Stitching Techniques Tutorial

Adrian Wayte asked me recently to do a refresher on stitching techniques so I thought I would put a post up going over some of the techniques I have developed over the years for anyone who is interested.

I am not up with the latest technology like my mate Brent and the slick video tutorials so bear with me. At least I guess with a written tutorial it is maybe a little easier to scroll back to a specific area you are looking at!

To start with I confirm that I shoot in RAW and use CS5 and Camera RAW to process the RAW images. Lightroom can easily replace camera RAW if that is the software you are used to.

To start a stitch I set my camera in full manual, with the white balance selected as required. You will need a level tripod and an L bracket so that you can set your camera up in portrait mode. I use a Really Right Stuff Tripod and L bracket. I just about always stitch with a 50mm prime.

Select the scene you want to make a panorama and my good mate Neal Spool uses a cardboard cut out for this purpose cut out at a 3-1 ratio so that you can look through it to visualise the panorama image. I just tend to look left to right visualising where I want to image to start and where I want it to end, then in live view I do a sweep of the scene from right to left viewing the scene in live view.

Decide if your scene deserves 2/3 sky or 2/3 foreground and ask yourself if it needs something in the foreground. If the scene is lacking in the foreground…move left to right to see if there is anything more interesting further around.

Once the scene location has been decided on, click live view on your camera and zoom in to 10x on an area 1/3 out and manually focus on that area..

Set your aperture at something between F8 and F13 and then select the shutter to end up with a reasonable looking histogram (if your camera has that function). Be careful of starting the stitch in a really bright area and ending in a really dark area. It will be easy to either blow the highlights or lose the darks, or both.

So, now that everything is set and you have your release cable attached, start with the left shot and then move the tripod head around to the right and over lay from the last image by 20-30%.

I do a 7 image stitch for a 1-3 composition and a 10 image stitch for a 1-5 composition.

If you are doing a stitch that has any water movement in it. Make sure they are enough control points, or fixed parts of each image to enable the stitching software to work its magic. I always take a few cover shots in landscape mode in case I need to drop a nice wave in to cover up some stitching errors.

To edit, open all the images in Camera RAW. Select the top image and make any white balance adjustments, fill light adjustments, digital grads etc until the top image is close to how you want it. then click ‘select all’ and then sync. Click all the buttons in sync and push OK. In this way all the images will be exactly the same.

Export to photoshop and then immediately save all the images to your desktop.

I use PT GUI to stitch with. It is easily downloaded from the web for about Euro 89…don’t hold me to that, coz its been a while since I bought my version!

Open PT Gui and select the 7 images and then select align images. Check on the various options in PT Gui for the stitching method. Most of the time, I select mercator.

Then go to create panorama. AS a default PT Gui defaults to a small size, so it is important that you select a 16 bit image with no compression and select full size as well.

Export as a TIFF file and name the image what ever you like. Click create image.

A couple of tricks here shown to me by my little buddy Flembotaruny! If your horizon is crooked at align image stage Control click on the right side of the image will allow you to move the horizon up and down until its level. If your horizon is bent, a click in the centre of the image will bring up a hand that will allow you to click and hold moving the image up or down until the bend is gone.

Another trick is if you have shot a water scene, on the last step export as a PSD file, blended with layers. This will allow you to rub in and out the stitching errors in the water. Use a mix of that and the clone tool to get the result you are looking for.

Once the image is saved to your desktop, open back in photoshop, flatten it and do the final processing in photoshop as you would with
any other image.

If you need to use that cover water image you shot in landscape mode, go back to that image and open it in RAW with one of the other synced images…sync the new image with the old…open in photoshop and then open the stitch in photoshop as well. Using the move tool drop the cover image onto the stitch and change the blend mode to darken. This will make the cover image see through so that you can line it up with the background. A move in any directions with your keyboard arrows will move the image 1 pixel in all directions per click. When its close, change the blend mode back to normal and then click on the mask icon whilst holding the option key down. Rub in the bits of the image that work for you using a white brush if you have a back mask.

