Panorama Workflow by Udo Luetze

For a long time, I wanted to document my panorama workflow from start to finish.


  • Nikon D810 with 8mm Sigma fisheye lens set at f16
  • Nodal Ninja Ultimate R1 panoramic head with Sigma 8mm fisheye adapter
  • Really Right Stuff tripod and ball head
  • Adobe Lightroom cc 2015, LR
  • Adobe Photoshop cc 2015, PS
  • PTGui PRO, PTGui

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In this example, I am taking a spherical panorama of New York City from Governors Island.  My camera is pointed upward at 7.5 degrees and I am taking pictures from 6 positions at 60 degrees intervals.  Since I am using a true circular fisheye with 180 degrees view in all directions, it doesn't matter weather I use my camera in landscape or portrait mode.  I prefer portrait mode because it is easier to operate the camera this way.

From where to shoot

Needless to say that you should have a clear view of you main subject, but please don't ignore the surroundings around you, including the ground below and sky above you.  In this situation, I picked a spot along the water front in the shade under a tree.  It was early in the day so I did not have to worry about people in my picture.  The shade under the tree also offers two more advantages:
ONE: Shade on the Ground eliminates shadows of camera equipment which have to be removed in post.
TWO: The sun is shining through the canopy and at f16, the lens creates a nice starburst effect.


A solid and sturdy tripod is a must.  The panorama head should be perfectly level to avoid additional work in post processing.  I use my iPhone to get the pano gear level.  Since I am using a light travel tripod, I hang my gear bag from the center column to further stabilize the setup.  One more thing.  As you can see in the picture, the neck strap is still attached to the camera.  I hold it in my left hand while I am shooting as a safety measure in case the setup is not entirely sturdy.  Just make sure that the strap stays away from the lens. 


Before you can shoot, you need to get a meter reading for proper exposure.  I use my camera with the fisheye lens and take some test shots of the main subject to establish proper exposure.  You also need to set you focus to a point where everything is in focus at f16.  Consult a chart or an app for the right focus distance.  Then lock focus so that the camera does not refocus during the shoot.  Once proper exposure is established, I dial it in and switch to manual mode.  I took 5 pictures (HDR) at 1 f-stop interval at each position, resulting in 30 pictures for this panorama.  The Number of HDR intervals depends on the lighting situation and the dynamic range of your cameras sensor.  To get the maximum performance, I shoot in RAW.

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You should shoot as fast as possible.  Moving clouds can change the lighting situation to a point where the images from the first and the last set don't fit exposure wise.  You can also shoot 2 or 3 sets of images so that you have options.  I do this when I have people or cars moving through my image.  If they disturb my picture on the first go around, maybe they are gone on the second.

It is recommended to use a cable release to reduce camera shake.  I used a different method.  I set my camera (Nikon D810) to bracket 5 exposures at 1 f-stop interval.  Then I set my timer to 2 seconds.  At each position, I pressed the shutter button and 2 seconds later, the camera took 5 pictures for me automatically.  The 2 second delay was enough to reduce camera shake. 

That's it.  Check your work for exposure, sharpness, content and completeness.  Once you are satisfied, you can pack up and head to the studio for post processing.

Post Processing

All pictures are imported into LR.  I remove Chromatic Aberration from all images and that's it for processing at this stage.  Whenever I do HDR, I like to process the image as little as possible so that the software has the original information to work with.

HDR is being processed inside of LR.  For this I select the first and the last picture in the series only!  This works extremely well with the D810.  I select Auto Align and Auto Tone.  The deghost amount is set to high due to the water and the leaves.

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Now I select the HDR images and check them for exposure differences on an individual basis.  Be careful no to touch any other settings since they vary due to Auto Tone.  Finally, I do a global adjust on sharpness and noise reduction before I export those files into TIFF format.  I take this step to "bake" the auto tone values into the image.

Next I reimport the TIFFs into LR for final editing.  You can see my values for editing in the screen shots below.

After import, click to enlarge

After edit, click to enlarge

I also check again for chromatic aberration.  Now I am ready to export the files once again as TIFFs for stitching in PTGui.  Inside PTGui I make sure that the pictures align properly and that I don't have any problems to deal with later on.

Pictures are ready for alignment in PTGui. Click to enlarge

Aligned panorama, ready for stitching. Click to enlarge

Prior to stitching, I run the optimizer to check the quality of the alignment. 

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Alignement is good so we are ready to create the panorama.  I save it as a TIFF file set to optimum size.  Here is the finished file from PTGui.

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Now we have to deal with the bottom of the picture.  My pano setup does not cover the area of the tripod at the bottom, thus there is a blank space in the pano.  You can take a shot of the ground once the tripod has been removed and mount this picture into the image.  In this case, I am placing the famous chrome ball at the bottom of my image.  For this I open the image in PS.

First I set a new horizontal guide where the chrome ball should start.  This is right above the tripod legs visible in the picture.

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Next I select the image above the horizontal guide and copy it onto a new layer.  Then I flip this new layer vertically.

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Finally I compress this new layer to the height of the space below the horizontal control line and place it there.  This layer should be perfectly centered underneath the original picture.

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That's it.  Now you can save the image and display it.  Here is the final image:

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Finally I used KR Pano to convert the finished file for web viewing.  Click on the image below for the finished result.

click to see the final pano in a web browser

click to see the final pano in a web browser

Thanks for reading this blog entry.  Please contact me if you have any questions or comments about this post.

Click HERE to see all of my panoramas.

Udo Luetze