new photo blog

i started this blog in 2006, and it's shifted along with my interests through the years. it's been witness to a lot of learning for me...

still, i feel that i need a home for my photography -- so from now on, i'll be posting my pictures on the journal on my reworked website. if you like my photos, you might decide to follow me there!

my first post is here -- check it out!

as for this blog, i'm not sure what will happen. i don't think i'm willing to let it go, and certainly i'll keep it as an archive, but i need some time to figure it out.

for those of you that pop in from time to time, thanks for the visits and encouragement.

Monday, August 01, 2011

make a little planet

i made these little planets a while back and people have been asking me how i made them.

little planet athens - syntagma square at night:  17/365 cape sounion little planet little planet at night - olympic green, beijing
little planet pendeli:  volunteer reforestation project:  25/365 scorched little planet -- pendeli:  22/365 little planet:  tiananmen square

there are a lot of tutorials floating around, but i thought i'd take a shot of explaining the process. you'll need a camera and a tripod and you can shoot in JPG or RAW.

find an open space with an interesting view all around such as a field or a city square. if there's a dominant feature or structure, so much the better. the best spots have a ground that's fairly nondescript in the middle -- grass or asphalt or a discrete tile.

think about the kind of light you're going to have for your images. i tend to shy away from high sun... somewhere around the golden hour is good, or early twilight. an overcast day is great.

set your tripod in the middle of the area and try to get it level all-around. make sure that the horizon or a known level is at the same height in the viewfinder in every direction.

select a wide angle to shoot. if your lens doesn't open up too wide, you won't have a problem... you'll just need to shoot more images.

decide on how far away you want to focus. focus your lens and then, if you can, turn off autofocus, so all your images will have a consistent look. again, to be consistent, you'll have to decide on an exposure for all the images... the best thing is to concentrate on the most interesting feature in the area and then dial in those settings on manual.

start shooting your images around in one direction, making sure each image overlaps the previous one by about 30%, until you've completed an entire circle, and then one extra.  the number of images you end up with depends on how much of an area your lens covers.  for me, it's usually 8-10 images

transfer your images to a folder in your computer, and load them into photoshop to do some initial processing such as contrast, etc.  make sure your edits are consistent for all images. don't worry about cropping them. if you shot in RAW, you'll have to produce a series of JPGs to continue.

close all your files and then go to photoshop's file - automate - photomerge command.

for source files, browse to your images' folder and select them. leave layout on auto and hit ok. photoshop will create a long panorama from your individual images. your panorama will span several layers, so you'll have to flatten your image with the layer - flatten image command.

next, you'll have to make sure your panorama's horizon is straight. click your ruler tool (under the eyedropper) to drag a line over your horizon. you'l need to click -- drag -- release for that. then go to image - image rotation - arbitrary and click ok.  your image will straighten nicely.

the next step is to crop your image to get rid of the extra space on the top and bottom of your image. this crop will also define your full circle. you'll have to find a point on both ends of the panorama where the image begins to repeat. your crop will have to begin and end at this point.

hit your crop tool, drag the crop area until you've surrounded the area you want to keep and press enter.

now that you have a very long panorama that represents 360 degrees of view, you'll have to change its proportions to a perfect square. go to image - image size and uncheck the constrain proportions box. in the pixel dimension fields for width and height, enter the number of pixels you want to have for your final image. i usually go for about 3000-4000 pixels or so.  for example, enter 3000 in both fields. if your original images were very small, go for a smaller number.

now you have to rotate your image upside-down! go to image - image rotation - 180°.

finally, go to filter - distort - polar coordinates, make sure rectangular to polar is selected on the bottom of the menu, and hit ok.

now you have a little planet -- the only retouching you'll have to do is at the seam where the image's ends meet down the center, on the top half of the image, as well as the mess at the center of your image. use your healing brush, clone tool and/or content-aware fill to patch those up.

prefer a ringworld instead?  skip the step where you rotate your square image upside-down...

little planets are addictive... you can't make just one. if you make one you like, please let me know in the comments below!

have you thought of something that i've forgotten?  please let us know!


  1. Nikolaos Pantazis2/8/11 13:00

    You may include  the addition of a background to your planet , if you like. Before turning  your picture to a rectangle, you press crop and you extend the image to the outside, usually upwards. Then you may select any background color you like and go on.

  2. Nikolaos Pantazis2/8/11 13:00

    You may include the addition of a background to
    your planet , if you like. Before turning your picture to a rectangle,
    you press crop and you extend the image to the outside, usually upwards.
    Then you may select any background color you like and go on.

  3. great tip -- thanks, nikos!

  4. Nikolaos Pantazis2/8/11 13:47

    You may post-add it, of course, to any other photo, used as a background, like one of a sterry sky:

  5. very nice little world you made there, nikos!

  6. Mark Wheadon2/8/11 17:33

    To be honest, I forget the specifics of how I did the following, but experiment with passing the image through the polar/rectangular filter multiple times and you can get fun results:

  7. ha! trippy... i'm going to try this too.  
    yours really does look like a snow globe.  very beautiful.