Fine-Tune Your Photographic Miniature Planet

Cartographers have made stereographic projections for hundreds of years, but only recently have photographers discovered how much fun it is to take a photo and warp it into a circle, essentially turning a flat panorama into its only tiny planet. Last week I showed you how easy it is to make a stereograph like the one shown on the right (click the image to see a larger version).

This project can be done in just a few simple steps. Unfortunately, the stereograph that you get from this quick three-step process has a small flaw: the left and right edges of the photo are different, so they form an ugly seam when we wrap our planet together. This week, let's see how to eliminate that blemish for a truly seamless world.

Once More, From the Top

We can't easily fix the edge problem on the completed stereograph, though, so we'll start over from the beginning. In other words, before we follow the steps in last week's Digital Focus to make our tiny planet, we will ensure that the left and right edges of the photo are as similar as possible, since they'll meet when we wrap the photo into the circle.

Here's one way to do that: In Photoshop Elements, select the Rectangular Marquee tool (fifth from the top of the toolbar) and select a region on the far right side of the screen. Copy it (choose Edit, Copy) and paste it into the image as a new layer (choose Edit, Paste). Choose the Move tool--the very first tool in the toolbar--and drag it to the left side of the image.

Here's where we need to get fancy. We want to reverse the orientation of the selection to the right edge becomes the left. To do that, click and drag the right edge of the selection to the left, until it flips the selection's orientation. Keep dragging until it's about the same size as it was before, only this time a mirror image of itself. When you are happy with the new selection, click the check in the selection to accept the change.

Now merge the two layers--right-click in the Layers Palette on the right side of the screen and choose Flatten Image.

At this point, we know that the two sides of the photo will line up when we wrap the edges together, but the pasted-in selection doesn't match the left side of the photo very well, so we need to blend it in with a little fancy Clone tool action.

Just grab the Clone tool (15th from the top of the toolbar), set the opacity in the Tool Options palette at the top of the screen to about 60 percent, and use it to blend the left side of the photo so the original image and the added bit merge together more effectively. The photo on the right is the same Planet Lighthouse I showed you last week, only with blended edges (click the image to see a larger version).

If you have Paint Shop Pro, there's an easy, semi-automatic way to match the edges. Just choose Effects, Image Effects, Seamless Tiling. In the Seamless Tiling dialog box, set the Tiling Method to Edge and the Direction to Horizontal. Click OK. All the hard work will be done for you!

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's runner-up: "Bug" by Michael Lynch, Pasadena, California

Michael says: "I was taking photos at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. At first, I was going to swat this bug away, but on close inspection, I decided that it made for an interesting composition."

This week's runner-up: "Butterfly" by Jim Mullen, Budd Lake, New Jersey

Jim says that he took this picture in his yard using his Canon SX120iS set to manual exposure mode.

To see last month's winners, visit the August Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

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