In this hdr panorama tutorial, I’m going to share my workflow that I used to process a HDR photo panoramic of the downtown Seattle cityscape. At a high level, I used Photomatix Pro to process the HDRs and Photoshop CS5 for the photo stitching to create the panoramic photo and Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 filters to fine tune the final image.
If you are looking for an example tutorial using CS5 to render HDRs and create the panoramic picture, check out my HDR Pano Tutorial.
- Photomatix to process the HDRs
- Adobe Lightroom to import and organize the images
- Adobe Photoshop merge the three HDR images into a Panorama photo
- Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 plugin to enhance the photo
- Noiseware to remove unwanted noise from the final HDR image
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 70-200mm 2.8L @ 70mm
- Induro PHQ-3 Pano Tripod Head
- Induro Carbon CT214 Tripod
- Lee Foundation Filter Holder with .9 Soft Grad Filter + .9 Solid ND Filter
- Promote Control shutter release controller set to 5 images at 1 stop between each image
- Camera set in Bulb mode at F11 with auto focus disabled
Ok lets get started!
- In this example, I used my Promote Control to capture 5 bracketed images at 1 stop between to produce 3 HDR images that I stitched together to create one final HDR panoramic image.
- In Adobe Lightroom, I started by organizing the three HDR bracketed series of images.
- Then I selected the 5 images to process the first HDR by selecting to ‘Export’ and ‘Photomatix’
- It was a tad windy that day so I selected to ‘align images’ and ‘reduce ghosting’ options in the Photomatix settings pop up box. The ‘Automatically re-import into Lightroom’ option is a huge time saver that I always enable. I also always leave the output format to TIFF. I’ve heard others recommend JPEG since the final output is JPEG but I prefer to keep it in TIFF until one of my last steps to help maintain as much data as possible while editing.
- When using the Promote Control, it often confuses Photomatix regarding how many stops between each image so I have to manually select which in this case was 1 stop.
- Next, the Photomatix ‘selective deghosting’ tool opens up.
- At first glance, it doesn’t look all that impressive but it actually does a fantastic job! Its only very rare situations where I will use Photoshop to manually align before processing the the HDR.
- The wind caused some tree movement which resulted in unwanted blur. The first step to resolve is by selecting an area to flag as ‘ghosted area’.
- Next, I selected the -1 image to be used for my ghosting selection area since the shutter speed was a little faster thus a little less motion blur in the tree. It results in a slightly darker result but it can easily be adjusted later on in Photoshop.
- I repeated the same process for the second tree in the lower portion of the screen.
- Last step is to preview the ghosting changes which look much better!
- After the ghosting changes are complete, the Photomatix adjustments window will open with the HDR preview.
- Since this is the first image in our HDR panorama, the best thing to do is to reset to ‘default’ before starting moving all of the fun sliders around. I’ve found this to save me a ton of time in the long run.
- Strength moved up to 100
- Color Saturation bumped up to 65. This one can easily be over done so I try not to kick this one past 65.
- Luminosity was adjusted after I set the white point slide to eliminate some clipping on the right side of the histogram. Once the white point was set, I adjusted the Luminosity to the desired result.
- New in Photomatix 4.1 are these ‘natural’ presets under ‘lighting adjustments’ box. This is a very dangerous setting which is the primary result in many ‘over cooked’ HDR images. The best way to use this selection is to adjust until you get the right lighting for your desired result. For this image, I really liked the light focus on the sky with the Natural + setting.
- I had to bump down the white point to adjust some clipping as previously mentioned.
- Lastly, I bumped up the black point just a tad to help recover some shadows.
- I repeated the above Photomatix processing steps for the remaining two series of images.
- I used the previous Photomatix settings for the remaining to HDRs to help balance the final output between the three HDRs that will be stitched together.
- Next, I selected the final 3 HDR images and navigated to ‘Edit In’ > ‘Merge to Panorama in Photoshop’
- In the Photomerge options, I just kept the defaults for ‘Auto’ and selected ‘OK’ to process.
- Some times due to severe distortion, selecting the ‘Geometric Distortion Correction’ option.
- After it completes the merge process, the final composite Panorama image will open up in Photoshop.
- Things looked good so I selected all three layers and selected to ‘Flatten Image’.
- Then I saved and closed the new HDR Panorama Tiff file. I like to save and close at this point so I have an original master pano file before completing the final edits in Photoshop.
- Next, I used Nik Color Efex Pro to apply a ‘Polorization’ filter to help pop out some of the color.
- The ‘Tonal Contrast’ filter in Nik Color Efex is one of the best HDR tone mapping filters in the market. It does a great job at adding some detail and contrast to an image.
- I just wanted to selectively use the ‘Tonal Contrast’ filter so I created a layer mask, inverted it (cmd+I), selected brush tool, set to paint with white and painted in the desired effect.
- The ‘Brilliance / Warmth’ filter is real subtle but it adds a nice little glow / pop to soft sunset or sunrise images.
- I usually slide the top slider over just a tad.
- I got a little ahead of myself with this one. I typically like to do my ‘clean up’ layer right away before applying any filters.
- Using the Clone, Patch and Healing brush tools I zoom into 100% and look around for any dust spots or other artifacts that need to be cleaned up.
- Once the clean up was finished, I decided to flatten the image as it was growing pretty large with all of the layers.
- HDRs always result in some extra noise even when capturing at ISO 100.
- Noiseware plugin for Photoshop set to ‘Stronger Color’ does a great job reducing the noise while preserving detail.
- Next, I applied some subtle sharpening with an ‘Unsharp Mask’ filter.
- I used a layer mask to selectively apply the sharpening to the buildings.
- The shadows were still a bit washed out so I created a new layer and selected ‘soft light’ blend mode and adjusted the opacity to boost the shadows and contrast.
- Lastly, I wanted to apply a dodge / burn layer to help shape the light in the scene. Most specifically, I wanted to add some shadow in the trees to help draw attention away from the motion blur and bring focus into the detail of the city and Mount Rainier in the distance.
- I created a new layer, set the mode to Soft Light’, and fill set to 50% gray.
- This enables to paint with white to bring out highlights and black to bring out shadows using the brush tool.
- Last step is to save and re-import into Lightroom.
I hope you found this tutorial useful and hopefully some of my lessons learned will save you some time. I’m always interested to hear feedback and questions so please don’t hesitate to share your comments or contact me directly.