically correcting the color.
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             #9 Next step, we go to Panorama. The default option is “LDR layer correction” (it gives several ways to correct through white balance or color, etc.) But if your photos were exposed correctly and the changes in LR were synchronized, feel free to just de-select the option.
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            #10 The most important moment in piecing your images together is choosing the Projection. The default setting is Automatic, you also have a choice - Spherical, Cylindrical, Plane, etc. I find using Spherical and Plane most often. But to test the software I decided to use Automatic (this can be change later, anyway).
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           #11 The last setting is Render. Here you can choose “Blending Presets” (anything from HDR output to Anti-ghost). With my example, I can choose “Simple” or “Anti-ghost”. Another important option to set is the format of your future panorama: HDR, JPEG, PNG, PSD, TIFF. I recommend 16 bit PSD (or TIFF). Lastly, we choose where to export the panorama once ready.
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         #12 Then click on Create
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and in several minutes our panorama appears in the window on the right:
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          #13 Technically, the panorama is ready and can be exported as is or can be edited more. I am going to do correct it a bit, so we click on Edit:
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           #14 In the opened window Autopano gives a few editing options: projection type, horizon correction, vertical and horizontal horizon turn, geometry correction, color correction, etc..
40570_original I purposely did not make any changes here trusting the default setting for the sake of the test.

          #15 Now we click on Render and go get a snack :)
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          #16 Open your panorama PSD file in Photoshop. Here is how it looks:
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             #17 First of all, I am interested in the edges of the image, since I used a wide angle 14mm lens. How did the software perform with the blending of images with large amount of distortion at the edges? Here is 100% crop of the corners. Left corner:

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Right corner:

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And bottom Edge:
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           I think the result is pretty good!

           #18 Next step is cropping:
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              #19 As we see, there are “empty” corner in the sky part of the image. It can be fixed in several different ways. Today, we will chose one of them - Content Aware filter.
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              #20 By using, for exampe, Magic Want Tool we select the “empty” space. Then click Edit - Fill - Content-Aware
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             #21The same is done for the other “empty” space. Couple of seconds and you have the sky. Typically, this filter renders desirable results, but if there is something left that needs improvement, it can be done with the Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp.
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                 #22 Then the image can be color corrected to the taste. Here is the final result:
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          Here is an example of one more panorama that was taken on the same morning, but the wider field of view. I used the same blending technic.

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Stitched image of 10 vertical frames. Original dimensions - 11916x6036

              My conclusion:
Autopano Pro 3.7 is a great stitching software with conveniently developed interface and functions, with a pretty fare Automatic stitching option. To put it short, I highly recommend the software. It’s certainly worth the money!

Software official website: http://www.kolor.com/