Make Your Own Planet

It’s been a while since I posted any nifty little Photoshop trickery, but there has been something I’ve wanted to try out for a while – I just needed the right picture.  Your ingredients here are a panorama with level edgeswhere both the fore and background are pretty plain.  After getting this night shot at Greenlake a little while back, I thought I might have the raw materials:


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It’s really not too hard!  Hit the jump for the whole walkthrough!

Alright – first, credit where credit is due.  I learned basically everything here from the (often) wonderful Photojojo, so check them out.  so I started with this panorama from a couple posts back.  It had a few good things going on:

  1. It’s a panorama.
  2. Both the sky and the foreground have little going on.  I’ll say right here that the sky is most important – there was a dock in the foreground that I wish wasn’t there, but you can get around it.
  3. They had a horizon line which was about even on both the right and left.

There were a few small problems though, and first thing is sorting them out:

  1. Things weren’t perfectly level.  There are plenty of ways to do it, but what you’re shooting for are features that are the same height where they touch the right and left edges of your image.  One way to sort this out is to use the grid (View -> Show -> Grid in Photoshop) to see how far off you are, and then Edit -> Free Transform or Edit -> Transform -> Rotate to make it so the right and left sides are even.  After that crop your rectangle.
  2. Things were darker on one side than the other.  This can be sort of subtle in the original panorama, but since in our new planet the edges are going to touch, you need to sort this out.  There are also plenty of techniques to do this but what I did was us an curves adjustment layer to lighten up the dark bits, then use a gradient set to lighten over the top to apply it to the left side more than the right.  This doesn’t have to be exact.  It should be, but hey – I didn’t get it right, so good enough!  On to the actual steps:

Once you have your panorama with even edges, left and right brightness roughly the same, and a plain fore and background, you’re ready to go!

  1. Turn it into a square.  Do Image -> Image Size and uncheck the Constrain Proportions box.  Now you can resize (and stretch) your rectangle into a square.  Make your height equal to whatever your width is and hit ok.
  2. Flip it over.  This is kinda weird, but unless you want an inside out planet, you need to start with things upside down.  Hit Image -> Image Rotation -> 180º.
  3. Make the magic happen.  Select Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinates, then select Rectangular to Polar and hit ok.
  4. Magic, eh?  Last little tweaking step.  Most images have a part that is more interesting than others.  I like to throw that at the top.  In this case, I liked the buildings as they stand out from the trees.  I used Edit -> Free Transform and rotated, then cropped the image to the way you see it here.

Pretty good, eh?  I really like how this looks with a gray sky and water in the foreground but it would be interesting to see what other subjects could be used.  Maybe something with a big chunk of blacktop in the front?  a bunch of desert sand?  I’ve been watching for the right place to shoot something I could use for this for probably 6 months.  Keep your eyes peeled too.

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