Panoramas are one of the favourite ways to show off a scene. They contain so much interest and detail that they practically beg you to explore them. This little tip adds an extra pinch of creativity, turning standard panoramas into miniature planets that really have the “wow” factor.
The technical name for this technique is “stereographic projection” but don’t let the name put you off – it’s very simple to do and only takes 5 minutes. I’ll be using Photoshop in this example but you can do it in most graphics programs, including Hugin, which is free.
You will need to make a normal panoramic image. If your camera has a 360-degree panorama mode, use that as it can be easier and it saves time. Find a location where there is a lot of sky and open ground. If you’re new to capturing panoramas, set your camera on a tripod and zoom all the way out to the widest angle, under 24mm is fine. Then, set it to manual mode in order to keep the same exposure throughout the panorama. Auto-focus once and then switch it to manual, to keep the same focus. Now, making sure that the tripod isn’t going to move anywhere, pan around a full 360 degrees, taking a shot in portrait orientation, making sure that you overlap each shot by about 3/4 (75%).
Now, open Photoshop. Go to File>Automate>Photomerge.
Then, select all the exposures you took for the panorama and load them in, and click ‘Ok’.
This will take a long time depending on your computer’s processing power, so make yourself a brew while you wait.
Once it’s done, you will have a panorama that probably has some white parts around each edge:
Now right-click on the layers and press ‘Flatten Image’. This will save computer resources. You can either crop the white parts out, or use the Clone Stamp tool (press alt+click on an area to select your reference point, then simply paint over the white parts.)
Now that you have your panoramic image, edit it to your liking—changing colors, brightness, and whatever else you normally do to your photos. You can now start the Little Planet creation process.
Now go to Image>Image Rotation>180, so that it is upside down.
Go to Image > Image Size. Uncheck “Constrain Proportions” and set the height to match the width.
Now go to Filter>Distort>Polar coordinates and make sure that ‘Rectangular to Polar’ is selected, and press Ok.
Your panorama is now wrapped into a circle and looks like a little planet.
When you use Rectangular to Polar tool you will get white strike in the corner of the picture. To remove this white strike corner you can fill those with the same colour you used for the gradient or Re-crop your image and you’re done! If you’d prefer your planet to be a different way round, now is the time to rotate it.
Now that you have your own planet, edit it to your liking—changing colors, brightness, and whatever else you normally do to your final photos.
You can produce some fantastic effects by experimenting, so don’t feel you have to stick rigidly to the above instructions. If you come across any interesting variations or experience in any difficulty then please share them in the comments.