Simple Panoramics with Tilt/Shift lens.

Simple Tilt/Shift panoramic technique.

I like using a Tilt/Shift lens for my panos because the post processing is super simple and I don’t have to carry a separate rotating tripod head specifically for panos. Though I do have to carry a specific lens, my Nikon 85mm F2.8 Tilt/Shift is also a macro lens, so I can sort of kill two birds with one stone. If all is done correctly, I can put an image together in around 1 min or less. When moving elements enter the scene, such as water, that is where the fun starts; I’ll post on this in the future.

Requirements:

  • Tilt/Shift lens
  • Tripod
  • Cable release (not necessary, but helpful)
  • Photoshop

In the field:

Be sure the camera is in manual exposure mode. The camera can be used in either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientation, depending on subject and what you want to do. If shooting horizontal panos in landscape orientation, only 3 shots are necessary, left, center, and right. When shooting vertical panos in landscape orientation, I will usually take 4 shots, as the overlap is a bit thin with only 3, so 4 will give you a bit more to work with if there is any complex blending required (this depends on subject, and in general 3 shots are adequate). You can also experiment with utilizing focal plane shift in combination with panos for some cool and creative results.

(more after the jump)

In Photoshop:

1. Open up the 3 images. If shooting RAW, be sure so synchronize any adjustments made across all the images.

2. Paste the the “left” and “right” images onto the center one. I prefer to keep the center image as the background layer, as it makes the layer alignment slightly easier.

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic lesson for Tilt shift lens

3. Change the ‘canvas size’ so that all 3 images appear to their full extent. For my 10mp camera, I usually go to 10,000 pix in width.

4. Do a quick rough alignment of ‘left and ‘right’ images onto the center (background) image.

5. Select the first layer and change the blend mode to “difference.”

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

6. Zoom in to 100% and align the layer to the background. When you see all black, it means the layer is properly aligned.

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

7. Change blend mode back to “normal”

8. Repeat for the other layer.

(even without blending, it’s already difficult to see the border between the images)

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

9. Apply a layer mask to the first layer and make a smooth gradation to the background using the paint brush with hardness set to 0%. Repeat for second layer. I find I often need to “hide” the background layer, otherwise I sometimes cannot see where the layers overlap.

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

(both layers blended to background. The shape of the masking needed depends on the subjects in the image. Often times, a simple gradient can be easiest)

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

10. Once blending is finished and your happy, flatten the image, crop any extra canvas area if necessary and your done! simple! Now you have a 22mp image out of a 10mp camera.

© cody duncan photography.  Simple digital panoramic technique for Tilt Shift lens

(final result: click to view larger)

© cody duncan photography.  Mt. Whitney dawn panoramic photo, Alabama Hills, California

If you’re also a fan of Hasselblads, This same technique can be used with only 2 shots to create square images.

Now, if you have Photoshop CS3, you can let it do all the work; and a good job it does. But where you will run into problems is if you have any movement within the image or need to do selective blending, such as if you included a person in the scene. So it is good to know this technique for when you might need it. I actually prefer this way even when PS can do a good job, and its nearly as fast.

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