Fisheye Panorama

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Fisheye Panorama!

A neat way to create a super wide angle "fisheye" effect - without using a fisheye lens

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Fisheye Panorama - introduction

For the average hobbyist photographer, it simply isn't practical to own every type of specialist lens!

A typical example may well be a super wide angle "fisheye" lens! (and even if you do own one, there is a chance that one day you may not actually be carrying with you when you need it)

But don't worry - there is an alternative method to capture a super wide angle shot with a "fisheye" perspective effect.

This tutorial will show you how.

"Todo Bien" Latin themed cafe bar in Rhodes old town Greece

The perfect opportunity to create a fisheye panorama

When you'll need a super wide angle

Sometimes it simply isn't possible to frame your entire subject as there simply isn't enough room to move far enough away to fit it all in. 

The shot above of my favourite bar in the old town of Rhodes in Greece is such an example. The bar is situated in a very narrow street and even with my back pressed up against the wall on the opposite side of the street and using my widest available focal length (15mm on my 15-85mm Canon zoom lens mounted on Canon 60D Dslr) I could only frame a fraction of the entire front aspect of the bar (see below)

As I didn't have a super wide angle lens with me at the time  (e.g. 8mm fisheye) I had to think laterally to achieve the shot I wanted. (see the first photo on this page)

So I decided to take several shots and merge them to a panorama effect afterwards

Fisheye panorama - the method

step 1

When shooting panoramas it's often a good idea to switch to portrait orientation. Merging several stitched together shots in portrait orientation will actually enable a final image to be more or less in normal landscape aspect ratio. (If you shoot panoramas in landscape mode the final image will by necessity be more "letterbox" aspect ratio than a standard landscape format.

The four individual shots taken (in portrait orientation) in order to capture the full width of the bar

Step 2

Set the exposure to MANUAL and adjust to suit the most essential part of your subject. In the shots above the exposure settings were

focal length - 15mm, Aperture - F3.5, Shutter speed - 1/15th s , ISO 3200

When taking the shots work from right to left and try and keep the mid point of each frame level. (ideally use a tripod  - but in the shots above I had to had hold the camera as I had no tripod with me at the time)

Make sure to overlap each photo by around 25% as this will assist the software to make a seamless stitching together for the final panorama.

Step 3 - Create the panorama using photoshop (part 1)

(see screen shot below)

Using Adobe lightroom (or Adobe Bridge) select the images that comprise the panorama 

Select the "photo" tab

Select "edit in"

Select "merge to panorama in photoshop"

Step 4  - Create the panorama using photoshop (part 2)

(see screen shot below)

In the photomerge dialogue box select layout choice (I find the "auto" option works ok)

Select "blend images together" and "geometric distortion correction"

and then select "OK"

Step 5 - Enhance the Composite panorama image

(see the following two screen shots)

Enhance image for tone and contrast to suit your personal taste.

For my image I made adjustments using

1) the "shadow/highlights adjustment (found under "image" tab - image adjustments - shadow/highlights

(to open up the shadows a little)

2) Curves adjustment - to boost contrast a little.

Step 6 - Trimming away the transparent pixels

First merge the separate panorama layers to a new layer - use the shortcut SHIFT + CTRL (orCMD on a Mac) + ALT (OPT on a Mac) + E

Then select "Image" tab , "trim"  - transparent pixels

(see screen shot below)

Step 7  - crop image to fish-eye style

First using the rectangular marquee tool , create a rectangular selection box just inside the edges of the image

(see below)

Now modify the shape of the rectangle.

Under "select" tab, choose "transform selection"

(see screen shot below)

Now to change the shape of the selection from rectangle to "fish-eye" go to the "edit" tab and choose "transform" then "warp"

(see screen shot below)

Now use click and drag the adjustment handles from the warp grid to curve the rectangle edges upwards and downwards, taking care to keep the selection within the image area. Try and make the curve fairly equal to the left and right and top and bottom.

Finally select "enter" to accept the modified selection shape.

(see screen shot below)

Step 8 - Creating the black surround

(see following two screen shots)

With the modified selection still active, inverse the selected area by going to the "Select" tab and then choosing "inverse"

Now in the layers panel create a new blank layer.

With the new layer active, fill the selected area with black (Go to "Edit" tab and choose "fill" then "fill with black")

Step 9 - Save the final image

First save a layered photoshop version of the file so you may return to it and make further edits in the future if necessary. (go to the "File" tab, then choose "Save" )

Now resize the image as required (for web display for example) and save a flattened version of the file.

Be sure to "save as a copy" so as not to lose the layered version of the file.

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