The effect is relatively simple to create (although not entirely obvious). A panoramic photo works best.
Most digital cameras these days have a setting that let you create panoramas. Even if your camera doesn’t have such a setting you can click a couple of photos where the right end of a photo overlaps with the left hand side of the next photo, then import them inside Photoshop to stitch a panorama. There are also a number of tools specially designed to help you stitch a panorama.
A photo with tall structures and a relatively uniform bottom or top part (like a sky or river) works best for this kind of effect. Another very important requirement is that the left and right edge of the photo should be as similar as possible, or else you will be able to make out where the two ends join. I discuss at the end of this article how you can remedy this.
- Open up the image in Photoshop or GIMP if you so prefer.
- Now we need to make our image a square. In Photoshop you would go to Image > Image Size, uncheck Constrain Proportions and then make the height the same as the width. (In GIMP you would use Image > Scale image and unlink the Width and Height)
- Now choose Image > Image Rotation and rotate the image by 180 degrees (GIMP: Tools > Transform Tools > Rotate). This step is optional but you might need to play around. Whatever is on top after this step will become the inside of the circle and whatever is at the bottom will become the outside environment of the final image!
- We are almost there, just one last step left. Go to Filters > Distort > Polar Coordinates and in the dialog that shows up choose “Rectangular to Polar“. (In GIMP use Filters > Distorts > Polar Coordinates)
- That’s it, the effect is done. Depending upon the image you chose, you might have to add a couple of finishing touches to your image. One of the most common problems that shows up is a harsh noticeable edge between what was previously the left and right ends of the image.
Let’s see how we can quickly get rid of it:
- The easiest way is to duplicate one edge of the image and paste it as a new layer on top of the image.
- Move this duplicated edge over to the other end (if you duplicated the left edge move it over to the right and vice versa). Once in place you need to decide if the two ends look similar now, don’t worry about the fact that you created a hard noticeable joint in the process, we will get rid of it in a moment.
- If the two edges look similar, then all we need to do is blend in the harsh edge. This can be done by adding a layer mask to the duplicated edge layer and then painting with a soft black brush on the layer mask. This will start revealing the bottom layer and things will start to blend in. Don’t go too far with this, as soon as the hard obvious edge disappears, stop right there.
- Now repeat the steps above and this time you should get a “seamless” result!
You can now rotate the image around and add a bit of contrast to give it that “out of the world” look! Feel free to try other variations and to play with the contrast and colors to add a bit more to your image.
We would love to hear your thoughts about the effect and see some of the results as well.