Night panorama post processing: Abandoned cement plant 360

Abandoned cement plant 360 degree night panorama -- by Joe Reifer
Abandoned cement plant 360 degree night panorama -- by Joe Reifer

This 360 night panorama of an abandoned cement plant is composed of 14 vertical images shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70/2.8L lens at the 24mm setting. The exposure time was 1 minute at f/8, ISO 800. The short exposure time helped get the right amount of cloud movement in the sky, and kept the white disc of the moon relatively static. Jupiter is visible at center right.

The Perseid meteor shower was intense last night -- I haven't seen so many shooting stars in a long time. The animals were also enjoying the full moon at this location. We encountered bats, owls, and a rather aggressive skunk.

My technique for shooting and stitching panoramas is continuing to evolve. I used to adjust all of the images in Lightroom and then use Photo -- Edit In -- Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. This activates Photomerge, which works really well in Photoshop CS4 and CS5. If you've shot the images in the exact order that you want them stitched, this technique is great. But sometimes the composition might look better if the images were laid out in a different order. By separating the loading, aligning, and blending of layers in Photoshop, you can easily control the layout of your pano in post-production. Here's how:

  1. Adjust all of your RAW files to the same settings in Lightroom or ACR. Applying lens corrections and removing vignetting at this stage can help with the success of your Photomerge.
  2. From Lightroom choose Photo -- Edit In -- Open as Layers in Photoshop. If you're using Bridge, choose Tools -- Photoshop -- Load Files into Photoshop Layers.
  3. Assess which image you'd like to have in the center of your composition. Select this layer in the Photoshop layers palette, and click the lock icon. This tells Photoshop to use this layer as the middle of your panorama.
  4. Next use shift+click to select all of the layers for your pano.
  5. Choose Edit -- Auto Align Layers. I typically use the Cylindrical projection for this type of panorama.
  6. Choose Edit -- Auto-Blend Layers. Make sure to select Panorama and check the box that says Seamless Tones and Colors.

If you didn't pick the right image for the center of your pano, just go back a few steps in your Photoshop history. Unlock the layer that you chose the first time, lock the one you'd like to try next, and start again at step 4 above. I hope this tip for how to control your composition when using Photomerge is helpful!