Written by Amy Berge
In March of 2017, I went on a trip to Arizona with my mom, brother, and sister. It was the second time we had gone to Arizona, but the first time I was shooting all film. I picked up a Nikon N80 for $20 (Find at KEH Camera or on eBay) and a 28-80mm 3.3-5.6G lens for $15. For $35, I had a system that weighed practically nothing, and it could be thrown into my backpack without worrying too much about damage while hiking around. I knew Michael Scott would be proud of my win-win-win.
Horseshoe Bend and the Need for Photomerging
The system was working great until Horseshoe Bend.
Ah, Horseshoe Bend. If you haven’t been there, DO IT. It is the most majestic view I have ever encountered. The entrance is so unassuming; you have to intentionally watch for one of those tiny brown signs on the side of the road. It will whisper to you to turn into the dirt and gravel parking lot. Then, as you get out of your car and try to find the path leading up a small hill, you’ll wonder if you found the wrong Horseshoe Bend. No asphalt. No welcome center. Nowhere to pay money or buy trinkets.
But then, you’ll reach the top of the hill and fight the urge to look like an excited six year old running to hug Mickey Mouse. So you’ll keep your cool (because you don’t want a teen with a cell phone to record you stumbling like an idiot and wind up finding the video on Instagram) and walk down the hill toward the most beautiful scene you’ve ever encountered.
I navigated the scene well. I kept my cool and scouted out the exact location with the best view. I pointed my camera, widened the lens as far as it could go………and……..
Apparently, my $35 setup had limitations. The view was so expansive I couldn’t capture it with my lens. I needed to figure out a way to do it at least a little bit of justice.
That’s when I took a cue from my iPhone in panoramic mode. I turned my camera vertically, pivoted my body, snapped six shots, and crossed my fingers that something could be used by Photoshop. Turned out, with the help of the Photomerge feature, it could, and I ended up with a version of Horseshoe Bend that elicits the memory of being up there.
In fact, I loved this technique so much I did it a few times at the Grand Canyon.
What Is Photomerge
So what is Photomerge? Photomerge is a feature in Photoshop that will stitch several pictures together into one image, in this case, a panoramic image.
I think it’s an easy-to-learn technique every photographer should have in his or her back pocket. To watch me as I snap the shots, head over to my IGTV channel (@itsamyberge) or click this link to watch on a computer: https://www.instagram.com/itsamyberge/channel/
But this blog post is where I want to show you the stitching process. All you have to do is click some buttons and Photoshop does the rest for you. Sit back and watch the magic happen. You can also do it in Lightroom, but I find taking the extra step of opening the files in Photoshop is SO WORTH IT. Photoshop does a better job at merging the seams (especially for film shooters where each photo isn’t RAW, and they’re harder to merge due to inconsistencies with scanning).
How To Create A Panoramic Image With Photomerge
So here you have it: Amy Berge’s Embarrassingly Easy Steps To Creating Jaw-Dropping Landscapes
If you need Photoshop, you can pick up Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan with Photoshop and Lightroom here on Amazon.
- Open all the photos you want to merge in Photoshop
- Select File->Automate->Photomerge
- Include the files you just imported into Photoshop by selecting “Add Open Files”
- Guess which “layout” you want (I literally guess. Sometimes I go back and try again if I don’t like my results. In this example I found Cylindrical to work best. I don’t think I’ve ever used anything other than Auto, Perspective, and Cylindrical.)
- Check all the boxes at the bottom of the screen to allow Photoshop to correct distortion, remove vignetting, and fill in anything missing. It usually rocks at all of this, so I go with it.
- Hit “OK”.
- Watch the magic happen
At this point I save it and bring it back into Lightroom, because that’s where I keep all my files for browsing.
And here you have it. If you find yourself in front of a sweeping vista with your own $35 setup you will now have the tools to walk away feeling like you cheated the system.
Thank you so much, Amy! Amy is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, including tutorials on how to develop b&w and color film!
Leave your questions about using Photoshop’s photomerge function below in the comments!