The Planet Effect – Using Polar Coordinates in Photoshop

So last week I was tooling around on YouTube, since that actually is my job, and I came across a new video posted about creating the planet effect with your photos. I had been interested in doing this since I’ve seen quite a few so I tagged the video in my Stumble “Photo Tips” list for watching later. (Consequently, this is a new function of Stumble that I’ll be using much more often.) The video in question is:

I thought this would be a bit of fun so I pulled out some old Panoramas and some landscape scenes to determine what I could do, and what works best. First I’ll show you the steps to do this, and then I’ll show you some examples and learnings.

Step 1: Open your picture in photoshop and determine the exact width of the image.

Step 2: Under Filter -> Other select Offset, and offset the image exactly half of the image width in the top box. My image is 2580 pix so you see I have entered 1280.

Step 3: This is the tricky step. You now want to blend the two images so that there is no obvious demarcation between the two halves. The horizon has to line up, as well as the colors and shading.

Example: In the picture below, I did not blend the image. You can see how distorted the difference in the horizon becomes.

Step 4: Under Image -> Image size make sure you deselect “Constrain Proportions” and then set the height to the same dimension as the width. This will stretch your image, but don’t worry.

Step 5: Under Image -> Rotate Canvas select “Flip Canvas Vertical”. The reason for this is that the Polar Coordinate function essentially grabs the middle of the top of the image and will make this the center of the new image. If you do not flip the image, your sky will become the center of the image.

Step 6: Under Filter -> Distort select the “Polar Coordinates” option. You can zoom out in the window to see what your image will look like and then click ok.

Step 7: If you don’t like the streaks that are in the corners, you can clear them up. Use the eye dropper to choose the color you want the outside corners to become. I selected colors from the outer edge of the image. Then in the “Layer” menu on the right bar click the black and white circle and select “Solid Color”. Your image should now be completely covered with the new color. Take the paint brush: set it to 40% opacity, the color black, and about the same brush size as the center image of your picture. Start drawing over the image until what you want to be visible has reappeared.

And there you have it. Your image as a Planet:

What I learned about using the Planet Effect:

First: If you have taken a picture later in the day and shot either North or South, you’ll send up with the sky lighter in one direction or the other. This is what you would expect, and often time what you were going for, but it makes it tricky for using this effect. You end up doing a lot more blending. While not obvious in the sky in the below picture, it is obvious when you look at the buildings crease and see the obvious difference in lighting.

Second: If you have objects close to you near the corners of the image, and the rest of the image is at a distance, you get some funky swirls in the middle of your image.

Third: If you don’t have a fairly even photo as far as content goes, you’ll end up with a distortion in the image that will look funny.

So there you have it. From my limited experience a tutorial on how to use the Planet effect. Overall, you need a nice flat horizon, an even balance of content and an even sky. So here are a couple more examples of images I’ve been playing with.

The full set of photos can be found here.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

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