I have other techniques I use for manual stitching and multi row stitching and stacking that I will leave for another day!

Spring in the Hills Photographic Workshop

I am pleased to announce that I will be doing a photographic workshop in Kalamunda this Saturday for 1.5 hours starting at 1100 hrs.

I will be giving a talk about my journey in the world of photography and some of the techniques I have developed over the years.

This is one image that I will be working up to show how I get to this completed stage.

I will also be showing some manual stitching techniques and also some HDR techniques inspired by Joel Grimes.

Details on the address etc can be found here.

The workshops start at 0900 and also feature other photogs including Tony Hewitt, Neal Pritchard (Mr Spool) and Dylan Fox.

I hope to see some of you there.

Cheers,

True North Mark

Photoshop techniques and tricks

Tonight I thought I would share with you a technique I have been developing to fix problematic cloning issues. The technique is kinda cool and it is like a ‘get outta jail free card’ for some images.

The above image had an issue as the original stitch had a seriously blown out area in the top right hand corner from the setting sun which I was hoping was going to work when I shot it, but it simply didn’t, so rather than bin the shot I started refining this new technique I have been playing with.

In the first instance flatten the stitch if it has not been flattened out of PT GUI or the stitching program. Then Command J, or copy the background.

Then using the quick selection tool to select the sky making sure (in this case) to use the refine edge tool to get all the detail out of the rocks on the upper right and then at the bottom of the refine edge pallet, in the multiple menu, go for apply to selection.

The next step is Command A, Command T or free transform and then grab the side of the image and pull it across until the affected area (in my case the blown out sun slides across behind the rocks together with the islands at the back. When it is far enough across hit return to set the free transform function.

Now apply a mask (the little button next to the layers pallet) and then invert it (command I) and then with a with a white brush at 100% rub in the new detail behind the rocks.

The result is a seamless transition of detail that was not possible to replicate using the clone tool or the content aware tool.

There are a number of variations of this technique that can be used according to what is needed with each image, but hopefully the description above will give you a start to experiment for yourselves.

A word of warning is that you are stretching pixels so little is best!

Prince Regent River Sunset

The Kimberley is a vast area of some of the most amazing scenery on the planet but every now and then she turns it on for you just to show she has much much more up her sleeve for those who care to venture into her realm.

When we were cruising out of the Prince Regent River, home of the famous Kings Cascades, the wind dropped to absolutely nothing and then the True North Captain backed off the throttles to a dead stop so that we could all enjoy the ambience and the changing colours of the sunset.

Our wake caught up with us which made for some really interesting wave lines stretching off into the distance.

This is a 7 image stitch shot with my 50mm prime. My very good mate, Flembot showed me a very cool trick on how to blend such stitches which came in very handing for this shot.

In PT Gui, select the stitch option you want, which was Mercator in this instance. Then when selecting what to save as, select a PSD file and also Blended with layers.

The result will be a blended image with all of the layers showing and the masks showing. To blend the wave lines, it is simply a matter of clicking on each mask and getting the waves to line up.

Another tip I got from Flembot is how to straighten the horizon in PT Gui. Simply hold down the control key on a Mac and click on either side of the image and hold and then twist the image up or down. You can also bend the image if it hasn’t stitched correctly by clicking in the middle of the image and pushing it up or down.

I hope you like the image and the PT Gui tips!

Stacked and Stitched

In preparation for my up and coming trip on True North on Saturday with Christian Fletcher, I set about seeing what I need to do in order to get a file size that could match a Phase One file with my new 5D MK2.

This image is an 8 shot stitch with my 50mm prime, 4 across the top and 4 underneath, but the bottom 4 were also focus stacked.

The resultant file size was 10,000 pixels by 7100 pixels at 300 DPI which is indeed comparable to the Phase files.

