Skylum’s editing software has undergone many changes over the past few years, and with its new Luminar Neo software, there’s still plenty of room for evolution in what the software can do for its users. HDR Merge was recently added as an extension of the software, and it has been a feature requested by its users for quite some time. Another feature that has been requested quite frequently in the forums is the ability to stitch panoramas.
Skylum may be working on this as a future expansion pack, but in the meantime if you’re a software user and like shooting panoramas, maybe this quick workaround tutorial will let you do just that that.
The set up
Luminar Neo is primarily an image editor that works with images imported into the software and for this reason you cannot create a blank document, so with that in mind you should create a blank base layer as a starting point. Since you can’t determine the aspect ratio and size of your final stitched panorama, it’s best to create a few blank base images as templates. The one I created for this is 3500 x 6000 pixels. Although smaller than the Nikon Z 7II’s raw output, the individual images should give me enough leeway to create a final three- or four-point panorama. If you want a more precise size for your base layer, take the dimensions from your camera’s image output and multiply the width by the number of images you need to stitch together. This assumes, of course, that you have rotated your pan in the vertical direction.
This will result in a massive file size, hence why I made my model much smaller, so it’s best to judge for yourself. Also remember that you can resize your images once in Luminar if you are creating smaller models. You must create a new template with a different name for each new panorama due to the way Luminar imports and stitches images.
The first step
Once your new model is imported into Luminar, go to the editing panel and start adding your images via the Add New Layer option. Do this sequentially until all required images are loaded.
Start by adding the first image to a new layer and increase that layer’s opacity to 100%.5
Repeat the process and add your second image, but this time leaving the opacity at 50% by default. Select a dominant element in your scene and move the new layer over the same area of the previous layer and match them as best you can; the opacity being at 50% also makes this process easier. When overlaid, the matching areas should appear sharper, indicating a good match. If in doubt during this step, adjust the opacity between 50 and 100% to continue checking how it looks. I chose the corner of the cliff edge and the high contrast overhang shown in red for this image. Once I was happy it was a match, so I moved the opacity slider to 100%.
I’m sure you can now say that this is an entirely manual process, which takes a bit of time, but gets results. This process can be done in a short time with Lightroom or Photoshop, but this tutorial is only for Luminar users who want to be able to stitch panoramas in the software.
Repeat the process above for the rest of your images, and in this case, for me, it was just three images. At each step of adding a new layer, you have the option of resizing the images to match, but I recommend trying to match them without resizing them first.
Now comes masking and blending to remove the straight edges of your overlapping images. As I added my images from right to left, I now work backwards with the masking from left to right using a small brush with the softness at 100 and in this case the strength at 100. You you may want to decrease the strength the first few times you do this until you are comfortable with the process. This way you can gradually brush the area until you get the desired blend.
Repeat this process with all of your overlapping images until you get the desired result. Remember that not all edges will need to be masked. You will know what happens if you try it. I also zoomed in on the image to 50% and periodically zoomed out on the full image so I could check for any anomalies.
Once you’re happy with all your blends, it’s time to crop and export the image ready for editing. This is the only way to edit the entire image because currently you can’t combine all the layers into one like you could with Luminar 4.3.
Reimport your image and edit it.
For non-Luminar users, this will seem like a long-winded exercise, given that there are other software out there that can do this in no time effortlessly, but there are users who don’t want to use a subscription software and are very happy to have Luminar Neo, Luminar AI or Luminar 4.3 as their only software. Hopefully Skylum will add this feature in future updates, but for now it’s one way to do it in the current software. Incidentally, if you’re following these steps in Luminar 4.3, instead of exporting to re-import for editing, just buffer the layers to a single layer and edit from there.
The whole process for this image from start to finish took just over 14 minutes, and I hope for Luminar users, this has been helpful to you or provided you with a thought process in course to combine images. If you want to see the process from start to finish, you can check out the video here.