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.

Practical Photography (UK) - - Contents -

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.



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