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Creating Panoramic Images in Photoshop CS3 using Auto-Align Layers

The Auto-Align Layers feature is a great new feature that will make assembling your panoramic pictures a breeze By Kevin McAuliffe

As everyone has seen, my wife and I love to travel.  Whether it's the Caribbean, or Russia, or even Orlando-Florida, we try to get away a few times a year.  Last year, as a bit of a surprise for my Mother-in-Law, we all decided to go to Memphis-Tennessee, the birthplace of Rock N' Roll, to visit Graceland and also see all the sights and sounds that Memphis had to offer. 

One place we went to that blew me right away was Sun Studios, in downtown Memphis.  Sun Studios has seen artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and more recently, U2 pass through their doors, and when my wife, mother-in-law and I were standing in the recording studio, I thought to myself, "I have got to get a picture of this!" Well, my little digital camera definitely does not have a lens wide enough to capture the entire studio, so I took three separate pictures, and I figured that I would just put them together in Photoshop to create a panoramic picture.  Below are the pictures I took inside Sun Studios.

Sun Studios has seen artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and more recently, U2 pass through its doors.

Now comes the fun part.  How do I quickly and painlessly put these three pictures together to create my panoramic image?  Simple, I use Photoshop CS3's new "Auto-Align Layers" (AAL) command.  AAL is a great new addition to Photoshop.  There is almost no thinking involved, and you usually get a pretty good result on the first try.  Let's get started!

First, I've opened all three images in Photoshop, and I have moved them all to one image.  I've also stacked and named them in such a way that it would be easy for me to find any image at any time!

Next, make sure that you have removed the "Lock" from the bottom most layer, as this can cause the AAL function to give you some wacky results.  Now, select all three of your layers starting with the "Center" image, and then selecting the other two.  Now, make sure the "Move Tool" is selected, either by clicking on it, or using the shortcut "V" keystroke.  Once the "Move" tool is selected, you will notice the toolbar at the top of the screen change, and there will be a new set of icons, one of which is the AAL button.

Once you click on AAL, a new dialogue box will appear asking you to pick your AAL preference.  Since I am working on a "Perspective" piece (that was shot that way), I'm going to select "Perspective", and click O.K.

Photoshop will think for a little bit (about five seconds), and then your new image will appear, looking almost the way you want it.

As you can see from the image below, the iris on the "Left" image was opened a little bit more than on the other two images.

A simple "Brightness & Contrast" tweak will have the left side looking like the others.  Also, you will notice that even though Photoshop has done a great job of assembling these images into the panoramic view I want, due to the nature of perspective photography, you will always reach a point where objects in one photo (side) will not align with their sibling in another photo (side).  

Don't worry, as it is really not a problem at all.  First, let's crop this image down to the height we want, so we only have to worry about what is visible.  That can be done by either lassoing the area you want in your image, and selecting IMAGE>CROP, or you can simply adjust the canvas size of your image by selecting IMAGE>CANVAS SIZE.  Now that the image is the height we want, we can do a little clean up with the Eraser Tool to make that guitar look the way it should!

Now, I can do an overall cleanup to the image, smooth out the edges, and take care of any other anomalies that occurred due to the combining of the images to create "one" picture.

We're done!  Our image should now look like this.

The Auto-Align Layers feature is a great new feature of Adobe's Photoshop CS3, and will make assembling your panoramic pictures a breeze!

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com

Related Keywords:auto align, digital imaging, photoshop cs3, panoramic photos

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