Automation

Thankfully this is very easy. You can try to stitch all these images manually if you have an abundance of time and a masochistic tendency, but seriously... you have better things to do. There are a lot of options here and several of them are free.

Pre-Stitch Processing

You can put your batch of images (from the camera) straight into the Stitching process. Most software will do a pretty good job of eliminating the vignetting and distortion, but for best results you can help out by doing this process manually beforehand. You don’t have to shoot RAW for this, although it does help. These are some basic steps I follow before importing the images to the stitching software:

  • Vignette removal

  • Distortion correction

  • Lateral Chromatic Aberration removal

  • White Balance changes

  • Highlights & Shadow Retrieval

  • Curves Adjustment

(profiles or manual)

(profiles or manual)

(manual)

(better with RAW)

(better with RAW)

(better with RAW)

Stitch Settings

This will depend greatly on which software you’re using. I have not used them all, but here are some common themes to look out for:

  • Image Quality

  • Rotation Type

  • Automatic Lens Corrections

  • Blending

  • Projection

Manual Stitch 2c.jpg

Post-Stitch Processing

After I crop the resulting stitch, I tend to take the image back in to Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) for a bit more processing. Your image is no longer a RAW (although you might be able to output a higher bit-depth, which will help), so it won’t open here by default. If your image is open in Photoshop CC this can be done by pressing ‘Ctrl+Shift+A’. I then usually apply the following changes:

  • White Balance (fine tune)

  • Post crop vignetting

  • Curves (fine tune)

  • Exposure Gradient

Hardware Requirements

You don’t need a powerful computer for this, but of course it won't hurt. It more depends on how long you’re prepared to wait. I’m not aware of any software that does this on a mobile device yet with any degree of control, so a proper PC (Windows, Mac or Linux) is a minimum requirement.

Software Options

Common image editors have the ability to stitch (Photoshop, Lightroom, Affinity etc.). Although they’re not free, you’re likely to own one already so it’s often a good place to start. They do tend to be lacking in advanced features and are usually slow to process so if you’re looking for something better - here’s a list of some dedicated options:

  • Microsoft ICE (Free)

  • Hugin (Free)

  • Autostitch (Free)

  • Kolor AutoPano ($100-200)

  • PTGui (Free / $100)

  • Panorama Plus X4 (£20)

  • ArcSoft Panorama Maker ($80)

  • PanoWeaver 9 ($100-300)

Photoshop has the ability to stitch RAW files so that might be a good option if you’re going for extreme quality, but bear in mind that even 6 megapixel images will make final results in the hundreds of megapixels, so you may not need it. My personal favourite currently is Microsoft ICE. Although it is free it is PC only. I find it easy to use, fast to process and it has the best projection options that I have seen, even emulating a perspective correction lens (shift lens).

 

Stitching single images of mostly blur often means they get left out with the software mentioned so far. Some software has the ability to align these through manually adding control points (Hugin). I find this tedius however, if you do as well then try AutoStitch. It’s very old & basic, has no projection options and only inputs/outputs jpgs, but it does a great job with very blurred images and it blends between each image extremely well when they don’t quite align.

 

NOTE: Many dedicated stitching software (Kolor Auto Pano, Serif Panorama Plus X4 & ArcSoft Panorama Maker) have been discontinued over the years, thus this section is much shorter than it once was.

Stitching Errors: Solutions

No matter how hard you try some stitches fail. There may be nothing you can do, but some times it’s fixable with some small tweaks. Here are some solutions that have saved my stitch from oblivion. It could be caused by a lack of overlap, a large amount of blank area in several photos (like over-exposed sky), motion blur, excessive camera movement (not pivoting around the lense’s nodal point), a failure to lock settings (perhaps your white balance or focus shifted). It could be any or many things.

 

If you’re convinced that there is no reason it’s not working there may still be hope. Of course you could stitch the images manually, but if that just sounds silly to you, here are some other options:

  • Use different stitching software

  • Remove potentiallly problematic images

  • Try stitching smaller parts of the batch

konserthuset_32228768207_b.jpg

Fixing Parallax Errors

Parallax errors are a break in the image alignment. Some of the details will not match up between frames, either because something in your scene moved, or more likely; you rotated / moved the camera incorrectly during the shoot (see right).

 

This will be easier for people with advanced knowledge of Photoshop. Even if this is the case it will likely be more time consuming than the rest of the process. If you don’t want to (or can’t) fix these kinds of issues in the post processing then do your best to avoid those errors early on (refer to ‘Camera Rotation’ ).

 

This issue usually isn’t easily noticeable in things like foliage. If you have some light wind affecting those elements in your scene you might be surprised at how little the errors show. Geometric detail alignment issues are the big issue here. Most of the time you will be able to fix a small issue by choosing a single image covering the affected area, pasting it over the top, aligning it and masking a small area over the stitch error. Bear in mind that aligning these areas will get more complicated the closer they are to the corners of the stitch when using certain projections methods (eg. Perspective).