Modern cameras have resolutions that photographers of the last decade could only dream of – things have come a long way in a very short time. The standard is now believed to be around the 30MP mark, while it’s not uncommon to find full-frame mirrorless cameras with sensors above 50MP. With such a high number of pixels, it is possible to print massive reproductions and crop heavily, without losing detail.
Even so, when using older models, cameras with smaller sensors, or when you need much higher resolutions than normal, image blending is a solution. Capturing a scene over a series of image segments, rather than in a single take, increases the native resolution of the sensor in the final result by an unlimited amount.
• Learn more: Highest resolution cameras
It’s possible to produce a 100MP photo using a 20MP APS-C camera, for example, revealing tremendous detail without the noise issues caused by packing many photosites onto a compact sensor area. (Some cameras, like the Olympus OM-1 and Panasonic GH6, use the same principle with pixel-shift technology.)
These image sequences can be taken by simple cropping, much like you might to capture a panorama, or you can use one of the best tilt and shift lenses to good effect. The benefit of capturing offset is that images tend to have less distortion and the blending process is more seamless.
Far from being a complicated workflow, these super-res files can be created manually in any good photo editing software. If your camera doesn’t have a sensor-shift resolution mode, don’t let it stop you from producing image files to satisfy even the most demanding image editors!
1. Film and import
Use a zoom or shift lens to shoot a scene in multiple frames, like when shooting a panorama, but in two or three rows. A longer focal length is better if you don’t have offset available, as the compression will induce less distortion. Make sure to overlap your shots by about 20%. Import your sequence of images and find them in Bridge or Lightroom.
• How to take a panorama
2) Process Raw Files
Make essential Raw adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom or Capture One. In Adobe, click Select All and Sync to make universal changes to all files. Apply lens distortion and chromatic aberration corrections to make image stitching easier. Leave local adjustments until the seam is complete.
3. Open in Photoshop
Move your processed Raw files into Photoshop. By default, each image is assigned its own separate tab. We will have to collect the segments in a single tab to mix them. Although image stitching can be automated, here we will perform most of the steps manually.
• How to download Photoshop
4. Extend your canvas
Select a corner image, choose the crop tool [C] and toggle the original report in the aspect dropdown. Drag the space around your image, leaving room to place your remaining image segments. Any unwanted space can be removed later. Press Enter to confirm the crop.
5. Organize your images
Navigate to the image that will be placed next to the first photo horizontally, then select > All, copy the image and paste it onto your extended canvas. Use Tab + V and move the plane roughly into position. When all the images are in place, go to Edit > Auto Align Layers.
6. Auto-merge layers
Follow Edit > Auto-Blend Layers and choose Panorama as the blending method. This will automatically identify image joints and merge segments at those points. Although the Photomerge tool can be used to perform this function, manually arranging and blending often produces more controllable results.
7. Retouch and crop
Auto-Blend Layers is a very effective tool, but there may be small areas along the seams that need touching up. A simple application of the Clone Stamp Tool or the Spot Healing Brush should remove subtle joins. The alignment and blending process may require some slight cropping.
8. Make Final Adjustments
Although editing the ultra-high resolution image uses more processing power, local manipulation should be done at this point to avoid producing uneven brightness at the seams. In this image, local dodges and burns have been done, along with additional color, contrast, and sharpness edits.
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