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Photo Merge Tips in Lightroom CC


From The Indispensable Guide to Lightroom CC by Sean McCormack

Photo Merge is a new tool in Lightroom 6. It compliments the Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop and the Merge to Panorama in Photoshop commands from the Edit In menu.

The difference is that the files created by Lightroom have full Develop controls, including temperature-based White Balance (rather than simply “cooler” or “warmer” like with a TIFF file).

The files created are 16-bit floating-point files, which allows them to contain enough information to create HDR images as 24- or 32-bit files in a much smaller space. The process for both HDR and Panorama is straightforward, as you will see.


High Dynamic Range images are based on creating a sequence of bracketed exposures that increase the dynamic range of a photo when combined. Lightroom aims for a natural result, creating a merged file that is saved as a DNG. Essentially it’s a raw image. The merge reads the raw data from the selected files and then merges them into a new raw file.


To begin, select two or more bracket exposures. From the Photo menu in Library or Develop, go to Photo Merge and choose HDR. You can also use the shortcut Control + H (both Mac and PC).The HDR Merge Preview dialog will open and Lightroom will generate a preview of the HDR Merge. Note that the actual Merge will happen in the background after you click the Merge button, and the process takes some time. The preview window can be expanded, but the maxi­mum preview size is 1024px long for normal monitors and 2048px for Retina and HiDPI monitors.

The Preview shows the current Merge. There’s some issue with the Preview.

The Preview shows the current Merge. There’s some issue with the Preview.

Changing Deghost from None to High improves the image

Changing Deghost from None to High improves the image

You can view where the Deghost algorithm is working by turning on the Show Deghost Overlay Option. The shortcut “O” will toggle this on and off (Mac only).


The resulting file is added to the catalog and takes its name from the active file with an -HDR suffix on the end. It can be processed just like any other RAW file, just with increased dynamic range.



To begin a Panorama Merge, select two or more Photos. From the Photo menu in Library or Develop, go to Photo Merge and choose Panorama. You can also use the shortcut Control + M (both Mac and PC). Note that the images don’t need to be in a line—you can do vertical and horizontal panoramas, or even combinations of both.


The Panorama Merge Preview will open.


There are three options for how the resulting panorama will be projected. There is an Auto checkbox that will automatically choose one of the three to give the best projection. These are:

  • Spherical: Treats the panorama as a 360º mapping. Essentially acts as though the panorama is projected onto a sphere. Perfect for 360º pan­oramas, but works on other image sets also. This is also known as an equirectangular projection.
  • Cylindrical: Images are treated as though they were mapped onto a cylinder. The reference image is placed in the middle and the other files are overlapped to match.
  • Perspective: The middle image is the reference image and the other images are mapped and overlapped to this. It can have a “Bow-Tie” effect where the side images are stretched into a bow-tie shape. Cylin­drical solves this. Perspective is also known as rectilinear projection.
A Perspective projection with Auto Crop off, showing the Bow-Tie effect

A Perspective projection with Auto Crop off, showing the Bow-Tie effect

Auto Crop is the final option. This crops into the final panorama to remove all transparent areas resulting from the merge. This crop can be changed after Merge, so it isn’t critical if it’s on or off when processing your image. Being on means you can access the maximum crop without doing it manually.

Press Merge to create the Panorama. Like HDR, this will be created in the background and added to the catalog on completion. The file will take the name of the selected image from the original files and add a -Pano suffix. Lens Profiles are used as part of the merge process to get the best blend. If Lightroom can’t find a profile, a warning will be displayed. Manually apply a profile before continuing. The final Panorama still has the Lens Profiles options active, but these are left active for creative effect rather than for making corrections.

Headless Mode

You can trigger both HDR and Panorama in Headless Mode. This means you run the command and the Merge will be done in the background without any dialog boxes appearing. Simply hold the Shift key when clicking in the Photo Merge menu, or add the Shift key to the normal shortcuts (Shift + Control + H for HDR, Shift + Control + M for Panorama).

To learn even more about Lightroom 6, check out Sean McCormack’s The Indispensable Guide to Lightroom CC

Plus, download our free eBook, Rocky Nook’s Guide to HDR and Photo Merge in Lightroom CC

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