Stitching Images and Manual Blending


Landscape Photography


Lesson Info

Stitching Images and Manual Blending

What I want to show you next is how to merge those files because that's another thing we've been talking about is how to stitch files together in Photoshop. In this case I'm going to go back over here and I'm gonna find some pictures to stitch. I'm going to do that with these files down here. Something happened the other night after we were photographing that was quite special. You know I talked a lot about scouting and being prepared but also I like to also imply that you should also be ready for something when it happens. We were driving back to the studio after photographing, filming all day and all of a sudden you know just serendipity happened and I said, you know, aren't we near that Tower, Space Needle, and the lights looking pretty good and so Aaron said yeah actually it's right here. We decided to make a left turn and we went up on the hill and we ended up stumbling into something that just completely blew my mind. It was this fog bank that rolled in off the ocean, right at su...

nset and Mount Rainier was out and so it was a perfect time to capture this incredible scene that was unfolding and it was basically from left to right, four images I stitched I took many more files than this in that situation but it was such an unbelievably beautiful scene, to have that kind of luck right here, on the night that I'm here was a lot of fun. So I really want to show you these and how to stitch them. So stitching is is really easy. I actually wish that there was a simpler plugin as well and if Adobe makes it great, but it'd be fun if somebody else made it for whatever reason, it doesn't really matter. But all you want to do is send the files out, have them stitched and bring them back into Lightroom. It's really that simple. Photoshop does a great job. What you want to do is the very same things you do to merge you want to sharpen them, you want to remove the chromatic aberrations, so again all those things that we did on the import profile you want to make sure are applied to these files before you stitch 'em. Now, the only difference about this is that you also want to apply some edits that might affect the tonality of the picture more. It will affect it, or degrade the file less, if you do that when it's a raw file. Once you merge it then it becomes a TIFF file and it is not a 32-bit TIFF, OK. So there's probably a way to do that but what I want to do now is show you how to merge some files, some multiple files. So, you grab them, make sure all those edits are made and it's pretty much as simple as right-click or you go up to Photo and you go to Edit In and instead of merge to HDR you choose Merge to Panorama. So, you have to have Adobe Lightroom and you have to have Photoshop to be able to do this. Unfortunately, because these are fresh, hot off the press I didn't make JPEGs. But, it comes up with this dialog box and you have some options to choose over here on the left. You either have Auto, Perspective, Cylindrical, Spherical, Collage or Reposition. Typically, I choose Reposition if I think I've changed by haven't overlapped enough. So you want to choose between Reposition and Auto most of the time. I believe this one works fine in Auto and so that's what I'm going to choose. You also want to make sure you use blend images together that's a good one to check, vignette removal and the other one, don't worry about. You've already done that in your profile, click OK. Now what it's going to do, is it's going to merge them all, it's going to open them all, merge 'em and then blend them. It's just basically an automated script that's running in Photoshop with the layers. If you ever wanted to do this one step at a time you can. Instead of going up to Edit In and merge state panorama, you can go Edit In and then I'll show you in a minute how to open as layers in Photoshop, then you can hand stitch these. That's the way we used to do it in the Dark Ages. But now we can sit back and watch it unfold. Any questions so far on the merge while we're waiting? Yeah, we've got one from earlier a little bit talking about merging the the bracketed images. Is there a noticeable difference between working with three or five or seven bracketing pictures, just thanks, great workshop So, in general, what makes you decide whether you'd need a broader range or? Put it this way, if you have three image files and there's a difference between the the difference of those three files being a one stop bracket difference or a two stop bracket difference, then yes it could be significant. But typically, what you have, is if you have three image files and you go back and look at what I recommended it's basically two stops under normal and two stops over. As long as you've done that, then you've captured the very same dynamic range as if you took five pictures, one stop apart. In that scenario, it depends on your camera body. Some cameras might not have as much dynamic range and so the five images would make a difference, you know. I haven't run a thousand of those both ways through the mill to tell you exactly what the difference is. I have now switched to using oftentimes with the D810, three images, two stops apart, in some area, in many situations where I don't think there's much dynamic range. So, I think, in the in the end, I always recommend five images, one stop apart if you're starting because that guarantees to get as much data as you can. If you go to seven or nine, then that's only because