I have created a photo too large for Photoshop

For those who have been following my work to make ultra-high-resolution panoramic photos with the GigaPan robotic camera mount, I have finally triumphed! I made a panoramic image this last Saturday with 1515 contributing images. The resulting image is 384,728 x 40,736 pixels in size, which is really large, and would be 4.701683 x 10 to the tenth power.

That’s 47 gigabytes.

It took about two hours to shoot, another two hours to transfer the images from the camera to the computer, and about eight hours to stitch in GigaPan Stitch, the software that is used to make images that are produced on the GigaPan device.

My vantage point above Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. I put my horrible tripod on an old backpack frame and made the hike up to the top of the Poly P hill, about 1100 feet altitude. From there I made the epic photo on the GigaPan Epic Pro device with 1,515 contributing photos – each 60.2 MB in size.

I had it cooking all day Sunday, and by Sunday evening had completed the final image. My usual work flow for GigaPans is to upload them to the GigaPan site for public viewing, then export them to a format that can be opened by Photoshop. My plan, eventually, is to make one or more huge – really huge – full resolution prints from these large images, and use them to wallpaper a room with images.

This is a panoramic image I made with four shots on my iPhone. It stitched to over 50 MB, but it doesn’t stand up very well to my 47 GB GigaPan image! The one I can’t open.

When this one was finished stitching, and finished uploading to the GigaPan web site I tried to open it in Photoshop, but I received a warning that it’s too big for the popular photo software!

I entered the pixel dimensions and the number of channels into Photoshop’s Raw palette (the other one), and then I received this message from the program:

Oops! I couldn’t go any further because Adobe Photoshop has a 300,000-pixel limit!

My largest image prior to this was a photo taken in May from Cerro San Luis Obispo, overlooking the city, which spans about 200 degrees, and would print to 67 feet long at 300 ppi. At that size and resolution, the photo should provide eye-level image quality adequate to recognize individual automobiles and street signs. It’s available for viewing at GigaPan.com. I plan to print it eventually at full size.

My plan is to print these images on my Epson 9600 wide-format printer. I will print them in strips 44 inches wide and as long as necessary to fill the wall for my exhibition, which is not yet in possession of a venue. I can probably print the photo mentioned above in two long pieces, then I will pay a professional wallpaper hanger to put them up. I will be sure to stock a huge amount of paper and ink before starting, and will hold my breath while they print. I have never printed anything that large in the many years that I have owned an Epson wide-format machine, but there is a first time for everything!

I wish I could bill it to myself, but I probably won’t ever get paid for the work!

After posting my 300,000-pixel challenge on the GigaPan forum I have learned that there is no work-around for this (Corel Paint can open it, but I don’t have that software). It has been suggested that I re-work the photo to make it in two pieces, and then reassemble it when it’s printed.

I think I will start half of the image processing this evening, and do the other half tomorrow night. That way I will have two pieces that can be edited in Photoshop, perhaps scaled to 150,000 pixels each, and then assembled as an image with (only) 300,000 pixels of horizontal resolution.

That should do the trick.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and was a Guest Professor at Hochschule München from September, 2021 to September, 2022. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
This entry was posted in Photography, Photoshop techniques, Software. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I have created a photo too large for Photoshop

  1. Elon ganor says:

    Dear Brian,

    I am totally new to gigapan. Just bought it and did not try it yet. I am interested to print huge prints. I use photoshop. I came across this post of yours. Since you published it did you find a solution to work with photoshop on larger files? Or are you still inthe same situation of having to split the image?


    • Brian Lawler says:

      Hi Elon,

      There is no simple solution to the limits of Photoshop files (300,000 pixels in either dimension). But, 300,000 pixels still represents a HUGE photo when printed.

      I am building a show now, for an opening in February, 2014. The biggest image for that show will be a print made of 16 sections that will measure over 54 feet (18 meters) in length, and about 10 feet (3 meters) tall. That file is less than 300,000 pixels in the long dimension (it’s about 200,000 pixels wide).

      I have come to realize that making files over 300,000 pixels is impractical. I certainly don’t need to make any that large. The image I made that exceeded Photoshop’s size limit was too big to use, so I plan to restitch it in GigaPan Stitch at a lower resolution. That will make it possible to print.

      I wish you great success with your new GigaPan head. They are wonderful devices that unlock a new dimension in panoramic photography.

      Brian Lawler

  2. A A Khan says:

    Hi Brian,


    I am writing to seek some guidance from you. I have uploaded a test image to Gigapan and set it up for public viewing. I have tried to find a way to export it to a format that can be opened in Photoshop for printing on a large format printer (as suggested in your post above); however, I am unable to find an option to export the image on the upload.

    Your guidance to export will be very helpful.

    • Brian Lawler says:

      Hello AA,

      I apologize for the delay in responding. If you are in possess of the original GigaPan image, you have two options for saving and printing. When you finish stitching, you can export as Raw or TIFF. I recommend Raw. Always write down the information that Stitch provides because you will not be able to open the file in Photoshop without it.

      When you finish saving the file as Raw, then open it in Photoshop, entering the pixel dimensions and the channel count (always 3) and it will open.

      From Photoshop you can do the always necessary retouching, and then you can save as a Photoshop PSB file (Large Document file). These can be as large as Photoshop’s maximum (which I have forgotten, having reached it only once).

      A PSB file is the best because it supports Adjustment Layers, embedded profiles and other Photoshop-specific file components not supported by Raw.

      You can print from the PSB file to an attached printer. I have done that many, many times and it works fine. You can also send it to a print provider in PSB format, and they can print it for you.

      Best wishes,

      Brian P. Lawler

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