Case study: Architecture from every angle

Robert Harshman uses Photo Ninja to prepare RAW images for 360-degree panoramas

There was a time when being an architectural photographer meant you needed a tripod and a tilt-shift lens. For professionals like Robert Harshman, it increasingly requires a helicopter and a fast computer. Harshman specializes in high-end 360-degree virtual reality panoramas shot from above cities or within buildings. A single image might be assembled from dozens of shots from a top-of-the-line DSLR, and the result can approach a billion pixels. Clients include architects, builders, interior designers, and Fortune 100 companies who value these images as marketing, selling, and visualization tools for real estate assets and services.

This style of photography requires substantial postprocessing. As Harshman explains: “When you are shooting from a helicopter at dusk, you have to use high ISOs because of the vibration, so noise is a big problem. Even if you have a pan-head anchored on the roof of a building, it can take ten minutes to complete the shot sequence, which is plenty of time for the light to change when the sun is setting, so you can run into problems matching up exposures across the frames.” Moreover, making a building look its best requires high-quality image processing to enhance detail, color and lighting.

Harshman has been making extensive use of Photo Ninja to convert RAW images to TIFF before the stitching stage of his workflow. “I think you guys have hit it out of the park, this looks like the best RAW converter by a long way today. The enhancement of microcontrast is particularly effective for my work. And the Absolute exposure mode is a great help for avoiding seams during stitching -- I haven't seen anything like it before.”

He also praises the realistic look that Photo Ninja produces. “At our last shoot, I opened some of the images using the default settings to show them to a colleague. He remarked that ‘It looks exactly the way I remember it.’ That's high praise indeed.”

Top: Detail shots from a Nikon D800E raw file showing Photo Ninja's ability to bring out detail and enhance color. Bottom: A screenshot of the resulting 360-degree interior panorama, assembled from 50 raw images after converting to TIFF with Photo Ninja.

Below: One of Harshman's “little planet” panoramas, shot from a helicopter over Chicago.

To see more of Robert's work, visit his website at In addition, he is involved in a new collaborative, multi-disciplinary project,