a23 March 2012

Tutorial: Tiny planets effect


yesterday I finished processing the photo you can see on the left. It uses very creative and popular technique known as tiny planets (a.k.a. little planets, small worlds and a few other names) and in this short post I would like to share with you the steps necessary to create your own small world like this.

In this technique we use a wide-angle or even better a panoramic shot which we sort of wrap using polar coordinates. It makes right and left side of the photo touch so there is need that both sides are identical or at least very similar so they seamlessly blend.

And here are the steps:
  1. Shoot panoramic photo. 180 or 360 degree panoramas work best. Especially the latter as it makes both sides of the photo the same and this is good. Why? We will wrap it and so the left side of the photo will touch the right side of it. If the sides differ a lot we will have to remove the seams what takes quite a lot of time.
  2. Merge photos to panorama in Photoshop using File > Automate > Photomerge menu item. Choose Auto and make sure Blend images option is checked.
  3. After processing finishes, resize your image by stretching it vertically so it becomes a perfect square. If for example your input photo had dimensions of 12000 x 3000 pixels make it 12000 x 12000 pixels... yes quite a lot of RAM is required :)
  4. Flip the image vertically.
  5. Click on the Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinates. Note that this option is available only for 8-bit images so be sure to convert to 8-bits if you are working on 16- or 32-bit image (I normally work on 16-bit images and I always keep forgetting about this and wonder why this option is greyed out...).
  6. At this stage your tiny planet may be ready. But if you used 180 degree or narrower panorama you will probably need to get rid of the seams. Also at this step I sometimes rotate the planet to make it more interesting to the viewer (eg. initially the bridge in the image above was in the right corner of the photo but it didn't look good to me) and apply some adjustments/filters like contrast or flares.

Here are two more examples of this technique:

 I hope it helps!

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