Workflow for Panoramas

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Today’s Question: I have a question about processing Panorama shots in Lightroom or Photoshop. Is it better to process each photo individually before merging them, or merge first and process the final panorama?

Tim’s Quick Answer: With Lightroom there is no need to apply adjustments to your original raw captures, because those adjustments will remain adjustable after creating the panorama. With Photoshop, however, adjustments to the raw captures will be applied to the panoramic image created by merging, so in some cases you may want to apply adjustments to the raw captures first.

More Detail: In the context of Lightroom, applying adjustments to the original raw captures before merging those captures into a composite panorama is purely a matter of preference. And in some cases you’ll find that Lightroom ignores your adjustments anyway. For example, if you apply different transformation adjustments to the individual captures you’ll assemble into a panorama, you’ll discover that Lightroom won’t be confused by those adjustments, and will still properly assemble the panorama.

That said, many of the adjustments you could apply to the original captures will be reflected in the assembled panorama. So there could be some value in applying those adjustments first. But the result is really no different from applying those same adjustments after the panorama is assembled into an Adobe DNG image. So this is really a matter of preference, but in the context of Lightroom I would generally suggest that you don’t spend time applying adjustments to the original captures, and instead save that work for after the panorama is assembled.

With Photoshop the situation is a little different. When you assemble a composite panorama from a group of raw captures, any adjustments you had applied in Adobe Camera Raw will be reflected in the individual captures, and therefore applied to the actual pixel values in the assembled panorama.

That said, there isn’t generally a tremendous advantage to applying adjustments to your raw captures before creating a composite panorama. You might prefer to take advantage of certain adjustments from the start, such as noise reduction and overall color correction. But in large part this is again a matter of personal preference.

The only exception would be if very strong adjustments are necessary, in which case I would apply those to the original raw captures to help maximize image quality. But in typical situations, this is a matter of personal preference in your workflow. And in my view, it is simpler to simply assemble a panorama from the original raw captures before applying adjustments, unless very strong adjustments are necessary.