How to Stitch and Blend Bracketed Panoramas

This tutorial discussed the tips and trick to stitch and blend bracketed panoramas. The difficulty experienced exposure blending bracketed images can vary significantly. We can add additional layers of complexity to the process when we are dealing the bracketed panoramas. Bracketing exposures is a commonly used technique to ensure we’re capturing the entire dynamic range of a scene. Therefore, translating this into a panoramic series seems logical and you’d think just as easy, but it’s not.

This tutorial uses a previous version of our luminosity and workflow plugin, the techniques are still relevant with our current panel.

Taking the images in the field is the easy part. How often do you work with one set of exposures, because the process of stitching and blending is to complicated. We’re often asked which we should do first: blend each set of exposures, or stitch the panoramas and then blend? If you understand how the tools work for stitching and blending, this is an easy question to answer.

Using Photoshop or Lightroom for Stitching Panoramas

Blending the exposures prior to stitching is a viable solution and is a requirement the majority of the time. Especially if you’re using programs such as Photoshop to do the stitching. Photoshop does not allow the user to save a stitching pattern or algorithm. This means that stitching before blending is not a viable option. Therefore, when you use Photoshop, Lightroom or most other stitching software you should blend your images first. If you’ve done a lot of blending of exposures, you’ll realise this is not desired. It requires you to do the exact same blending technique for each set of exposures. If you don’t use the same technique, the exposures will not match properly when stitching. Also, we often don’t want to use an automated blending process. Instead we want to blend in the areas we believe need it.

The issue with most stitching software is they don’t apply the exact same stitching pattern to each set of images. What this essentially means is that when you stack them to blend, the images will not be aligned. If the images are not aligned, it makes them impossible to blend. Also, the Align tool in Photoshop does not fix the problem.

Using PTGui for Stitching Panoramas

PTGui is a stand-alone software used for stitching panoramas. It is far more advanced than most other stitching software on the market. If you find yourself in a tricky stitching situation, this software will get you out of trouble most times. For the purpose of this exercise, we don’t need all the bells and whistles, just one. PTGui has the ability to save a template for a stitch. This allows us to repeat the exact same stitching pattern across multiple stitches. What this then allows us to do is stitch each set of the bracketed exposures and blend afterwards. As a result, we can manually blend the images, choosing which areas we want more or less detail.

In this tutorials we show:

  • Why Photoshop & Lightroom don’t work for stitching bracketed panoramas.
  • How to stitch and blend bracketed panoramas in PTGui.
  • Use Luminosity Masks to blend exposures.
  • Additional techniques to create balanced exposures in your blended images.