Can’t get far enough back to get all of a tall building in shot? Stitch together multiple shots to create a ‘tiled’ panorama


What you’ll need

Photoshop Elements

How long it’ll take

20 minutes

The skills you’ll learn

• How to create a panorama with the Photomerge command

• How to convert a colour image to black and white

• How to clone out unwanted areas and replace missing detail

If hen you’re photographing tall buildings, if you only have a standard lens and you’re close to your subject you’ll have trouble getting all of it into the frame — and even if you have a wide-angle lens you’re likely to introduce perspective distortion, or ‘converging verticals’ when you point the camera upwards from a low angle. One option is to use a tilt-shift lens, but these are expensive. There is a simple solution, however, and that is to shoot a grid of photos of small sections of the building, and then stitch these images together in Elements to create a two-dimensional, or tiled, panorama.

You don’t need to use a tripod, as you can shoot handheld; you do, however need to make sure that you photograph every part of the building, and leave plenty of overlap between the shots so they can be merged effectively. You need to keep the exposure and white balance consistent too: we recommend that you shoot in Raw, then batch-process the Raw files and save them out as JPEGs before merging them.

Merge the images

1. In Elements go to Enhance > Photomerge > Photomerge Panorama. Click Browse and select the start images, then tick Blend Images Together and press OK to merge the images. Once the images are stitched together you’ll be asked if you want to Auto Fill the edges of the panorama — choose No.

Flatten and save

2. The merged image will appear as a new file, with the component images displayed as layers in the Layers panel. Go to Layer > Flatten image to flatten all the layers into a single layer, then go to File > Save As and save your image as a PSD file. Crop the image to create a stronger composition.

Convert to mono

3. As our image doesn’t contain much colour, we’ll convert it to mono to emphasise the shapes and detail for more impact. Duplicate the ‘Background’ layer, go to Enhance > Convert to Black and White and choose Infrared Effect from the list of presets, as this creates plenty of contrast. Click OK to apply the effect.

Selective sharpening

4. Because the upper parts of the cathedral were further away from the camera they’re slightly soft, so we’ll apply a graduated sharpening effect. Go to Enhance > Unsharp Mask and set Amount to 70% and Radius to 2.6 pixels. To mask the effect from the lower parts of the building add a layer mask, then select the Gradient tool and draw a black-to-white linear gradient from the bottom of the image to around halfway up.

Clone out scaffolding

5. Click the top layer and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to create a merged layer. Next we’ll get rid of the scaffolding. Start by using the Clone Stamp tool to remove the scaffolding on the right side of the left-hand tower, Alt-clicking to sample suitable pixels from the sky and the right side of the right-hand tower.

Replace hidden detail

6. For the left side of the left-hand tower, take the Rectangular Marquee tool and draw a selection over the corresponding area of the right-hand tower. Press Ctrl+V to paste this selection into a new layer, select the Move tool and position the selection over the scaffolded area. Tick Show Bounding Box, and click-and-drag outside a corner of the box to rotate the layer so it’s aligned with the surrounding detail.

Super Tip!

It can take Photomerge a long time to merge large numbers of images, and you can speed up the process by converting your Raw images to smaller JPEG files. Go to File > Process Multiple Files, select your folder of images and specify a destination folder. You can also reduce the dimensions of your images to make the file sizes smaller still: we resized our images to 750 pixels wide.

Phrase Book

Lens distortions

When you photograph tall buildings from close up it’s difficult to avoid introducing perspective distortion or ‘converging verticals’, which makes the building look like its leaning backwards; in addition, if you’re shooting at the wide end of a zoom lens in order to get as much of the subject as possible into the frame you’re also likely to introduce barrel distortion, which makes horizontal and vertical lines towards the edges of the frame bow outwards. Both of these distortions can be corrected at the processing stage, either in Canon Digital Photo Professional or with the Correct Camera Distortion filter in Elements.

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