Maybe we should start by explaining Lickety Split. Lickety Split is US English slang for fast so “Lickety Stitcher” is our contrived slang for a fast image stitcher. Image stitching is what you do to create a large image out of several smaller, overlapping images.
We’ve reported how much we like the FREE Microsoft Image Composite Editor (aka ICE) for stitching images because it is faster and more accurate than Photoshop’s Photomerge or Lightroom’s new, but sometimes anemic Photomerge. Here is a simple “quick panorama” method of creating a panorama from about 3 clicks. How? Configure Lightroom to run ICE as an export step. After creating the export step (described below) you do the following:
- Select photos,
- right click “Export -> ICE Quick Stitch”
- Click through the ICE Menus to Stitch, crop and Save.
Sadly, there is no Image Composite Editor for Mac computers. If someone knows of an equally easy to use, fast version for the Mac, let us know in the comments!
How To Set Up Lickety Stitcher
To use Microsoft ICE (or PT GUI, or other external tool), you create an Export setting for it. Click a photo (any photo), then “Export” and Add new settings as shown below. The only tricky part is finding the program you want Lightroom to run. In Windows it has to be the actual path, not a shortcut.
You don’t have to settle for only a “quick stitch” (which is best done with JPGs), you can also export full sized TIFF files and stitch those. ICE can save documents in Photoshop .psd format and others. And if you have another image stitcher you really like, e.g. PT GUI, you can probably use this same trick to make that software work on demand.
What About Lightroom for Stitching?
We were happy to discover that Lightroom and Photoshop image stitching (panorama) creation has improved quite a lot since our first disasters trying to do vertoramas and panoramas. Indeed, I think we would be happy to use the new tools and skip using ICE in many circumstances. Here is how you use the Panorama creation feature of Lightroom.
First, pick your images. They should overlap by at least 1/3 from frame to frame. And you can pre-process them with noise removal and such. Highly recommend you do at least two things to images before you try to stitch them:
- Use vignette correction appropriate for your lens.
- Consider using Distortion correction before creating your panorama – not always necessary.
Then right click and find “Photo Merge -> Panorama”.
Lightroom did a quite respectable job. We were able to to create the image below entirely in Lightroom. We did see some problems, however:
- We got a message about “unable to save metadata”
- Lightroom insists on creating the image as a .dng file and uses the name of one of the files you picked (we’d like it to be a mash of first-through-last.
- Lightroom didn’t seem to be as smart as ICE in how it stitched the images. ICE joined the images without the airplane and satellite trails, or maybe it was just better at blending them out. We had to do that work by hand on the image Lightroom created. It was not difficult, though. It is not the first time we have seen ICE handle an image better than Photoshop PhotoMerge
In ICE we manually bent the slightly arching shot back into vertical form and did manual cropping. In Lightroom we used the Boundary Warp option at the end to make the images fill the frame nicely. Here is what we got from those 11 images:
You can compare the above to the same images used via Microsoft ICE and finished in Photoshop.
Here is a more ambitious 22 photo, multi-row panorama stitched with Microsoft ICE. There was a stitching problem due to cloud movement… maybe you’ve spotted it.
Stitching Software Alternatives to Photoshop, Lightroom and ICE
- Hugin (FREE: mac, PC, Linux). Don’t much like this one even though it is free.
- PTGUI (mac, PC). A little clunky, but does much more than stitching including HDR and can be automated. This is the one tool you need when you need to convince an image to stitch that just won’t do it. It can’t do miracles, but with work, it can get the job done.
- Others… that we don’t have familiarity with, though we have heard good things about Kolor Autopano