How to create a polar panorama

Many of you have seen those cool images that look like mini planets. They’re called ‘polar panoramas’, and I’m about to show you how to make one.

Westminster Bridge at Night - Polar Panorama

Step 1: make a panorama

In case you don’t know, those mini planet images are actually made from 360 panoramas. So you need to have made one of these first.

Westminster Bridge at Night - Panorama


For instructions on this see steps 1-3 of our How to make interactive panoramas article. Once that’s done come back here.


Step 2: turn it into a polar panorama

These instructions will sound quite odd, but if you follow them then you’ll get that little-planet effect. N.B. The instructions below are aimed at photoshop users but should be applicable to most photo editing programs.


  1. In photoshop: go to the ‘Image’ top menu bar and select ‘Image size’, which will bring up a window with options. Make sure the ‘Constrain proportions’ box is not ticked, and then make the width and height the same.

constrain ffs

You can do this using the pixel dimensions or the document size – it doesn’t matter as the result’s the same. Then click ‘ok’. You should now have a squashed up square image, like the one below.

Times Square - 2k -wmas

2. Rotate the image by 180. You do this by clicking on the Image top menu bar, selecting ‘rotate image’, and then selecting 180. Click ok and you’ll now have an upside down squashed image. Don’t worry. You’re nearly there.

3. Then go to the filter top menu bar, click in ‘distort’ and then select ‘Polar coordinates’. Make sure ‘Rectangular to Polar’ is selected like in the screenshot below


4. Then click ‘ok’. Your image should then wrap around itself and look like a mini planet, like below.

Times Sq at Night - Polar Panorama



In general it’s best to make sure you’ve got sky all the way along the top of the image, as anything that extends all the way to the top will be warped, like in the example below.

Millennium Bridge HDR Polar Panorama

You’ll notice some strange streak warped lines around the edge of your polar panorama (like the one above). This is normal. If you want to get rid of them then you’ll have to use photoshop’s clone stamp and content-aware tool.

Also, if something large is nearer to you than everything else then you’ll get a very strange warping effect. For example, in this one I made in Trafalgar Square you’ll see Nelson’s Column looming out of the little planet.I quite like the result though so I didn’t bother correcting it.

Trafalgar Square - Polar Panorama

Finally, if you’d like to create something even stranger then you can make an inverted polar panorama. To do this simply skip the step where you rotate the image by 180 degrees and then follow the rest of the instructions as normal. You’ll then end up with something like this:

Inverted Polar Panorama in Berkeley Square


That’s all there is to it!

You can see more examples of polar panoramas on my website here.


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About Anatoleya 9 Articles

Anatoleya is a London based photographer and videographer.