After-Before Friday Week 11

I always like to participate in Stacy Fischer’s After-Before Friday Forum where photographers can exchange ideas on how to achieve their artistic vision.  The best part is seeing what the others are doing and I hope you will zip right over there right after you finish reading this.  Spoiler Alert: The link to her blog is at the end of this post.

This week, I thought that it might be interesting to talk about a specific technique rather than go through the entire post process of a selected image.  One of my favorite tools is the so-called “Photomerge” process in Photoshop.  The technique can be used to solve a variety of problems and is most often used to maintain sharpness in large prints.  In this case, however, I used it to compensate for the fact that I did not have a super-wide lens at a time I needed it.  The location is Mitchell Pass in Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska. The “Before” image here shows two separate images taken a few seconds apart.  Both have already been through Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and the next step for them was the Photomerge process.  (Technical Data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens set at 24mm; Exposure: 1/60th sec. at f/13, ISO 400.)

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   The Two Starting Images, after ACR

There are any number of ways to merge multiple photographs but I have not tried any outside Photoshop.  But the following steps seem to work for me, so why go searching?  After the ACR process, the two images were opened as .NEF files in Photoshop.  To get things started, the following file sequence was used: File->Automate->Photomerge.  This opens the Photomerge dialog box (See image Below).

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The Photomerge Dialog Display Panel

The next step is to click the “Add Open Files” button (Red Arrow) which brings in all files that you may have open at the time.  Just select those not wanted (blue highlight) and click on “Remove. “On the left is the “Layout” pane with a variety of different Photomerge procedures.  It’s best to start with “Auto” if you’re not sure and that is the choice made here.  Finally, make sure the “Blend Images Together” box is checked.  Then click OK.

The computer will churn for a little bit, depending on how many images are being merged and how much RAM is available.  If you are lucky, you will get something like the image below which is fairly easy to deal with.  This isn’t the place to go into all the rules about taking panorama images (most of which can be broken), but generally the wider the arc of your camera, the more challenging the merge process becomes.  In this case, we have only two images with a slight upward arc.  At this point, the image has two layers (red arrow) and it is necessary to flatten the image before going any further.

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The Initial Result from the Photomerge Process

In this example, a simple crop could be applied to eliminate the blank space, but sometimes it is desirable to keep some of the image rather than be forced to crop it out.  Two ways to get around this problem involve the Transform function and the Content-Aware Fill function.  So let’s say we want to keep all of the bottom information in this image.  First, select the entire image, then use the command sequence: Edit->Transform. A display sub-panel opens with a bunch of choices.  “Distort” was used in this case.  (See blue highlights in the Image below)

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Launching the Edit->Transform Function

A border will appear around the image, similar to the crop tool with control points in the corners.  It is also possible to segment the image into 9 control areas by clicking the icon (not shown) at the top of the main Photoshop Window.  This shows up in the location indicated by the red arrow above after the Edit->Transform command is executed.  When selected, there are 16 control points, one at every intersection of the dividing lines (See Image below).  After some adjustments with the control points, mainly on the bottom and left side (See blue arrows in the Image below) all of the bottom information and much of the left side have been preserved.

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After the  Transform Moves Have Been Made

But suppose it was necessary to avoid losing anything on the left side.  It is at this point we arrive at an ethical issue.  Is it “cheating” to create something that was not there?  If the answer is “No,” then the Content-Aware Fill procedure might be chosen.  After a unanimous No vote, the Polygon Lasso Tool was used to select the empty area (See black arrow in the Image below), making sure the Feather control was set to 0 pixels.  Then the command sequence: Edit->Fill was used and the Fill display box appeared.  Select “Content-Aware” in the Use: box, “Normal” in the Mode: box and set Opacity at 100%. No other boxes should be checked. Then click OK.

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Setting up for the Edit->Fill->Content-Aware Action

The computer will churn again for a brief moment or two and Voila!   The result is shown in the image below.  In this case, and most of the time, it is impossible to tell that what is there in the new image wasn’t there when it was taken. (Please note that in this screen capture image the right  and bottom sections of the Photoshop display window are chopped off.)

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From here all that is needed is a simple crop eliminating the jagged edge on the right, a couple of adjustment layers (Curves and Hue/Saturation) and the final result is shown below.  Thanks again to Stacy for keeping this forum going. Please check out the other examples of “After-Before” at her Blog here.

