Got back from the Lake District last night. I was staying in the village of Rosthwaite where my brother and his wife have bought a holiday house and it’s great to report that this little country still has places with no internet, no mobile phone coverage, and almost no radio reception. So nothing else to do except go walking and snapping – this is Derwentwater from Friars Crag, Keswick and is stitched in Photoshop CS3 from 9 originals. But before I disappear to Lausanne for a couple of weeks, another rant….

Improved stitching is one of the top reasons I offer when people ask about upgrading to CS3 (the other is the black and white adjustment) and I’ve certainly been doing many more panoramas in the last year. But managing all these component images is going to need some work. One way is to use Lightroom’s stacking feature – I’d put the stitched image at the top of the stack. But I file my derivatives separately from the original raw files, and stacking is only really helpful once you’ve actually stitched the final masterpiece. Before that point, the stack will only be represented by one of the panorama’s component shots, and there’s also the danger of accidentally deleting one of these badly-composed components. The same argument applies to other multi frame techniques like HDR or the newer idea of registering multiple frames and using median blending to eliminate anything moving through the scene. As these methods become more popular, we’re going to need more help grouping, representing, and protecting the component images.

Right now, what I do is use a custom field in iView and record the first file’s name against each component and the derivative. I can cope, but I’d like to see better.

What I’d love to see is Lightroom, xMedia, Aperture etc introduce “stack types”. Currently we only have the “best of” method which you see in Lightroom and Aperture and where one image is chosen as the best or representative thumbnail. I’d also like to see “strip” where the representative thumbnail is a line of small thumbnails, showing you that this stack is a series of components for a panorama. Another would be “grid”, for stitches in more than one direction. “Blend” would be another type, where the thumbnail might have a gap across the middle to indicate the components are part of an HDR. I’m even less sure about the representative thumbnail for register blends, but by now I hope you see the direction I’d like software to follow – make the stack’s representative thumbnail indicate what type of usage is intended for the component images.

As well as grouping and representing, another need is adding a greater level of protection against deletion. This is less relevant for “best of” stacks, but for other stack types the user should be warned before a component is deleted. After all, a panorama without one of the component frames would be a rather toothless creature, don’t you think?