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Tweaking Photomerged Images In Photoshop - Photoshop Tutorial From Mark Galer
The following tutorial, Tweaking Photomerged Images In Photoshop, is adapted from Photoshop CS5 Essentials by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews.
Photomerge is capable of aligning and blending images without any signs of banding in smooth areas of transition. The new and improved Photomerge first made its appearance back in Photoshop CS3 and the stitching is usually seamless. This project, however, takes a look at how we can correct minor errors when things don’t quite match up. This is usually a result of using a wide-angle lens that includes a lot of foreground subject matter but without using a specialized tripod head to eliminate parallax error. The ease with which Photoshop can stitch these panoramas will be improved if you capture vertical images with a 50% overlap using manual exposure, manual focus and a manual White Balance setting (or process the images identically in Camera Raw). With a little know how, Photomerge is an excellent way of widening your horizons or competing with your best friend’s 60 Megapixel Hasselblad H4D.
Note: The Raw files on the DVD accompanying this book (which you can download in this 3 MB archive) have already been optimized for you for use in this project. No additional processing in Adobe Camera Raw is required. The information in the two illustrations below highlights the work already carried out.
Lowering the Exposure slider and raising the Recovery slider has recovered the highlights, while raising the Fill Light slider lightened the shadow detail. If the subject brightness range or contrast of the scene had been any higher it would have been necessary to bracket the exposure for each of the component shots and then use Merge to HDR Pro to create an image with full detail for each of the five component images (see High Dynamic Range).
To balance the exposure the Raw files were further optimized using the Graduated Filter in ACR. The sky was darkened using one graduated filter and the Foreground was lightened using another. In some instances a third Graduated Filter was added to even the exposure from left to right.
1. Select and open the five project images (the JPEG or TIFF images in the downloadable archive have already been processed from the Raw files). Go to File > Automate and choose Photomerge.
Note: The files for this project were captured on a 12 Megapixel DSLR using the Camera Raw file format and then scaled down to 6 Megapixel images to speed up the processing. If you have less than 2 Gigabytes of RAM on your computer you would be advised to do the same when stitching your own images or be prepared to be very patient.
2. In the Photomerge dialog box click on the Add Open Files button and select the Auto radio button in the Layout options. Select OK and let Photoshop do all of the work – and what a lot of work it has to do, aligning and blending all of these images.
3. Prior to Photoshop CS3 many more steps of manual techniques were required to circumnavigate the shortcomings of Photomerge – but as you can see from the results in this project we just about have perfection handed to us on a plate. Fantabulous! (I know that’s not in the dictionary but neither is Photomerge – yet.) If you have used the full-resolution images you probably had to go and make a cup of coffee while Photoshop put this one together (all 60 megapixels of it) and will now be considering downsampling your file – but wait, we have a couple of small glitches in this result.
Performance Tip 1
Now the only limitation you may run up against when handholding the camera, or placing the camera on a standard tripod head, is Photoshop’s ability to align and blend strong geometric lines that come close to the camera lens. If you have not used a specialized tripod head designed for professional panoramic stitching work, then the problem of aligning both foreground and distant subject matter is a big problem for any software (Photoshop handles it better than most). The camera should ideally be rotated around the nodal point of the lens to avoid something called parallax error. You will probably not encounter any problems with the new Photomerge feature unless you are working with strong lines in the immediate foreground.
Performance Tip 2
If you downsample before you flatten your file you will probably encounter hairline cracks after reducing the image size. The solution to this problem is to either flatten the file or stamp the visible content to a new layer (Ctrl/Command + Shift + Alt/Option and then type the letter E) before you reduce the size of the image.
If you hold down the Alt/Option key and click on each layer mask in turn you will notice that Photoshop uses hard-edged layer masks to hide or reveal the piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up the final panorama. The panorama has seamless joins because Photoshop has adjusted or ‘blended’ the color and tonality of the pixels on each layer. Any pixels concealed by the layer masks have not been subjected to these color and tonal adjustments. This, in effect, means that the user cannot override which bit of each layer is visible as the hidden pixels have not been color-matched.
4. Merge the visible elements to new a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt and then type the letter E on a PC or Command + Shift + Option and then type the letter E on a Mac). Crop away that which is surplus to requirements before flattening the file, be sure to leave the Width and Height fields blank. It is OK to leave a small area of transparency in the top right-hand corner of the image when cropping if this helps the composition as we can fix this using the techniques outlined in the next step. This is a big image (especially if you used the full-resolution files) so don’t be surprised if things are a little slower in computer land right now.
5. There is a small area of transparency at the top of the frame that will need cloning (I did not want to crop too tight at the top of the frame). Select the Clone Stamp tool from the Tools panel and then clone in some new sky from immediately below the transparent area. I have created an empty new layer to clone into and have checked the Sample All Layers option in the Options bar. Only when I am happy with the patch job will I select Merge Down from the Layers fly-out menu.
