Panorama Creation

All of my panorama images are multi-shot stitched panoramas.

All of my panorama images are multi-shot stitched panoramas. Some are a single row, some are made from multiple rows. Images are taken with the camera set to the most neutral state possible. No sharpening, no contrast boosting, no ADL/HDR or other software trickery, just a raw shot on manual exposure, manual focus and aperture. Night-time images are always exposed manually, generally exposed to preserve highlight information, with latitude given for a cameras sensor ability to preserve highlight detail when slightly overexposing (ettr) and taking into account specific sensor-ability to recover shadow detail from low iso settings.

Raw files are then developed in Adobe Lightroom in Prophoto colour-space to a desired "neutral exposure" state to fix deviations from changing exposures due to changes in light/conditions. They are then exported as 16-bit TIFF files and either re-edited further in Lightroom to pull out more shadow information and enhance mid tones before being re-exported; then either set of TIFF files are imported into Auto Pano Giga to begin building the panorama.

Auto Pano Giga is a complex but mostly automated panorama stitching application (which is sadly now discontinued!) that most importantly allows the creator to decide what happens where you have images that have subject/object movement across frames (anti-ghosting; and you generally take images with this in mind, knowing if you have a single clean image of an area, you can later erase anything unwanted that appears in subsequent images in a set, like a person, car, boat etc. from that one good/clear image) and it blends images that have large areas of flat colour like skies perfectly, correcting vignette either by lens profile information (I prefer to use Lightroom for this part) and/or by software analysis for each image. It also allows you to, individually or as a set, correct image positions, colour and gamma correction, blending methods, as well as the final 'projection' method used for export. If you are a super-dedicated, it can also process bracketed exposures to create HDR panorama images, but I find I can get pretty close to HDR from single raw files just by having a conscientious workflow. All of this is done in a ram/cpu/gpu hungry real-time editor.

Once complied in APG, which may take several export attempts to fix aberrations and stitching errors, a final TIFF or PSB is exported. These exported files will still have numerous stitching errors and aberrations from changes in position of objects like clouds, shifts in patterns in water, movement of objects, vehicles and people as well as very messy edges, to name a few.
These problems are corrected in Adobe Photoshop and the final stitched panorama is imported into Adobe Lightroom where it finally gets colour, contrast, saturation, clarity and any additional exposure enhancements. There may be several attempts at this stage as Lightroom has a habit of showing up more defects, specifically in flat skies and night skies and other large areas of single tones, as detail is squeezed out of the image.

At this stage the image is print ready, with the exception of being tailored for a specific print substrate, where it would be examined with the ICC print profile loaded in Photoshop to see if any further correction is required for that specific output.

The work-flow is 16-bit until final export where it may be 8-16 bit depending on target file format. This preserves all colour information right up until the final export.
Sharpening is only added (output sharpening) at the time a file is exported as a final jpeg/TIFF for print or web, this prevents any aberrations being introduced from sharpening or over-sharpening as the file is edited or even rescaled during processing or editing.

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