How to create Panoramic Images in Lightroom


A panorama of brindisi in Italy, taken from the Sailor¡s monument.

Sometimes, it feels like our cameras and wide-angle lenses can’t really capture the immensity and beauty of a landscape. One easy way to overcome this limitation is to create a panorama (and print it in  large format!).

Creating a panorama isn’t as hard as it sounds, especially with Lightroom. Sure, we have smartphones that can do the job easily, but it won’t have the scale and details of a proper panorama created with a DSLR.
The idea is simple: take a number of photos and then stitch them together in a software. Previously, it was a pain to stitch photos because you had to use Photoshop or a third-party software, import your images, stitch them, and then export them back in Lightroom. But since Lightroom CC (as well as LR 6), you can actually stitch your images directly into Lightroom with just a couple of clicks.

So here’s a quick tutorial on:

  • How to properly shoot your images for a panorama
  • How to stitch them in Lightroom

I – How to shoot for a panorama:

Shooting a panorama with your DLSR is easy, but you need to follow a few important steps if you want to get the best results and not end up with a patchwork of different images.

You need:

  • A DSLR/Mirrorless or any camera that allows a full manual control of all your settings.
  • A Tripod (for best results, but could be optional if it’s a bright sunny day).
  • A remote trigger (or setting the timer on your camera can work too).

The tripod and remote are recommended. Yes, you CAN capture a panorama without them, but if you want the sharpest image possible, you definitely should use both items.

Set your tripod and camera (or hold it, but make sure you are going to be using a fast shutter speed to avoid blurry images). I usually avoid using ultra-wide angle lenses because they tend to distort the scene a lot. I prefer shooting at about 24-30mm focal length. Now set your dial to your preferred setting (Aperture mode, Shutter speed mode, Program mode…) and take a test shot of the scene.
By taking a test shot, you will have an idea of what settings the camera used to create a properly exposed image. Check the aperture/shutter speed and ISO of the test image, and write it down (or memorize it).

Next you’re going to switch everything to full manual on your camera. Switch to M mode and dial in the same settings as the test shot (aperture, shutter speed, ISO). Switch your White Balance to anything but Auto (Daylight, Cloudy.. just not auto). Switch your auto-focus on your lens to Manual as well.
The reason we’re changing the White Balance to anything but Auto, is to prevent the camera from changing it during the different shots. If one image is brightly lit and the next is in the shade, you’ll have two different WB settings and the color won’t be consistent throughout the entire panorama. Same idea with the auto-focus: You don’t want your camera to keep focusing on different elements during each shot. You want all images to have the same settings, white balance and focus.

Once all the settings are dialed in, start shooting! You can have your camera shoot either horizontally or vertically. I prefer shooting with my camera in portrait mode (vertical) because it allows me to capture more of the sky and foreground and gives me more space to crop my images if needed.
Now the trick is to make sure each shot overlaps by about 1/3rd with the previous one. This helps Lightroom stitch more efficiently.

6-image panorama

You can shoot as wide as you want: 90º, 180º angle, or even 360º full circle panorama.

And you’re done! Offload your images into Lightroom, reset all the settings on your camera and let’s start stitching!

II – How to stitch in Lightroom:

Once your images are in Lightroom, select all of the necessary images for your panorama. (If you don’t know how, click on the first image of the panorama, hold Shift and click on the last image. It will select them all at once).

And now comes the REALLY difficult part. Hang on!

Once the images are selected, right click on any of them and go to Photo Merge > Panorama. Or just click Ctrl+M (Cmd+M on Mac).

Panorama_Lightroom

A new window will open and Lightroom will start stitching your images together and create a preview. Now THAT was hard…

Sit back for a second and admire your panorama preview. Lightroom usually does a great job stitching all the images seamlessly. On the top right corner, you will have a few “Projection” options. You can click on them to see what looks best for your particular panorama and LR will recreate a preview each time.

Panorama_Options

Now you might notice, like in my example, that there are white empty spaces around the frame (especially if shot handheld). There are a couple of ways to get rid of that.

First option is to use the Auto-Crop tool on the right bar. If you check the box, Lightroom will automatically crop the image, removing all the white parts. You can also do it manually later in the develop module if you prefer.

The second option is a recent feature that Lightroom added a few months ago (in Lightroom CC, not sure about Lightroom 6): The Boundary Warp slider.
By pushing this slider to the right side, Lightroom is going to do a fantastic job and basically warp your image to cover all the white blank spaces. It’s seriously an impressive tool.

And there you go! Once you’re happy with the way your preview image looks, click on Merge and let Lightroom do its work. It might take a few minutes (or longer depending on the size of the panorama) to create the final image.
(If for some reason yo can’t find the final image in your Library, just use the Text search button and type Pano).

The biggest advantage of having Lightroom create a panorama, is that the final image is a RAW (DNG format) file. All your RAW image details are still included and your processing will be so much more efficient.

Tanzania Panorama created in Lightroom

And that’s all! You now know how to easily create a panorama in Lightroom. And here’s a bonus tip for you: your panoramas don’t have to be all horizontal. You can also create vertical panoramas which work great, especially when indoors in huge buildings.

How to easily create a panorama in Lightroom tutorial

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If you liked this tutorial, feel free to share, comment and ask questions and I’ll be happy to help.