PSE8 Photomerge Panorama Problems

and PSE8 preference settings

This is the third post on panoramic images. The first two were here – Making Panoramas and here – Macro Panoramas. This one is as much for Adobe tech support as anyone (as you’ll see below in the section in blue).
Yesterday I attempted several large (for me) panoramas in terms of horizontal coverage and the number of image files required for that coverage. The example below, of a golf course hole, is slightly over 180 degrees and is made up of 27 stitched images. The camera was mounted vertically on a tripod. The lens was a 50-135 2.8 zoom set at 50 mm. The camera controls for focus, exposure and white balance were all set to manual (for reasons discussed in the previous posts).
What I wanted to learn was –

  • Capture – getting the camera precisely level (more or less)
  • Processing – the limits, if any, of Photoshop Element 8’s Photomerge Panorama routine

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For a wide single row panorama like my example, you’ll need to get BOTH the tripod level and the camera level – in that order. One or the other doesn’t get the job done. To level the tripod, hopefully your tripod has a bubble level – if not, you may have a problem. Once the tripod is level, leveling the camera is simple – providing you have a dual axis bubble level that mounts in your camera’s hot shoe. This series of articles at Really Right Stuff describes the procedure in detail (while trying to sell you on some of their specialized gear).
Once everything is level it’s time to shoot. My suggestion is to shoot from left to right. The reason is that Photomerge (and other stitching packages apparently) assume (at least initially) that the images are in order from left to right. This helps the process of ordering and aligning the images along their way rather than throwing 27 randomly ordered images into the pot and saying “Here, figure it out.” Of course this assumes that your image numbering system is consistent with this left before right shooting style. I rotated my ball head exactly 10 degrees between each shot – about a 1/3 overlap. So far so good. Off to process the files……….
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Adobe Tech Support – start here……….. (the rest of you might want to skip to the next section unless you plan to use Photomerge)
Photomerge had problems immediately. After humming to itself for a few minutes it reported that some images could not be aligned ( Core i7 Win7 8GB RAM, nothing else open but PSE8). This was true whether I fed it all 27 files or less than ten. I knew there was a rat when it reported the same problem with the images that it successfully processed for my first panorama post a few days ago – why then & not now?? As it turns out – after wasting nearly 3 hours researching the problem(S) – there was NO problem with my files (I knew that). The fix was to reset the entire Photoshop preference settings file. Even then it would not handle all 27 files, but it would handle 14 – so I did two sets of 14 (the center image repeated so that I’d have an overlap between the two) and then stitched those two stitched files together. I might add that this bizarre behavior occurred regardless of the Photomerge options chosen such as Auto, Perspective, ….
If the above wasn’t enough, I had to reset the preferences EVERY time I ran Photomerge or it would return to the “align error”. So – do a successful run, shut down PSE8, restart PSE8 WHILE holding down shift-control-alt which brings up the window while starting PSE8 asking if you really want to remove your preference settings (no but do I have a choice if I want to use Photomerge?). Absolutely ridiculous!
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And my story ends here with this panorama which only took me nearly fours hours to stitch AFTER I downloaded the files from my camera. This link takes you to a version scaled to a typical monitor. For a better view, click on “O” in the “Sizes” area above the image (for the original 4000 pixel wide version, 3-4 monitor widths wide) and then do a Ken Burns’ scroll down the fairway using your horizontal scroll bar). The actual image is 10X this long (and high) and the geese on the fairway, that are barely visible in this reduced resolution web version, are clear & sharp as can be.
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