This trip coming up will be the start of the Kimberley project that I have been invited to do with fellow Photographers: Christian Fletcher, Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway, Les Walkling and videography will be handled by Mike Fletcher.

I think I will be doing a fair bit of stacking and stitching on this trip!

For those of you who were at my talk at Foto Freo, this shot is a classic example of the techniques we discussed during that talk.

There are still cabins available on the True North with Christian Fletcher next year


Christian Fletcher is joining True North again next year on our second Kimberley cruise which is when the season is just turning and when the Kimberley is at its best. Thunderstorms most evenings and waterfalls just going nuts. The Barra are biting well at that time of year as well, so there is plenty of activities to keep yourself amused!

Xmas is coming up, so why not spoil someone close to you with the trip of a lifetime that should be on the top of everyone’s bucket list, with the bonus of being tutored by the current winner of the Australian APPA awards in the landscape category?

Christian will be on True North with myself to teach everything he knows about photography and how to get stunning landscape images of what is probably Australia’s most untouched paradise. On this years trip we cruised from Broome to Wyndham and did not see one other vessel, or one other person until we were nearly at Wyndham! Not one other soul over 1100nm!

I will be assisting Christian as need be and will also act as the guide having done 10 or more Kimberley cruises now. As you will see with my Kimberley posts from this year, the early Kimberley cruises can produce some amazing results and this cruise is still on the shoulder whereby we can be guaranteed some amazing storms, sunsets and awesome light, together with raging waterfalls and the Kimberley after the wet.

See below for the trip details.

Kimberley Gorges From 07 April 2012 To 14 April 2012
Wyndham – Hunter River/Broome, 7 Nights

The Kimberley Gorges itinerary features the northern half of the Kimberley
Ultimate cruise. Here the landscape is dominated by the Kimberley’s
stunning gorge country including the Berkeley River, the King George Falls
and the Mitchell River. Includes helicopter/aircraft transfer to Broome.

Kimberley Islands From 14 April 2012 To 20 April 2012
Broome/Hunter River – Broome, 6 Nights

The Kimberley Islands itinerary features the southern half of the Kimberley
Ultimate cruise. A totally different Kimberley experience featuring the
mighty Prince Regent, intriguing Montgomery Reef and the exhilarating
Horizontal Waterfalls. Includes helicopter/aircraft transfer from Broome.

The beauty of this trip is that you can either do the first half from Wyndham to the Hunter, or the second half from the Hunter to Broome, or both!

We are working on some incentives for this trip, so stay tuned to both Christian’s and my blog for further updates on proceedings!

Bookings can be made direct to the North Star office.

Please call Holly on 08 9192 1829

Or email reservations@northstarcruises.com.au

Or contact me on: mark@northstarcruises.com.au
Phone: 0418 920 271

Photog get together in Freo

I often get calls from Photogs wanting to go out for a shoot and that has prompted me to think that maybe we should get together for a shoot on a semi regular basis.

I spoke to Mr. Spool yesterday and he is away till later this month, so the first outing will be in Fremantle at 1600 hours on the Friday the 29th of July.

We will meet at Joes fish shack and then take a wander through Fremantle to see what we can get, have some laughs and then back to Little Creatures for a meal and some drinks afterwards.

Anyone interested just register your interest by responding to this blog post so that I have all the numbers in one location and then we will meet on the 29th and have a bit of a catch up.

The above image has a bit of history for me as well. It is an old fishing vessel called Camden and back when I was selling Cummins diesels I sold a new engine to this vessel back in the late 70’s. It hasn’t moved for years, so I wonder what the vessel’s final fate will be? Maybe a dive wreck off the coast somewhere?

Anyway, I look fwd to seeing how many people are interested in the Photog get together.

Australia Day on True North reminder!!!

Just a quick reminder about the up and coming Australia Day Photo training day with guest speakers, Christian Fletcher, Mike Fletcher on video, Tony Hewitt and Nick Reigns.