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Final Image

20 thoughts on “After-Before Friday Week 11

  1. Pingback: After-Before Friday Week 11 | Visual Venturing

    • Thanks very much. I’m sure you will find The Content Aware Fill quite useful. In addition to filing in those jagged edges on a photomerge, its more common application is to remove something from the image that is unwanted. It often amazes me with what one can do with it.


  2. I really like this image Robin. I love the lighting, especially in the foreground. You brought all of the elements together very nicely.

    BTW, I found Dante. He has been working at Ace for 4 months now. He flat out said that the 810 is the only way to go given the choice. I’ll also get the 24-70 2.8 that you referenced here. Do you have a wider lens too that you use? thanks, Michele Sent from my iPad



    • Thanks, Michele. I had heard Dante was there, but haven’t been out to visit him yet. That’s great you are going for an 810 and you will love the 24-70 f/2.8. I do have a wider lens, the 14-24mm f/2.8, but I don’t use it that much. However, it was invaluable when I was doing those Milky Way shots at Yosemite last year.


  3. I agree; very good teaching of photomerge tool application, and great result regarding having the whole scene captured from two separate photos, besides the beauteous image you offer us this week Robin. Definitely, it’s a very useful tool to make up for the lacking of a Super-Wide angle lens. My question is about the square format at the end. Is it because of the Content-Aware Fill procedure or it is the pre-set format for the tool? In this case, I don’t find the square format much suitable for landscape photography.


    • Thanks for your comments, Jaime. The reason that this image is square is due to the two starting images. The first image was a standard landscape format and the second was captured by tilting the camera up slightly. In effect,because there was considerable overlap, the total area covered amounted to a square image. It would have been possible to take three images from left to right, then take 3 more with the camera tilted up. This would have resulted in a near-panorama final image after Photomerge. But I felt that the scene to the left and right of what is shown here was not interesting and would have detracted from the image. Another way to get away from the square format would be to crop out some of the sky at the top and some of grass at the bottom. In fact, that would be pretty close to what you see in the starting image on the right at the beginning of the post. Which would also would have made all this photomerge stuff unnecessary, at least in this case. Your point about the suitability of a square image is a valid assertion if one looks at my sales records. I would estimate that about 75% of my sold images (of landscape and architecture isubjects) are horizontal landscape or panorama formats, 22% are vertical portrait formats, and 3% are square.


  4. HI Robin, another great image, I like the square format for this image as the sky is dramatic and you have some nice foreground grasses that add interest, so it works for me, but then I am a fan of square format anyway!
    you do a great job using the screen capture as part of your tutorial, I will have to spend more time and learn how to get those red arrows into my screen captures!
    on the content aware dialogue box I usually have the colour adaptation box checked, it helps when there are various shades of colour in the sky etc.
    off to check out the rest of the submissions.


  5. Thanks Robin! So I am actually waiting to pick up my Mac from my college at the end of August. My intention is to start learning photography and editing. Your posts make me more excited and will definitely help a bunch 😀


    • Thanks for the note. That’s great that you will be pursuing photography and I hope these posts will continue to be helpful. Anytime you have a question, just send it along and i will try to answer.


  6. Robin, what a great post. Photomerge demystified 🙂 It’s funny, I never thought about merging two photos vertically, only horizontally, so that was a fun thought to start off. Your detailed descriptions and screen shots work so well together – I truly think even better than a video, as I can study them to my heart’s desire and I don’t have to hunt through a video clip to find a particular section. I may have to give this a try at some point.

    Like Ben, I have only paired the content aware tool with the patch tool, so I’m excited to try out this new application. (And I agree with your addition of the content on the photo.) Now that I finally have a tripod (I know, really?), I may have to just go out and try shooting some photos specifically to photomerge! Thanks for another great submission to ABFriday (and for your fun shout out).


    • Thanks, Stacy. I appreciate the kind words and I’m glad the post was helpful. Ironically, I’ve not used the Patch tool so I will have to look into that, thanks to you and Ben. Congratulations on the tripod. I use mine often, but sometimes it isn’t allowed where I shoot. But as long as you can get a steady shot (higher shutter speeds) you also can do photomerge with handheld shots.


  7. Pingback: After-Before Friday Week 12 | photographybykent

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