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Using the New Photo Merge Panorama and Photo Merge HDR Tools in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC (2015 release)


  1. Merging photos into an HDR image

Article Description

This excerpt from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Classroom in a Book shows you how to use the Photo Merge tools for Panorama and HDR, which are new to Lightroom CC.

The new Photo Merge Panorama tool makes it easy to create striking panoramas.

  1. In the Library module, switch to the Grid view; then, click the Import button. In the Import dialog box, navigate to and select the Lesson 6 > Photo Merge folder. In the Keywords box, type Lesson 6, Develop, Merge; then, click Import.
  2. Shift-click to select the five photos, DSC_0072.jpg through DSC_0076.jpg; then, press Control+M or choose Photo Merge > Panorama from the Photo menu.
  3. Resize the panorama preview window to see the preview at its maximum size. In the options pane at the right, toggle the projection (the method used to align and merge the source images) between the auto-selected Spherical and the Cylindrical method. When you’re done, set the latter option for this exercise.
  4. For our lesson photos, the Perspective projection would be unable to merge the images; it usually works best with smaller selections of photos that share well-defined lines of perspective, in contrast to the clutter of chaotic angles in this street scene from Monschau, Germany. The Perspective projection designates the middle photo as the reference image, and then transforms the images at either side to match the perspective in that photo, while aligning overlapping content.

    The Cylindrical and Spherical projections avoid the “bow-tie” distortion of the Perspective layout, and therefore, usually minimize the amount of the merged panorama that needs to be cropped away. The Cylindrical setting is best suited to wide views, while the Spherical projection is perfect for sets that make up full, 360-degree panoramas. The Auto Select Projection setting lets Lightroom choose the projection method that is most likely to work best for the selected images.

  5. In the Panorama Options pane, activate Auto Crop; then, click Merge.
  6. Lightroom calculates the optimum crop and saves the merged panorama in DNG format, to the same folder (and collection) as the source photos. Like all Lightroom edits, the crop remains “live;” you can tweak the crop area in the Develop module.

  7. In the Grid view, select the image DSC_0072.jpg. In the Quick Develop panel, set the White Balance to Auto, and then click twice on the left-most button for Highlights. Shift-click the image DSC_0076.jpg to select all five photos, and then repeat the merge; develop settings from the active image (the “most selected” image) are applied to the merged panorama.

Merging photos into an HDR image

For harshly-lit subjects with deep shadows, back-lit scenes, and landscape photos, where there is usually a lot of contrast between the land and sky, choosing an exposure level always involves a compromise. A setting that produces a good exposure in the darker areas will “burn out” the highlights, while a setting that captures detail through a window behind a back-lit subject, or the colors in a sunset sky, will make a silhouette of the foreground elements or leave the landscape in shadow.

The new Photo Merge HDR tool lets you combine different exposures of the same subject to produce a High Dynamic Range image—a photo with a broader and deeper range of color and tone than can be captured in a single shot.

The first step is to capture multiple photos at a range of different exposures using your camera’s exposure bracketing mode. For this exercise, you’ll work with a pair of images from a fishing village in Thailand.

  1. In the Library module, click the Lesson 6 > Photo Merge folder in the Folders panel; then select the photos DSC05637.jpg and DSC05639.jpg.
  2. Both of our lesson photos, shot in the glare of a hazy, tropical mid-morning, have dull, flat colors and a deficient distribution of tonal values; however, the lighter exposure has color and shadow detail that is absent in the darker image, while the lower exposure does not have the same problem with burned-out highlights.

  3. Press Control+H or choose Photo Merge > HDR from the Photo menu. Resize the merge preview window to see the preview at its maximum size. In the options pane at the right, Auto Align is enabled by default; unless you’re using a tripod, you’ll want to keep it that way. Disable the Auto Tone option; for this exercise, you can make your own tonal adjustments. By default, the Deghost Amount is set to None; for this exercise, set it to Medium. Toggle the Show Deghost Overlay option to see where deghosting has been applied; then, click Merge.
  4. Even with automatic alignment, camera shake and the movement of elements such as waves (and boats) or foliage can result in ghosting in the merged image, usually noticeable as an offset double image, or sometimes as an unnatural smearing, especially on water. Deghosting detects these problems and resolves them by making one or other of the source images predominant when blending the affected areas.
  5. Lightroom saves the merged HDR image in DNG format, to the same folder (and collection) as the source photos. In the majority of cases, the HDR merge will not be your finished product, but an information-enhanced version of your source images that will be far more responsive to further editing.

  6. Select the merged image and switch to the Develop module. Decrease the Exposure to -0.5, the Contrast to -10, and the Highlights to -100. Set a value of 50 for Shadows, 25 for Whites and Clarity, and increase the Vibrance to 20.