you have so much dynamic range like in the forest when you have those dark black burnout trunks and the bright white sky. OK, here we are, we've got our panorama. Alright so now we're in Photoshop. Don't be scared, it's really easy. What you have to do and I always tell everybody is make sure if you haven't been into Photoshop much a couple things I want you to look at so we're all on the same page is under Window, go to Workspace OK and choose Photography. Because they've mapped out all these tools, the bazillions of tools in Photoshop, so that they're in the same place every time for what most photographers are going to use. So that's gonna put all these here. I believe it defaults to library showing and so the only adjustment I make is to use click adjustments right here. The other thing is in Photoshop you want to make sure that you have your color settings right, because if you export this file and your working space is still in a default mode of sRGB then when you save this you've just lost all the information of your larger ProPhoto RGB color space. That's something I haven't talked a lot about but essentially up until now we've been working in a color space less environment, if you will. Not that it doesn't matter but that you've been working on a raw file OK, and you have a calibrated monitor. So, at that point, you haven't really had to deal with it yet but now you're at the point where you're converting to a TIFF file and you really want to make sure that you convert when you save it to save that larger color space which is ProPhoto RGB. Now, this is really, I don't know the best analogy is that you know imagine a cookie jar and a bunch of cookies in it well if you have ProPhoto RGB or your cookie jar is just a little bigger and you can get more colors in it. It's essentially more space to include more colors and by doing so you're going to capture in reality some of the colors are in a scene just like this one we're looking at right here. At sunset, at sunrise, because some of those colors are extremely close to being out of gamut, if not, are out of gamut the cameras recording something but not exactly what they are. And so if you choose sRGB you're going to lose some those beautiful colors but you'll also lose some of those beautiful potential gradations. That's where I see it make the biggest difference. So, if you're having gradations and your pictures especially dawn and dusk files just make sure you're saving them with the ProPhoto RGB color space and maintaining that workflow all the way through. Because that will make a difference. So, I always tell people if you go into Photoshop for the first time make sure you've changed that in color settings so that when you save the file it preserves that and then your workspace. OK, so we're down over here in what's called the Layers palette and that's on the far right if you have the same workspace. And you can see here that I have the four layers of the images I can actually turn them off by clicking the eyeballs and see what part it used. You can see there there was enough significant overlap so it used very little of that second picture or third picture depending on which way you look at it, but you can go in and choose command one to look at this at 100%. I'm just scrolling around and you can see the amount of detail in there. if somebody were standing out on that building, we could see him or her, so I'll go back to zero. You can see how that enlarged quite nicely. Everything looks sharp. I'm not going to spend the time to go in here and make sure every building is aligned up perfectly but sometimes if it really mattered you would. You'd scroll around make sure that's all correct. So up at the far upper right-hand corner of this dialog box is this tiny little group of bars and a pull down. You want to go in there and you want to come down to flatten image, OK, because you really don't need these layers anymore. Photoshop has done its job, it's merged the files all you really care about is getting the one file. Then, you can either save this into Lightroom or you can make a quick little edit which is the C or crop tool and you're gonna bring this down and up just to get rid of some of those extra pixels and get it close because we don't really want to save it and I'm going to get this side over here on the right the same way and then hit return. Now it's cropped it and then it's just a matter of going up here and saying File, Save. If you just choose save it's gonna import it back into Lightroom, OK. I'm gonna close that, say don't save and go back into Lightroom and then I guarantee you it probably won't look like this right when you open it first but this is after I've made a few edits. Essentially, this is the combination of the stitched and some of the edits. We can look at Lightroom edits really quick, some of the things that I did you can see here, not a whole lot and this is why I bring this up. Now, I really work efficiently in Photoshop and because there's a couple reasons why. Number one, is they have what's called quick masking. Quick masking is a real efficient way of doing the same thing as these masks do up here okay you've got the Radial, the Graduated and so forth. In this situation and in this workflow, I do all those edits inside Photoshop, at least most of them. I get it about 90% of the way there, then I come back into Lightroom and finish with a few edits. Maybe change the white balance, which is what you see right here, I've added a tiny bit of clarity to the whole image and then a little bit of vibrance, OK. There you have it. I can't be happy enough, what a night, you guys did a great job bringing me there. