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How to make an HDR Panorama photograph

Learn how to make a stunning HDR Panorama image using Photoshop or Lightroom Classic. This tutorial shows my entire process, people have been asking me about this for ages!

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Imagine a photo that is close to what you see in life? A sweeping panorama, that covers the entire scene and dynamic range so real, you can see the details in a sunset while making out the details in the shadowy foreground at the same time? This is a style of photography that I have been pursuing for over a decade. First with cameras and nodal ninja tripods, making gigabit images. Making HDR for effect and for reflection maps in 3D etc. These days my focus is on making HDR Panoramas with drones and terrestrial ground based cameras such as Canon and Sony.

Admittedly, a lot of my HDR Panorama work has been with drones, this is because the medium just begs for this kind of imagery. I have spent years, experimenting and trial and error to come up with an end to end workflow to achieve the highest possible image quality and also the means to express oneself as an artist. Over the years, I have created a lot of content on this topic (possibly more than anyone else). I have multiple courses available for those who want to dive deeper and I also speak on this topic regularly at conferences all over. Next week I will be doing talks on this at Adobe MAX. Why do I say all this? Because there seems to be a lot of copying going on with content (I have had my work copied, plagiarized, repurposed etc). I bring this up to say that you are going to get better information from someone who actually does this work for themselves, has a passion and a body of work, vs someone who regurgitates. Ok, having said all that. If you want to learn HDR Panoramas, you have come to the right place.

I have made this tutorial as an introduction to making HDR Panoramas and this tutorial is for anyone wanting to learn the process. I have kept it as simple as possible, so you can understand the steps and create your own imagery. I really hope you enjoy it and possible pursue this path a little deeper, If you do, I have the resources here to help you.

HDR Resources

Check out our free HDR resources at PhotoshopCAFE

If you are ready for deeper learning see my Premium training on HDR as well as Photoshop and Lightroom which cover these topics in greater detail for those of you who really want to master the subject.

Thanks for reading / watching and don’t forget to share these resources with your friends.

See you at the CAFE!


Extra Resources

HDR | Panorama | Timelapse Multishot Mayhem

This video course takes you through the very latest techniques in HDR, Pano and Timelapse. Colin shows you how to do the entire workflow in Photoshop Camera Raw (works in Lightroom CC too). If you want to create these stunning types of images, this is the place to start. Check it out here 


Layer Blending Modes. Free eBook by Colin Smith

Grab your free PDF ebook right now. We were going to sell this for $9.99, but figured we would give it away instead and see what happens 🙂


PS Don’t forget to follow us on Social Media for more tips.. (I've been posting some fun Instagram and Facebook Stories lately)
You can get my free Layer Blending modes ebook along with dozens of exclusive Photoshop Goodies here photoshop goodies for free

17 responses to “How to make an HDR Panorama photograph”

  1. Thanks Colin, Always enjoy watching your work, you don’t rush through too quickly which is helpful. I use a DSLR camera and shoot in Raw and manual, and also find the editing part quite fun, although I am still really a beginner if that field. Wish I was younger and had started all this many years ago, but life is what it is and I am making the best of it now.

  2. I still using my Canon 5D Mark I for most of my work. If I am in a good mood, I will take my Leica M6 with me to shoot a few rolls of films. Planning to switch to a Sony A7III. I don’t shoot from my phone. As a lab tech for twenty years I knew the quality from those so called high end smart phone is suck. If we need a decent photo, shoot with a camera not smart phone. Thanks for sharing this video. I get lot of HDR images still waiting for processing.

  3. Thanks Collin for the interesting tutorial. I am using a Nikon D3200. I miss some extra features in it, but like always I do the best I can.

  4. Again, a wonderful tutorial. I’ve been teaching HDR and Panos for a while now, and your presentation added another tool I had not used to my own tool box! Photoshop Cafe is definitely one of the best places to learn Photoshop and Lightroom and more!! Thanks, Colin and please please come to ATX !!

  5. Colin
    I always find your tutorials very informative and simple to follow. Keep up the good work please
    I am a Nikon D810 and Fuji X-T2 (soon to be X-T3) user when I don’t want to lug around a full frame!

  6. On an unrelated subject, I wish to implant boulders in a photograph of the entrance to our development to see what it would look like and then alternatively place some round metal balls at the entrance. (It is really to stop unwanted vehicle parking)and to show the other residents what it would look like to make an informed choice. Do you have a tutorial showing how this can be achieved please?

    • Not specifically on this, but I have many tutorials on compositing that will help. Type compositing into the search bar here at the CAFE

  7. Really great tutorial…I use a Nikon D7100…does a good job…could use a few more options, but this is it for now…

  8. Hi Colin,
    I love this tutorial, and watched after the 5 new features in Photoshop CC 2019. I currently use my cell phone, as it my only camera that is digital. I already have so many pictures to edit. I also have a whole bunch of film strips to scan and edit. Thank you again for this tutorial. I am going to watch the one to learn how to swap faces.

  9. Forgot to mention. I use an Olympus OM-D E-M5 digital camera. I also use a Hassleblad X Pan and scan my negatives.
    Thanks for some great tutorials.

  10. Thanks again for being such a great mentor to us all (from the newest enthusiasts to the old pros). As with all full frame cameras, my Nikon D850 creates huge files to begin with. When trying to stitch together a large panorama, things can become too large for LR/Ps to handle. Please give us some background and guidance on dealing with massive merged files.

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