Yesterday I wrote about a photography technique I played with during my last trip to Europe. Called “composite photography,” it basically consists of shooting several frames and then stitching them together to create a single image.
It’s very handy when you’re in a tiny enclosed space — or when the subject is too big to fit in a single frame. The results can look something like this:
… or this:
“How do you DO that?” you may be wondering. I’m glad you asked. The technique I’m about to describe uses Photoshop, but I’ll suggest some alternatives at the end of the post.
Step 1: Shoot something!
Shoot several frames until you’ve captured your entire subject. Make sure to overlap some of the content amongst successive frames, and shoot plenty of content around the periphery so you can crop the image later. Including a distinctive object in your composition (like, say, a lady in red pants) helps Photoshop work a little faster and more accurately.
Step 2: Open the files
In Photoshop, open the files you want to merge. Then go to File > Automate > Photomerge.
Step 3: Choose your merge files
A dialog box will ask you which files you want to merge. Choose “Add Open Files.”
Step 4: Grab a cup of coffee
Depending on your computer and the number/size of your files, Photoshop may take a minute or two to work its magic. Go grab a cup of coffee and congratulate yourself for being so clever.
Step 5: Flatten the image
As you sip your tasty coffee, you’ll soon see a composite of your photos. If something is misaligned simply choose the portion of the image in question and jostle it around until it looks right. Otherwise, flatten the image into a single layer.
Step 6: Fix the perspective
Your image may look a little distorted, especially if you shot the individual frames from different vantage points. Select the entire image and use either the “distort” or “warp” tools to correct any perspective problems.
Step 7: Crop and save
Once you’re satisfied with the perspective of your image, crop it and save it to your desktop (or other favorite workspace).
You can now give your image the finishing touches such as color-correction and sharpening, and then save a final version. Here’s mine:
This is just a suggested workflow, of course. There are a million other ways to create composites, including several kinds of dedicated software. You may wish to check out acropano, easypano, panavue, PTGui, and Autostitch (though I can’t personally vouch for any of ’em). Many camera manufacturers also include some sort of stitch function in their proprietary software, and smart phones are increasingly offering that feature built-in, too.
In any case … if you create your own composites, please send me a link. I’d love to see your photos!