A well-produced panorama looks great on any wall. The trouble is, we've seen it all before. However unusual your subject, there's no getting around the fact that stitching together half a dozen shots to fit it all in doesn't exactly push the creative boundaries.
Fortunately, Photoshop's little-used Polar Coordinates tool, which is also found in the cut-down Photoshop Elements, can quickly and easily give your panoramas a twist by transforming them from flat, linear creations into intriguing mini worlds. All you need to do is make sure your pictures line up accurately, and spend a little time cloning out the joins between each one.
See also: Photo Advisor
As with all photo projects, the results you get out will be greatly influenced by the quality of your source files. When you get your shots onto your PC it's too late to do anything about this, so give yourself the best chance of producing a stunning result by taking care while shooting. Invest in a cheap tripod (you can get new table-top models on eBay for £10 or less) to keep your horizons in line with one another.
If your camera has a manual mode, then use this rather than any automatic settings so that you can set the exposure, aperture and sensitivity at the same point for each frame. This will minimise the differences between each one.
Some subjects work much better than others as mini worlds. In general, look for scenes with one central point of interest, and shoot a panorama that's at least four frames wide, allowing for overlaps, to isolate that subject in the finished product. In our example, here, we've shot Trakai Castle in Lithuania. Rather than focus solely on the castle itself, which is the only subject of note as it's built on a small island in the middle of Lake Galve, we've also included the trees to either side.
These trees include plenty of detail, which we can sample with the clone tool to help disguise the meeting points of each frame. Further, because they all exhibit irregular shapes and heights they give us plenty of scope for making sure each end of our panorama neatly meets up by sliding one end of the montage over the other.
So, get shooting and warping. It's time you put something truly original up on your wall.
How to put the image together
1. We're using five images to create our mini world, so the first step is to open the central picture and make the canvas five times as wide (Ctrl-C) then paste on our other frames so that they overlap to form a seamless panorama.
2. Next, crop the canvas so that it contains only the images that form the panorama. It's important to get rid of the empty portions of the canvas as these will leave gaps in our mini world.
3. Our panorama is a whole lot easier to work with if it comprises just one image. With the canvas cut down to size we can now flatten the image so that each of the individual frames are merged on a single layer.
4. To make sure the 'world' wraps accurately, each end needs to be identical. Copy the right portion and place it on the left portion at the point where they line up most effectively. You may need to do some cropping and cloning to perfect it.
NEXT PAGE: How to apply polar coordinates
5. Now we need to sort out those jarring seams between each image by using the clone stamp tool to sample parts of the sky, trees and water and painting them over the joins using 60 per cent opacity to smooth the result.
6. The bottom of the frame forms your world's 'atmosphere'. We therefore need to flip the image vertically to make sure the sky is on the outside of the picture. If we didn't, we'd end up with a tube of water with the castle in the middle.
7. Our finished image has the wrong proportions: it's too wide. We need to square up this image to avoid ending up with a wide, squashed world. Set the image height to match the width (Ctrl-I), check the Resample Image box and clear the Constrain Proportions box.
8. That's the hard work done. Now we can warp our panorama into a miniature world by selecting Filter | Distort | Polar Coordinates. We need the Rectangular to Polar setting. Reducing the magnification below the sample window shows more of the preview.
9. Finally, we'll crop in on the result, use the clone stamp to smooth out the new seam that's appeared where the left and right edges have matched up, and rotate the image to put the castle near the top.
And finally, the finished image, with small contrast and saturation tweaks, and with a vignette added for effect.