Deke’s Techniques 021: Assembling a Flawless Panorama

It’s tempting to dismiss stitched panoramas as a kind of trendy fad, one that passed about the same time that Adobe finally got its act in gear with the current version of Photomerge. But I see panoramas very much in the realm of ongoing relevance, and for two reasons. First, the obvious: You can build an image with roughly the same proportions as human eyesight, thus permitting the viewer to fully immerse in your photograph. Second, and more importantly (because there’s nothing that says these things have to be wide), you can assemble a higher number of pixels than your camera can otherwise capture. For example, a collection of 12-megapixel shots can grow upwards of 30 megapixels—even after cropping—enough to measure at least 3 feet wide (or 3 feet tall, if you prefer) at 267 pixels per inch.

Photoshop’s Photomerge command is easy enough to use. But getting flawless results out of it is another thing. It’s less a matter of Photoshop wizardry—there’s not a whole lot you can do to control Photomerge’s automated behavior—and more one of capturing the best scene while behind the camera. And because panoramas are best suited to grand vistas and other location shots, you may have just one chance to get it right. Which is what this video is ultimately about.

Here’s the official description from

This week, Deke broadens your horizon with his helpful tips for creating a seamless panorama. Although the Photomerge process in Photoshop is not particularly difficult to use, shooting good images to go into the merged panorama takes some thought. And working carefully will give you the best results, despite the automatic nature of the processing. For instance, worry less about locking down your settings or using a tripod, and more about your feet and framing the shot all the way through. Deke’s got some tips for using Photomerge as well. In the end, Deke shows you how to seamlessly stitch together photos shot from the Accademia Bridge in Venice that will make you feel like you’re gliding down the Grand Canal.

And what do you think of Deke’s observation about the current trend against “photostitching”—opting instead for lining up the individual images that would normally go into a panorama, but leaving them in separate frames? For instance, do you prefer the modern tetraptych (yes, I had to look that word up) in the first image below, or the classic panorama in the second image? (Click on either to see it in high res.) I may be a helpless romantic when it comes to Venezia, but for me, it’s the second image that evokes my nostalgia for standing on Ponte dell’Accademia in one of the most magical cities in the world. And isn’t that (among other things, potentially) what a panorama is supposed to inspire?

A tetraptych of images in Photoshop
Those same images (plus four more) stitched together with Photomerge

Join us again next week for another free video technique. Meanwhile, members can check out the entire collection in the Online Training Library (which includes some exclusive members-only videos as well).

Next week, I show you how to use Photoshop Extended’s image stacks, which blend similarly framed shots of a moving scene to remove people and produce other effects. They’re like blend modes on acid. (No, I’m serious, that’s what they’re like.)

Next entry:Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Scenes Goes Live @

Previous entry:Working Luminance Magic with HDR in Photoshop CS5


  • Flawless Panoramas

    Here’s a technique that seems to work well at keeping the camera lens in the same place for each shot in the series.
    Tie a small weight, perhaps an 0-ring or nut to the end of a long piece of string. Wrap the other end around your little finger, so that when you’re holding your camera, the weight will hang down and almost touch the ground.

    Now as you rotate the camera through the shots of the panorama, make sure the weight hangs above the same place on the ground. This will come very close to anchoring the lens’ nodal point, even without a tripod.

    And if you need to reshoot one of the images, it’s easy to return the camera to exactly the right spot.

  • panoramas

    Thanks for this instruction. I had no idea it could look so good without a tripod, etc and am anxious to try it out on the fly.

  • Help :S

    So what should I do when the Photomerge gives me a script alert saying “Some images could not be automatically aligned” :S

Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.