It seemed that during the California Photo Festival I could not swing a cable release without hitting a few people discussing or playing with the app called Tiny Planet. The app manipulates an image in a pretty cool way and the result often resembles a small planet in the center of a square frame.
Although the buzz was about the phone app, the process has been around a while and there are many websites and blogs dedicated to the effect. So for all those who do not have the app or if you have it but want to apply a similar effect to your big photos, here is the quick way to do it in Photoshop.
Oh by the way, Jill Waterbury, Light's in house iPhoneography instructor, introduced just about everyone to the app and also requested the Photoshop method. So here it is for Jill and anyone else who wants to play around with their images to have fun and create.
The Photoshop method works best on panoramic images, especially 360 degree panos, but can be done to any image. To demo the process, I will start with a 360 pano I shot during Click.
The basic process is to open the image in Photoshop and then to apply a simple filter called "Polar Coordinates." This filter is found in the Filter>Distort menu. Of note it will only be available with 8-bit images so if you have a 16-bit workflow you will have to change to 8. (Go to Image>Mode>8-bits) Hand in hand with the depth change you may need to convert the image to a smaller color space. For example, Light recommends a 16-bit workflow using ProPhoto RGB. If you go from 16 to 8, you should also convert to either Adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB via Edit>Convert to Profile.
When you choose the Polar Coordinates filter you see the dialog below.
Make sure to select the "Rectangular to Polar" button. When you apply the polar coordinates filter you get the following image.
There was obviously a change but the filter created a "down the rabbit hole" effect and it is not a square frame, not what we are looking for. Interestingly, this effect is found in the app but is called "tiny tube." So before you apply the filter, you need to do two other steps.
First, go to Image>Image Size. In the dialog box, make sure resample image is checked but uncheck Constrain Proportions.
Go to the Width and Height text boxes in the Pixel Dimensions section and make them equal. I normally find the smaller number and change it to the larger. So in the example above, I get this.
Your image will look distorted but go with it.
Next go to Image>Image Rotation>Flip Canvas Vertical and the image will flip upside down.
Now we are ready to go back to the Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. The result is a tiny planet-like square image.
If you have a 360 degree pano all you have to do is the process described above. If you do not have that type of image you can still do the process. The best types of images to use are those with a
panoramic aspect ratio, images with little detail on the top and bottom, and a strong linear shape but with vertical development in the middle, vertical third of the frame. Even with the perfect image, there may possibly be a few more steps after you apply the filter. So here goes with a normal image.
This image does not have a panoramic aspect ratio (in general vertical images are more challenging to use than landscape) but there is limited detail at the top and bottom of the frame with a linear shape along the horizon displaying strong vertical development.
For any image that is not a 360 degree panorama, the first step is to make sure the horizon is level. After that do everything we did above. You will get the following intermediate images.
Just as before run the Polar Coordinates filter and you get this.
There is the tiny planet but there is a seam at the top because our image ends did not match perfectly. No worries, do a quick retouch and rotate the image to the desired angle and you get this.
A small planet with a volcano or two. This effect can be used on all sorts of images so have fun. Here is one more for the fun of it, this is a composite of a tiny planet and a tiny tube from the same image.
As you play remember to try the opposite effect. If you do not flip the image you can make a tiny tube like this one. (the opposite of the image at the top of this post.)