Dealing With Crowds in Panoramic Photos

I seem to like to make things hard on myself.

  • Lots of moving subjects (hundreds of people in fact)
  • Shifting horizons and foreground (waves)
  • Lack of a tripod (shot thus handheld in about 60 seconds)
But the moment was worth capturing.  I was in Huntington Beach (my birthplace in fact) and I really wanted a photo to capture the mood.  Of course it was just about noon (the light was awful).  That’s okay… the whole reason I enjoy Photoshop is the process of developing the picture in my mind’s eye.

The Shooting Process

Here’s how I pulled the shot off.

  1. I placed the camera into Aperture-priority mode because I needed a little automatic assistance to deal with the quick panning.  I knew that Photoshop could handle any subtle shifts when it blended.
  2. I set the camera to Raw to have much greater flexibility in exposure and tone.
  3. I squared my body to face the most interesting part of the action.
  4. I planted my feet about shoulder width apart and twisted at the waist.
  5. I shot two exposures for each position (to deal with moving subjects).
  6. I tried to pan my body smoothly and create about 50% overlap between exposures to avoid issues with people being accidentally cut off by movement.

The Post Process

Here’s how I completed the post. I used several features in Photoshop to get the job done.

  • Ran the Photomerge command.  Slightly dissatisfied with first results so ran it again (each time is a little different).
  • Adjusted the layer masks to clean up the blending of fast-moving objects.
  • Used Cloning, the Patch tool and Content Aware Fill to remove blemishes.
  • Popped Color with Vibrance
  • Controlled tone with Curves.
  • Used a Gradient Fill Layer and Photo Filter Layer to pop the sky.
  • Cropped to improve composition.
  • Performed Grayscale Toning.
  • Used Blending Modes and Blend If command.
Here’s the walk-through.

Huntington Beach Panorama from RHED Pixel on Vimeo.

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