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Quick Tip: Create Stunning Surreal Planets from Panoramic Photos


Why limit panoramic images to the horizontal format? In this tutorial, you can learn how to transform your panoramics into mini planets with the help of Adobe Photoshop. And with the help of CS5 content aware function we can edit the image quickly and seamlessly!

Image Selection

In this tutorial, I used a stock from Wikipedia Commons. You can also download the photo, named The Piazza Navona 360 panoramic view from here.

If you are shooting your own I would suggest shooting an image which has a good amount of sky without any objects reaching beyond the top of the frame.

I would also use a 360 degree image that loops perfectly. If your image doesn't loop or merge perfectly then you are going to have some trouble when you create your planet. You can still make planets when you use incomplete panoramics by making sure they merge perfectly. For more tips on this watch the video at the end of the tutorial.

Step 1: Image Size

Panoramic images are normally pretty large, so I would suggest resizing it to make it easier to handle. Normally, I make them no larger than 5000 pixels wide even on a fast computer.

You can resize the image by going Image > Image size.

Later in the tutorial, we'll use polar coordinates and content aware, these will run your processor hard and can often crash less powerful computers when dealing with very large files.

Step 2: Resize again

For this step, we need to open the image resize panel and make sure to turn off constrain proportions. This allows you to resize one side of the image without changing the other.

Change the width of the image to match the height, making a square. For example, if the width is 3000 pixels, change the height 3000 pixels as well.

Step 3: Flip

We then need to flip the image upside-down using the transform tools. You can find the correct setting by going Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.

If you prefer using shortcuts then simply hit CTRL/CMD + T, then right click on the image and select flip vertical.

You might have to duplicate the image as Photoshop locks the background layer. You can do this by using the shortcut CTRL/CMD + J.

Step 4: Polar coordinates

You need to then select Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates.  Make sure you select rectangular to polar.

Hit ok and your planet panoramic should be created.

Step 5: Tweak

Rotate or flip the image to your preferred angle. In my image I wanted the tower spike to be pointing upwards.

Step 5A: Tidying up - (CS5 users only)

If you look around the edge you can see where Adobe Photoshop has attempted to duplicate pixels in order to fill the gaps.

If you are running Photoshop CS5, you will have access to the content aware fill tool. I found the quickest way to select everything was to use the circle marquee tool to draw a circle over the area I wish to keep. Go from the top left corner to the bottom right for a almost perfect circle.

The in the menu click Select > Select Inverse or hit CTRL/CMD + I. You should see all the areas around the edges selected now.

Right click the selection and then click Fill. Make sure you select Content Aware from the list and then hit OK. It should do a good job at filling the edges.

You might find that a small part of a building appears, which is fine, just move onto step 5B.

Step 5B: Tidying up - (CS4 and below)

Only CS5 contains the new content aware fill tool, so you are going to have to do things the harder traditional way. That's right, it's time for the clone tool. If you have never used the clone tool before its quite a simple tool to use, Simply hold down ALT over an area you wish to clone. You then release alt, and start painting over the area you wish to fill. In this case, we want to paint the edges.

If you came here from STEP 5A, simply use the clone tool to tidy up any problems that might have appeared. Such as buildings appearing in the corners.

Step 6: Sharpen

Finally, you might find that you need to sharpen your image. The new Smart Sharpen tool can do a really good job on minor sharpening jobs simply go Filters > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. Keep percent under 100, and the radius under 4.

Watch a Video of the Editing Process

Try It Yourself and Experiment

With this photo I ignored step 3 and didn't flip the image. This meant that instead of creating a planet, Photoshop did the opposite and placed the sky inside the middle.

I still used the content aware fill to fill in the edges with more rocks so it didn't look out of place.

Play around with it the effect, there is no reason you couldn't import cloud photos or other stock images to place in the image.

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