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I think Rainier is sharp. Yeah, it's your reward for doing all the work that you put into this workshop. What a good fun time it was, too. Because everybody was around clicking away, it was just magical and the locals were standing next to me going wow I've never seen this. So, you know it's good then. Mark, real quick? So, when you did snap the picture did you use the pano arm or was it one of these as you mentioned serendipitous moments that you handheld, so you had spur of the moment, what did you do? Good question, yeah some of the equipment was buried in the back of the car and thanks to Aaron he actually dropped me off and then went to park. What I did, is I had the tripod set up with the ball head on and I used a 70 to 200 millimeter lens. So, in that case I don't care about parallax, I can simply put it on the the rotating part of the ball head and unscrew that so it's loose and now I can rotate it left to right. So I got it reasonably level and not entirely accurate because remember you've got the level of the tripod collar and then the level of the tripod head and so you've got to get both perfectly level to be optimal, but I got them very close and then I just started exposing from left to right. Move it over a little bit, click, move it over a little bit, click. I did use the mirror lock-up though because it was in that danger zone, where the shutter speed was at a critical point between, you know, at that danger zone where it's a quarter of a second, or 1/8th of a second or a second so that was critical. Because I checked some of the first shots and they were blurry. Even though everything else was done right, something was moving in that camera. Those are the two main factors and then I just stayed there and kept shooting over and over and over, as did everybody else, but good question thanks for asking. So, combining two images and manual blending. I have a bunch of examples here, I'm going to show you, I think a couple different ones so you get an idea of really the the magic to this is probably the selection in Photoshop and so there's a couple easy ways to do it. And then a couple little more complex ways. First things first though, you really want to get to the point where you've done the exact same things in Lightroom right. You've done your input profile, you've added the luminance, noise reduction and the sharpening, and all those other things we talked about. Again, assuming all that's done, it's as simple as a right-click, Edit In, and this time you're going to say Open as Layers in Photoshop. And away it goes. There's one file, and you can see it going through the script, just open one and now it's still chugging away. Now it opened a second and then you wait for it, and then there you are. I'm in the crop tool, I'm gonna get out of that. Now what you have is same interface here, I've got the adjustments up here. This is my Layers palette. Layers are not that difficult I'll explain a couple things about them. Number one, this little eyeball on the left side if you tap on that eyeball and on and off it turns off and on that layer, OK. So what we're doing by turning that layer on and off right now is we're actually removing from the top of this sandwich that overexposed file and revealing the underexposed file that's below it when we click on it again it's gonna show that file on top of the other file. What's so nice about that is that we can just come in and make a mask, if I can get the bottom of my Photoshop to show, right now, again, I'm on the top layer I'm gonna come down here to the bottom of the palette and I'm gonna add a layer mask, and that's that big white rectangle just to the right of the image icon on the layer. Then I'm gonna choose a brush, so you can tap the B key or come down here in the tool panel and choose a brush and with the brush you have to make sure that what you're going to paint is going to be the opposite of the color of the mask to affect it so at the bottom of the layers palette you have to turn your mask or your foreground in the right orientation so that your painting black on white. Then you make your brush bigger and you have some preferences with the brush they're all up here, the opacity, you can go all the way to 100% for what I'm doing, keep the flow at 100% and then basically paint over the top of this picture and what you're doing is you're eliminating the view of that overexposed part of the sky on the overexposed picture and letting show through the bottom of that picture at the same time while you're combining the other one. So, I said that very complicated. Basically, you're showing the best part of both files and the mask is eliminating the worst part of the top file OK. It doesn't take that long, sometimes I'll give you a pointer that sometimes if this doesn't line up and you go in and you realize that when you've masked and you've looked at these two files something has moved maybe, the camera moved. The way you get around that is you grab both of those layers you come up here to edit and you come down here to Auto-Align Layers, OK. And then choose Auto, hit okay and if you've moved the camera at all then now it's gonna go look at the top of that mountain on both files and line it up perfectly in the same way our other software did. So sometimes, scenarios are when the camera moves you might need to do that. Again, the brush make sure your foreground