New in Lightroom 2018: HDR Panoramas in a single step

Adobe just released a bunch of updates to Lightroom Classic CC v8.0. This includes improved high ISO noise reduction, improved negative dehaze (which adds haze), and my favorite: the ability to create HDR panoramas in a single step.

This creates enormous time savings. Previously, I showed how to stitch a multiple exposure panorama in Lightroom using the legacy Merge to HDR and Panorama tools. When I did the first tutorial using the old method (on a 2016 Macbook Pro), it took about 45 minutes to complete the entire 9-step process (8 HDR merges and then 1 panorama combining them).

When I did this updated tutorial with the new HDR Panorama method (on a 2018 Macbook Pro), it took a bit under 5 minutes to complete the process and only required my response 1 time. That’s incredible. I can’t say how much of the improvement is based on my laptop upgrade, but I can definitely say that the new Lightroom process is dramatically faster. The ability to tell Lightroom what to do once instead of “nine” times is a game-changer all by itself.

In the following tutorial, I’ll show you how you can merge your source images into a DNG. Once you create that DNG, you can then edit it like any other RAW file in Lightroom and Photoshop. In other words, you don’t have to learn anything new other than the incredibly simple steps I show in the tutorial. And I’ve got a written summary of the full process below.


Camera Workflow (not shown in the video):

  1. Set your camera on a tripod (ideally using a nodal slide if you any part of your image is within about 10 feet of the camera).
  2. For each camera position in the tripod, shoot the same bracket sequence (ie, if you use +/- 1 stop like I did, do the same for each camera position in the panorama). Your brackets should be no more than 2 stops apart, and the darkest and lightest frame should be selected to deal with the darkest shadow and brightest highlight you wish to retain across the entire panorama (because you should use the same bracketing sequence for all camera positions).

Merge to HDR Panorama in Lightroom:

  1. Select all of the images you wish to merge by or -clicking on the files in the Library. You can use images you have already adjusted, but I just use the unadjusted RAW since anything you do to it before the merge is ignored.
  2. Right-click and choose Photo Merge / HDR Panorama.
  3. Select spherical or cylindrical projection, whichever looks best for your image (spherical is typically best for a multi-row pano, and cylindrical for a single row).
  4. Turn on “auto-crop”. (or leave it off if you want to keep more of the image, but you will need to clone or use Content Aware Fill in Photoshop to deal with blank pixels at the edges).
  5. Adjust the Boundary Warp to get the best image (generally you should slide to the left for less distortion, to the right for less cropping of the image).
  6. You can toggle “auto-settings” on or off, as you can make any desired changes in the Develop module later.
  7. Turn on “Create Stack” if you wish to keep the source images and conveniently hide them behind the final DNG file in the Library.
  8. Click Merge.

After the merge is complete, you will now have a new DNG file which you may continue to edit like any other RAW file in Lightroom or Photoshop. If you’d like to learn the techniques I use to edit images like this using luminosity masks, be sure to check out my Exposure Blending Master Course.


For a full details on other improvements in Lightroom v8, see the Lightroom release notes.

Greg Benz Photography