How to Photomerge
When I first started photographing seriously in the late 1980’s I was shooting film. I had a 35mm camera and also had a medium format, twin lens reflex Yashicamat camera. The medium format film was very attractive to me because the print quality from such a large negative was amazing, when compared to little, old 35mm. Also, the larger cameras were so clunky and difficult to use that it forced me to slow down and really contemplate what I wanted to shoot. This is a good change from my normal Speedy Gonzalez pace. In 2003 I switched to digital photography, happily tearing out my darkroom and selling off my Bronica camera gear for a fraction of what it originally cost me. I love digital photography, but I have missed that impeccably sharp print quality.
Now, I shoot with a Canon 7D using the RAW format. So each resulting image file is 51 MB or 17.28” by 11.493” at 300 dpi. You can make really nice, large prints from these. But I have found a way to cheat and get a HUGE file in certain situations. I call them panos, or panoramas.
Let me give you an example. I recently spent a week on Fripp Island in South Carolina. On our street there is a marsh that was host to a large gathering of egrets. I normally see these elegant, white birds alone or maybe in a pair. So for me it was exciting to see so many together! I could have taken one image of them and then cropped it to a long, skinny shape, or a horizontal panorama. But that would reduce the file size from 51MB to 25MB and the print quality would suffer. So I put my camera on a tripod and took a series of photos scanning the scene from left to right. I usually do this two times, back and forth. Then I downloaded the images into my computer and selected five that covered the whole scene. I color corrected them so they all had the same hue and exposure. Now it is time to photomerge!
Look at the images in Adobe Photoshop Bridge. Select all images (crt + a) and click on Tools < Photoshop < Photomerge. A photomerge dialogue box will come up. I usually select AUTO to see if Photoshop can do a good enough job for me. If the panorama comes up looking crazy I will try again with the other options. Interactive Layout is good if you want total control. But in the case of the beautiful egrets, the auto option worked perfectly. I cropped the image and flattened it and now it is all ready to be sent to the lab for a HUGE print. Below are some other examples of panoramas I have taken.
This was taken at the wedding reception for Julia Lacy and Jesse Gaylord. The gigantic reception site, Bay 7 in Durham, NC can only be accurately capture with a panorama. What a cool space!
My yard a couple of years ago in Chapel Hill, NC.
The C.W. Stanford Middle School band this past fall. This panorama is made up of 10 photos all taken in quick succession and then joined together to make one huge photomerge. This was the only way I could create a really sharp, focused image of such a large group. When dealing with images of people, they often shift around a bit while I am panning with my camera. Sometimes after the photomerge in Photoshop a head or two looks crazy. You can always head swap.
This is the Nasher Museum in Durham, NC, all dressed up for the wedding of Jen Singer to Lev Kaye.
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented, please write to me at email@example.com.