is checked and in this case I have foreground and background colors shows up if you hover over that tiny little arrow down there. The other shortcut key is to use the X key and that switches back and forth and then you just paint over, well, you have to make the mask first. Click on the mask, good mistake, because it happens and you come down and I paint it typically over an area and then I change the opacity. And if you hit the number key at the top it's the same as moving this opacity slider that's the preference in your brush and then I go down another step further because I don't want 100% all the way down. The other factor about this brush, is that the hardness is all the way at zero. Remember, I said I used in Lightroom the brush tool which I had the the mask all the way the same effect. I want a nice beautiful gradation from the center of the brush to the outside of the brush. The other way to combine these two is, I'm gonna delete that layer mask, make a new one and then hit G which is the gradient tool. That's buried in here, right here, choose that. If you have black to white you can grab that gradient tool as long as you're over the mask come on computer you can do it, and it does the same thing OK. So you don't have to paint with a brush. Now I've done exactly what would be done if you use that Graduated ND filter when you took this picture. But this is why I use this tool, is that now once I've made that mask, as long as I have that mask selected here and I choose that again I can change my tool to the brush tool, make it a little bit smaller and where this tree got dark, I'm gonna hit the X key and now I'm gonna remove some of that dark. What would have been hard to remove in ND filter, out of that part of the bush just with one click. Now my tree looks almost as bright as the bottom. You can add a couple more, you can make the brush a little smaller, come in here and refine just the trees in the background. Maybe even a couple clicks there if you want more light in that dead tree. Kind of get the idea of painting on and off. So after you merge the two photos is there any advantage to do the editing and manipulation in Photoshop versus back in Lightroom? Good question, yes. Because if I go back, if I save this file before I added that luminance to the tree and I saved it in Lightroom or I tried to do that in Lightroom, basically it's going to open up those shadows from an already saved 16-bit TIFF file. But here I have all that beautiful data from this original file taken at the right exposures just sitting right there. All I have to do here is reveal it. Another thing about Lightroom if they got layers that would be great. But we'll wait for that, that's a little bit complicated. So, I think I've shown you some of the more key factors as far as understanding the blending, both you know merging and then manually blending with Photoshop, just to recap, we've also stitched and we've taken a lot of the files that we merged, bracketed and we've merged them together two ways. Both with HDRsoft and with Photoshop. Just a note on that, sometimes I do see a difference. Oftentimes, I don't. I use the HDRsoft version just because it's more convenient, it goes one click and you're done. And then as far as manual blending goes I recommend doing this because really there are all kinds of applications for it. I will not save that and I'll show you one more real quick. This one is remember the two image where we did the flip of the polarizer, come down here to Edit In and then go to open as layers in Photoshop and then what you're going to do is the very same thing. You're just gonna reveal that nice reflection of the bottom of the picture so that you've basically done the exact same thing. But not for exposure, for the polarization effect. And the only reason I want to reiterate this is that in all the pictures I take or tricks that I do whether it's time bracketing, polarizer flip or the hand, the finger filter, they're all blended together in the very same way, OK. Once you learn this method, it's very simple. So here we have the picture for the sky, you make a mask and in this case I'm going to go the graduated filter, bring it up and do exactly the opposite. Reveal the bottom of the file just like that. And now I probably save it because there isn't a whole lot to do of trees dissecting that region. You can see it really doesn't take that long to do this, you just have to run through the process enough so that it's almost second nature

Class Description

Good landscape photography begins with a passion for the great outdoors. Let Marc Muench show you how to capture the beauty of the scenery you love – in a photograph.

Marc is a third-generation photographer with a deep understanding of the magic and technical complexity of landscape photography. In Landscape Photography, he’ll teach you the skills and insights essential to memorable photographs of the natural world. Marc will help you:

  • Develop your eye by connecting with your subject
  • Execute great images in the field
  • Improve your post-production process through Lightroom

Marc will teach his approach to, what he calls, the Creative Trinity of Photography: composition, subject, and light. You’ll also learn how to improve the quality of your shots through Technical Trinity of Photography: ISO, aperture, and shutter.

If you’ve been struggling to take photographs that adequately represent the beauty you see around you, join Marc for Landscape Photography and learn how to translate that scenery into a photograph.