Seeing The Big Picture

Panoramas usually are associated with sweeping landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes. However, you can use the pano technique in relatively tight places, too—such as on a narrow street—as I did here for one of my favorite panos from a trip to Cuba. Cool, no?

If you’ve never tried a panorama image, here are a few quick tips for creating them easily in Photoshop, in both tight places and in wide-open spaces. You also can use these techniques for creating panos in Photoshop Elements and other panoprograms and plug-ins.

1. Use The One-Third Rule.

When shooting for a pano, overlap your images by at least one-third. This Adobe Bridge screen grab shows that I actually overlapped a bit more than that. Better safe than sorry. I recommend you set your camera on Manual exposure so that the exposures match up. It’s also best to use a tripod. Better yet, use one with a panorama head so that your exposures are level. That said, I handheld my camera and had it set on the aperture priority mode for the pano you see here.

2. Pano From Adobe Bridge.

First, select your set of images in Adobe Bridge. Then go to Photoshop > Tools > Photomerge. In CS3 and CS4, Photomerge is about a million times better than in previous versions.

3. Experiment With Layouts.

This next tip is very important. Don’t get discouraged if your first pano’s alignment is out of whack. You may need to select a different Layout. For example, the Cylindrical setting produced the best pano for my set of images shown here.

The Perspective setting produced a very wacky and unacceptable image.

After your images and Layout are selected, all you need to do is press OK and wait—the larger the files, the longer your wait. I say that because you may want to downsize your pano files and experiment with different Layouts before you get to work on your large-file panos.

4. Expect To Crop.

When your pano is created, you’ll lose some picture area at the top, bottom and sides of the frame, as illustrated by this screen grab. With that in mind, when you’re composing pictures for a pano, leave some extra space around your main image area. That will help to ensure that you won’t lose important areas of the scene. Leave more room than you think you’ll need.

My final tip: Have fun creating panoramas—and experiment!

Rick Sammon is the author of 34 books (at last count) and teaches workshops around the world. Visit with Rick at

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