All of these guys are world class in their respective fields and you can be guaranteed of coming away with more than a few new tricks up your sleeves regardless of your skill level.

Christian Fletcher – I am sure you all know who Christian is!.

Tony Hewitt – The youngest Grand Master Photographer ever. (can see a great composition with his eyes closed)

Nick Rains – Master photographer and editor of Better Digital Camera Magazine (hobbies include reading manuals)

Michael Fletcher – The video Guy (Has a famous brother I believe)

To book your place email or call the True North office. 08 9192 1829  or cruise@northstarcruises.com.au Cost is $295 per person and includes lunch, tea and coffee and 4 world class speakers.

What will make this workshop special is the depth of knowledge the speakers have. Tony is one of Australia’s leading visual artist, in fact one of the worlds leading visual artists with wins at WPPI in Las Vegas against photographers from other countries.

Nick is one of the smartest men in photography today, his humour and presentation skills will have you wanting more.

Michael is the leading dslr video exponent in the state with stunning visuals and all the techniques to share that will have you shooting and editing masterpieces to rival the best in hollywood!

As for Christian, he will be bringing to the table the latest photoshop techniques he is using and more.

At only $295 per head which will include the trip to Rottnest on True North, lunch and afternoon snacks and beach excursions, this is a photo training event not to miss.

Team DIgital and Rod Thomas have also kindly sponsored the event with some wonderful prizes on offer for the annual True North, Rottnest photo competition.

We are now past half full so please get in early so that you don’t get disappointed.

The True North will be departing from North Port Boat Lifters at 0900 hours on the 26th of January. and returning back to the same place at about 2230.

The address is:

2/4 Sultan Way
North Fremantle

I look fwd to welcoming you all on board.

Cheers,

True North Mark!!!

Manual Stitching Technique I use for difficult stitches

OK…here goes for my first on line Tutorial!

Toneman asked me how I go about stitching difficult water based stithces that don’t have enough detail in them to blend in PT Gui and the likes.

I have developed a technique that works, but is a little time consuming, but with a little practise it certainly produces the results and often better than using PT Gui!

I start with a new file in Photoshop that I make much larger than what I expect the overall size of the image to be…say 20,000 pixels x 5,000 pixels at 300 dpi.

I then do all of the pre processing in Camera RAW (or in Lightroom I guess if that is your gig), but an important step here is to ensure that each of your images you are about to stitch have very straight horizons, or it will make the next phase very difficult.

Save each of these images onto your desktop as TIFF’s and then pull in the first and most left hand image straight onto the new file you have created. Note, don’t bother going through photoshop…just pull it straight in and it will come in as a smart object. Get it close to where you want and then push enter and it will become a new layer.

Then pull in the next image and align it as close as you can whilst its a smart object. Hit enter and get the alignment right by reducing down the opacity a little to assist you with the alignment. Create a mask after you have the alignment right and then with your soft brush at 100 % opacity and the foreground opposite to the mask, blend in the join. If you go too far to the right, change the foreground colour to white and bring it back.

Make sure you get this blend right and then repeat the process for each of the stitches until you have a complete stitch.

Note also here, that if you have a lot of wave movement sometimes it is cool to bring your opacity back to 30% and experiment with painting in and out from the different wave movements from each of the shots.

Once you think you have everything aligned I look at the stitch at 50% to see how the horizon is. Sometimes there will be a couple of gitches so what you can do at this stage is to flatten the image and then repull in the best image to fixe the glitch as a smart object..align it to cover up the glitch…create a mask and then rub in just the horizon to fix your problem..far better than trying to clone!

When it is all good then flatten, crop and process as you would your normal newly formed stitch.

Vola…that is my technique…somewhat cumbersome, but it has now saved many a stitch for me that would have been bin models if I was relying on the automatic stitching software and I feel that this technique is also easier than trying to manually put in control points as well!