6. When stitching just two or three images Photomerge Panorama gets it right pretty much all of the time. When stitching much wider panoramas where there is a good deal of foreground detail you may find a couple of alignment errors. These images were captured using a wide-angle lens and the foreground rocks are just in front of the tripod. If I had used a specialized panorama tripod head the effects of parallax error would not be a problem. Photomerge in this instance, however, has met its match. The foreground rocks all match perfectly but that horizon line has a small break and is undulating. We can fix this. Zoom in to the horizon line, select the Rectangular Marquee tool and make a selection that just touches the horizon line at the lowest point. Make sure the feather option in the Options bar is set to 0. From the Select menu choose Inverse.
Note: The stitching errors may change depending on the resolution (pixel dimensions) of the files you choose for Photomerge to align and blend.
7. Go to Filter > Liquify. Choose the Warp Tool to nudge the horizon line down towards the red frozen area (created from the selection you made in the last step). Increase the size of the brush to 500 pixels and decrease the Brush Pressure to a lowly 10 pixels. When using the Warp tool just click and drag to push the pixels into alignment. When the horizon line is sitting on top of the red rectangle click OK to apply the changes to the image.
8. Pushing the pixels down onto the selection in Liquify will create an unnaturally hard edge to the horizon. This can be fixed by selecting the Blur tool in the Tools panel and a Strength setting of 50% in the Options bar. Zoom in so you can see the effects of your painting and then paint along the edge to soften it.
9. If you find a physical break in the horizon line or on the rocks either side of it you can create a patch to hide the awkward break. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool with a Feather radius of 10 pixels and make a small selection just next to the break. Choose Copy and then Paste from the Edit menu to put the patch onto its own layer. Then go to Edit > Free Transform. You can now slide and rotate the patch into position. Hold down the Ctrl key (PC) or Command key (Mac) and pull any of the bounding box handles to distort the shape of the patch so that you can achieve a seamless fix.
Note: An alternative to this technique would be to use the Clone Stamp Tool and clone to an empty new layer.
10. Click on the Add layer mask icon at the base of the Layers panel. Select the Brush Tool from the Tools panel and set the foreground color to black. Set the Brush hardness low and then mask any areas of the patch that may be affecting the rocks. You may need to zoom in to check that your work does not leave any brush strokes.
11. If the Patch does not match the color of the tones then you can create an empty new layer and set the mode of this layer to Color. Select the Brush tool in the Tools panel, hold down the Alt or Option key and click on a more appropriate color to load this into the Foreground Color Swatch in the Tools panel. Then paint over the area that needs adjusting to further perfect the patched area.
Note: If the Foreground Color does not change when you hold down the Alt/Option key and click in the image window make sure the Eyedropper Tool options are set to All Layers from the Sample pull-down menu in the Options bar.
12. To create a Faux HDR (High Dynamic Range) effect that enhances localized contrast, go to Image > Duplicate and check the Duplicate Merged Layers Only option in the Duplicate Image dialog. It is not possible to apply the HDR Toning Adjustment to a multi-layered file so we will apply the toning to a flattened duplicate version of this file and then reimport the layer.
13. In order to apply the HDR Toning the image Photoshop has to temporarily convert the image into a 32 Bits/Channel file (hence the reason we have a single layer). Go to Image > Adjustments and select HDR Toning. When the HDR Toning dialog opens expand the Tone and Detail section and raise the Detail slider to +150. You may need to decrease the Highlight slider to restore the highlight detail in the image and raise the Radius slider in the Edge Glow section to make a smoother transition between the rocks and sky. Adjust the Vibrance and Saturation sliders to taste and select OK.
14. This Faux HDR effect may look a little bit too edgy for most photographers. We can, however, dial in just the right amount of the effect after we have placed this file as a layer above the multi-layered file. Hold down the Shift key and drag the layer thumbnail from the duplicate image (the HDR Toned image) into the panorama image.
15. Lower the opacity of this new layer until you achieve a good balance between the panorama image and the HDR toned image. Note: The bottom five layers holding the original component images and layer masks are no longer required and can be deleted before saving the master Photoshop file.
Printed with permission from Focal Press, a division of Elsevier. Copyright 2010.
Photoshop CS5 Essential Skills - By Mark Galer And Philip Andrews
A practical guide to creative image editing, Photoshop CS5: Essential Skills by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews will help you to master the essential features and tools of this awesome software. Broken into three parts to form a structured, self-study guide, the book covers foundation skills and more advanced techniques, with a complete section of step-by-step imaging projects so you can practice your skills and create professional-looking results.
Written by two internationally recognized authors and Adobe Photoshop Ambassadors, this established book and DVD package is fully updated with the latest CS5 features and contains vital information on optimizing photography and digital imaging workflows. Photoshop CS5: Essential Skills includes a DVD with more than 10 hours of movie tutorials and supporting files.
Read 2 free sample chapters:
Refine Edge - Best New Feature in Photoshop CS5 - TutorialNew To Photoshop CS5 - Merge To HDR Pro - Tutorial
Find more Photoshop CS5 tutorials on our Photoshop CS5 Tutorials Page.
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