Tutorial: HDR-Panorama Using Photomatix and Photoshop

In this post I will show you how I made the 180 degree, HDR panorama of the imploded Dev Nelson press-box and Bill Snyder Family Stadium at Kansas State University using Photomatix and Photoshop.


I setup at the middle of the highest row in the stands so that I was inline with the 50 yard line.  I used a wireless remote to trigger the camera (Pentax K-5), which was mounted on a tripod with a ball head, and set to bracket mode (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV).  I started shooting from the left and panned to the right, taking three shots per stop, making sure I had enough overlap between stops.  I took a total of 36 images and with 3 images per stop it came out to 9 stops, so I was panning around 20° between stops. I shot in RAW-DNG.  I then imported the images into Aperture 3 where I rename, tag, and organize the photos.


I’ll go over a quick overview of the major steps I took to process the photos and then go into more detail of how to do it.  The first step was to create the merged HDR files, using Photomatix Pro, for each set of bracketed images.  The second major step was to take these HDR images and merge them in Photoshop CS6 to create the panorama.  I’ve found that this is a good way to do it.  You might think that you should create three separate panoramas (one panorama for the -2 EV photos, one for the 0 EV, and one for the +2EV photos) and then merge these three panoramas in Photomatix to create a single HDR image.  I’ve found that this does not work very well and you run into problems.

So, the first step was to select the 36 images in Aperture 3 and export the originals into a folder.  When you are processing HDR images, you want to work with the RAW files (not jpegs) this way you have more data to work with.

Select photos in aperture

Export original photos to a folder

The next step was to choose one set of bracketed photos to process in Photomatix Pro.  The resulting Photomatix settings used to process this first set would then be used to process the rest of the bracketed sets using the batch processing feature of Photomatix Pro.  I selected a set that included the other side of the stadium, the field, and the demolished press-box.

load a set of bracketed images into photomatix

Photomatix then asks what pre-process settings to use.  Here are the settings I used.

 photomatix pre-process settings

I then moved sliders back and forth in Photomatix until I got a look that I was happy with.  I wanted to bring out the details in the image, but I didn’t want it to look “fake” or cartoonish – you know, that obvious HDR look that is full of halos.  Here are the final settings.

Photomatix Settings

I then saved the settings as a preset to process the other images.  The next step was to batch process the rest of the images (Batch Bracketed Photos) and here are the settings I used.

Batch Process Photos Menu in Photomatix

Batch Process Photos using Photomatix and previous settings

After Photomatix finished creating the HDR images, I fired up Photoshop CS6 and merged them using the Photomerge option under Automate.

Automate Merging in Photoshop

Select Photomerge

Here are the settings I used for the photomerge.

Photoshop merge settings

Photoshop then merged and aligned the photos, which took some time.

Photoshop aligning the photos

This was the result of the photomerge, a bunch of layers that fit together.

result of the photomerge

As you can see, the resulting image wasn’t perfectly oriented. So I created a smart-object from the layers (select them all, right-click, and select the create a smart-object option).  I then rotated the smart object, grabbed the rectangular selection tool and created a new layer from the selection (right-click on the selection and click the new layer from copy option).  I then turned this layer into another smart-object.

create a smart-object from all the layers

Straighten the smart object then make a selection and make a new layer from the selection

I then saved this straightened and “cropped” layer as a new file.  To do this I right-clicked on the layer and selected the export contents option and saved it as a .psb file (not .psd).

I then opened this file up and further processed it using Color Efex Pro, Noiseware, and Photoshop adjustment layers.

Make adjustments in photoshop

I then saved this and exported a TIFF version.  I imported the TIFF version into Aperture 3, cropped it and this was the final result.

180 Degrees: Dev Nelson Press Box Demolition

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.


2 thoughts on “Tutorial: HDR-Panorama Using Photomatix and Photoshop

  1. Pingback: Big 12 Football Championship: Rushing the Field | Ddump

  2. Pingback: Kansas State 150th Anniversary Kick-Off | Ddump

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