Make a surreal mini planet
Take panoramic images full circle to create weird and wonderful miniature planets. Dan Mold shows you how to do it from start to finish.
Bend panoramic pictures to create a tiny world full of incredible detail.
YOU’D BE HARD-PUSHED to find a smartphone that can’t shoot a panorama. Pointing the camera at one end of the scene and moving it towards the other as you take a series of images, it’s then magically stitched together to produce one long vista that includes every detail in between. They can be great fun to experiment with. Our quirky miniature planet cleverly manipulates these long panoramic images, rolling them up and bending them around to make the two ends meet.
If you already have a panorama that you’ve taken on a phone you can jump straight ahead to Step 5 to get started. But if at all possible, it’s best to shoot on a DSLR or CSC for optimum picture quality and better results, so we’re showing you how to shoot and stitch your own pano from Step 1 below.
There’s some brilliant fun to be had from the random results of this effect. You won’t find any two tiny planet images looking exactly the same, as even changing the crop slightly to give more weight to the foreground or background will change the size of your globe and alter how much sky appears in the resulting image.
Finding a scene with a uniform colour in the foreground, such as the green foliage in this shot, will make it easier to stitch the two ends together without obvious joins. It’s also a good idea to shoot on a day when it’s partly cloudy as this will give you some extra detail in the sky and include some interesting structures in the frame, like skyscrapers or the bridge that we used, will make your planet look more mind-bending. Most panoramic images cover a 180° field-of-view, but if you shoot an entire 360° you’ll find it even easier to stitch the two ends of your panorama together as they’ll join up seamlessly.
So now it’s time to get stuck into the step-by-step below to see how you can turn your very own panoramas into miniature planets.
1 Assess your panoramic location
You’ll need a wide-spanning vista that’ll make a good panorama in its own right, as well as look great as a tiny planet. Keep foreground interest to a minimum and compose around buildings or trees in the distance. The bridge in this image also adds an interesting element as it curves around the ‘planet’. Ideally, you’ll want to use a short telephoto focal length around 70mm (full-frame) to take your images. Using a telephoto lens will also minimise lens distortions and make it easier to stitch your images, as wide-angles can result in barrel distortion which makes the process more difficult. Make sure there aren’t any large structures at the edges of your panorama as these will be harder to clean up. It’s also great if you can get a few clouds in the sky as this will add extra depth to the finished image.
2 Shoot your panoramic pictures
Put your camera into its aperture-priority mode and set an aperture of f/11 for a strong depth-of-field then boost the ISO until you get a fast shutter speed of 1/400sec or faster to eliminate camera shake. Zoom in to around 70mm. Focus on trees or buildings in the distance then change over to manual focus mode to make sure this doesn’t slip from image to image. You’ll also want to hold down your exposure lock button so that the exposure doesn’t change between your shots. Shoot JPEG or RAW – we’ll show you how to convert your RAWs in the next step. Now take the first image in the sequence on the left and pivot to take the next picture, ensuring there’s at least a 30% overlap with the previous shot, until you have taken all of the pictures to make up the panorama.
3 Convert your RAW files
Open all of your RAWs into Photoshop ACR and hit Ctrl+A to select them. Your RAW adjustments will now be applied equally to all of the pictures. When you’ve processed your image, go to Save Image and choose the folder you want to save your JPEG images to, and hit Save.
4 Merge your shots into a panorama
In Photoshop go to File> Automate> Photomerge then click Browse and select all of your JPEG panoramic pictures. Now make sure Blend Images Together is ticked and hit OK. If you’re using Elements, instead open up your panoramic JPEGs then go to the Guided Mode and choose
Photomerge> Photomerge Panorama then hit Create Panorama. Depending on how many images you used and how large they are it may take a while for Photoshop to stitch them together.
5 Crop out the corners and tidy up the result
It’s very likely you’ll have gaps around the corners and edges where the pictures don’t quite match up. Don’t panic – it’s part of the process to either crop these parts out or fill them in. It’s easiest to do a mixture of both, so grab the Crop Tool from the Toolbox and crop in slightly to remove a good portion of the gaps then hit Return to apply it. To fill in the blank spaces, grab the Spot Healing Brush Tool from the Toolbox and resize with the [ and ] keys until it’s a suitable size to brush over all of the offending areas. Don’t worry if the end result looks a bit rough and ready as it’s going to be so distorted when turned into a mini planet that you won’t be able to tell.
6 Turn your image upside down
Merge all of your layers by going to Layer> Flatten Image and then flip it upside down by going to Image> Image Rotation>180° or Image> Rotate> 180 in Elements. Doing this ensures the image is bent outwards to create a planet effect, rather than inwards like a tunnel effect (see Genius panel at end).
7 Stretch the image to make it square
For this technique to work you need to make the image square so go to Image> Image Size in Photoshop or Image> Resize> Image Size in Elements and uncheck Constrain Proportions – this is a chain icon in Photoshop. Set the Width and Height to 50cm with a Resolution of 240 and hit OK.
8 Bend the pano into shape
It’s now time to apply the filter that will bend your panorama into a circular shape. Have a look in your Layers panel (Window>Layers) and check that your Background Layer isn’t locked – click the lock icon to unlock it. Now go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. Make sure Rectangular to Polar is checked and then hit OK to apply.
9 Fix the hard line where the edges meet
Your panorama will now be bent around with the edges touching, where you’ll see an obvious hard line. You’ll need to remove this, so grab the Clone Stamp Tool from the Toolbox, set the Opacity to 20%, then hold the Alt key and click on a point to source. Brush over the hard line to remove it.
10 Boost the colours for even more impact
Ensure your miniature planet really stands out by hitting Ctrl+U to bring up the Hue/Saturation panel and then drag the Saturation to the right until the colours look nice and vibrant, then hit OK to apply. Finally, save your image with File>Save As and save your finished planet with a new filename.
OVERLAP EACH SHOT BY 30%
PARTLY CLOUD SKY INTERESTING STRUCTURE CONSISTENT GREEN FOLIAGE ACROSS THE LOWER THIRD