Organizing Panorama and HDR Photos in Lightroom

Lightroom’s latest Photo Merge feature has made it much easier to do panorama and HDR processing. This article discusses part of my workflow in Lightroom for organizing sequences of photos that I want to merge into a panorama, blend exposures (HDR) or do some focus stacking in Photoshop. My specific goals in this area are to:

  • Quickly identify photos to be merged
  • Identify sequences that need to be processed
  • Find the final processed images and their associated sequences.

Early in my editing workflow, when I come across a sequence of photos to be merged into a panorama, HDR or focus stack image, I do the following.

  • Put the photos into their own group or stack
  • Add the keyword _SEQUENCE plus the appropriate keyword Panorama, HDR or Focus Stack1.
  • Each photo is flagged (type P key) to indicate that it has at least been reviewed, i.e. it has gone through the first pass of editing2.
  • Any sentinel photos taken in the field indicating the beginning or end of a sequence are marked for deletion (type X key).

I have created Filter presets for each type of _SEQUENCE in Lightroom. The filter preset can be used against any source of images, folders, collections or the entire catalog. I find this more flexible than creating a set of smart Collections.

Later in my workflow the photos that make up a sequence would get a 2-star rating, and the merged or composite image gets at least a 3-star rating and moved to the top of the stack (group). This may not match your personal rating scheme, however you may do it, I find it important to distinguish the final image from its constituent parts with some type of rating or label. Thus you can combine an attribute filter with one of the _SEQUENCE filter presets to find finished images or sequences that have not yet been processed.

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Above I have applied my Filter preset “Sequence Panorama” (boxed in red in the Library Filter bar) to a source set of photos, the Patagonia folder on the right. The result show all of the stacks with images to merge into a panorama, even some verticals. The 2-star stacks have not been merged yet, those with a 3-star or greater image at the top of the stack have been merged.3. To review the panos from my trip to the Olympic peninsula, I would click on its folder on the left, making it the source, and then select the same Filter preset to apply to it.

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Keyword Set and Keyword List definitions

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Filter Preset drop-down list

Here are two screen shots showing my custom keyword set to make marking sequences easy and the Filter preset drop-down, from which the bottom items suggest how one would create a Filter preset. Click on each to enlarge the image.


  1. In Lightroom 6 the Photo Merge feature, a merged photo’s filename includes a substring HDR or pano. I prefer use of a keywording scheme over relying on text in the filename. First because I can also mark the constituent parts of the merge. Second this works for focus stack “merges” or exposure blending done outside of Lightroom. And finally because it works in earlier versions of Lightroom. 
  2. I often find, particularly when traveling, that my editing workflow gets fragmented. Seldom does the first pass of editing occur during a single session. I wish to avoid repeating myself and re-reviewing hundreds of photos. My editing rules include any photo that has gotten a first glance gets a Pick or Delete flag; anything without a flag has not yet been reviewed. The pick flag status remains completely independent of any star-rating or labels. 
  3. Note that in my workflow 2-star photos never progress very far. The labels I use indicate to me what state a photo has in the workflow; green means fully keyworded, processed and ready to ship; a blue label means uploaded (shipped). So as a side effect, stacks with no label or red labels can also identify photos that have not yet been merged. In your workflow, labels rather than stars may be easier to visually identify unprocessed sequences.