Having worked with the Lightroom Panorama Feature for a few weeks, I’ve walked away with a few valuable tips on how to make use of this new feature and on making the eventual merge easier while you are on the shoot.
1. Orient Perpendicular to your Panorama
As you shoot for a post-processing panorama merge, you will quickly discover that capturing everything you want in a usable frame is a challenge. Unless you are using a panning tripod for the perfectly lined panorama, you’re going to encounter misaligned photos that give you a vastly amorphous edge. Handheld panoramas can vary significantly, especially if you yourself are not on even ground. The trick? Shoot horizontal panoramas in portrait orientation (with the long side of the frame oriented vertically). Taking a vertical panorama of a tall building? Shoot in landscape orientation (with the long side of the frame oriented horizontally. This will give you more room above and below to frame your shot well. The feature image at the top of this page is a horizontal panorama shot in orientation. The resultant image is 18860 x 4151 pixels (78 megapixels).
2. Shoot Around Your Subject
Lightroom does not merge along a linear path. Rather, Lightroom will merge photos wherever they line up, this means that you could take pictures in circles around your subject to expand the frame. Have a particularly long panorama? Try shooting up and down in a zig zag motion to capture it all. Or shoot multiple horizontal lines to capture more area. The result will be a larger usable frame.
Below is a sample of a Panorama where a little more shooting above and below might have resolved the cut off peak which has kept this shot from being a winner.
A word of warning. You are taking a three-dimensional spherical view and flattening it onto a two-dimensional screen, so there will be distortion. Much like maps of the globe. Do a web search for different projection types of world maps, and you will see how different continents can look based on the perspective you use. Just like the projection types in the Lightroom Panorama feature, you will get differently distorted images based on the projection type you use, but all of them will be distorted in some way. Just like taking close up wide-angle shots of an object, different parts will seem disproportionate.
2. Shoot a Blank Before and After
As your panoramas get larger and more complex, it can be hard to recall where exactly your panorama began and ended. The solution is easy, shoot a blank (with your hand or the lens cap covering the front of the lens) before and after the panorama series. This works equally well for the Lightroom HDR feature as well. That way you’ll know exactly which photos to try to merge.
Tip: Switch your lens to manual focus for the blank shot, as autofocus will likely prevent the shutter from firing. Just don’t forget to switch it back, or focus on your subject before beginning your panorama.
3. Fake a Wide Angle Lens
I think one of the biggest aha’s for me with the Lightroom Panorama feature is the ability to stitch in two dimensions. Rather than simply think of panoramic landscapes or buildings I can shoot, I have learned how to mimic a wide-angle lens with this tool. Granted, you add potential distortion when stitching photos, but you add a different kind of distortion with ultra wide-angle lenses. So you’re really just swapping one distortion for another. And assuming your eyes are not bigger than Lightroom’s ability to maintain perspective, most users may not even notice. Of course, be sure your object isn’t moving. Even a landscape can have quite a bit of movement on a windy day, and the resulting merge may end up muddled.
Take this shot of a tree along my walk to work. It was taken with a 40mm lens on a full frame body, but given how close I had to be to not be standing in the middle of a busy street, I might have needed a 15mm lens without Lightroom’s Panorama feature.