Panoramas Made Easy

Posted by Gary Ramey on March 28th, 2011

As Featured On EzineArticlesYou can take a panoramic image with a very wide angle lens or you can take a series of shots and stitch them together. The great thing about creating a panorama by stitching photos together is the incredible detail than can be preserved. The panoramic images displayed across the top of this website were stitched together. Using a sequence of shots also makes it possible to create 360×180 degree panoramas.

Here are some tips for creating a standard panorama composed of multiple shots stitched together:

  • Select a focal length between 18mm to 55mm. Look to your manual for a point-and-shot camera.
  • Use the same exposure, white balance, and focus for all the shots.
  • Expose and focus on the focal point of your composition. Whatever is most important in the composition neeeds to be exposed properly. Everything else will have to use the same settings. Don’t vary the settings or you will be able to easily see separate photos. Some point-and-shoot cameras have a panoramic mode built in. For these cameras, you may need to take a photo of the focal point then start the panoramic sequence.
  • Always shoot from from left to right. The software that you will use to stitch the images together will expect the first image in the sequence to be on the far left.
  • Imitate the field of view that we see with our eyes. The normal field of view for human sight is 170 degrees.
  • Overlap the images by about 1/3. This means that the second picture will repeat about 1/3 of the first picture. The third picture will overlap the second picture by 1/3, etc. If you have a tripod that shows degrees, each photo should be 25 to 30 degrees apart. You should take 4 to 5 shots – the number of shots depends on your focal length and the degrees between shots.
  • Use a tripod. It is possible to hand-hold panoramic shots but the images probably won’t line up very well. Point-and-shot cameras with a panoramic mode usually show you a ghost image of the previous shot to help see the overlap but you have to guess with DSLR cameras.

Some camera manufacturers, such as Canon,  bundle software with the camera that can be used to stitch photos together. You can also use Adobe Photoshop to stitch the images together by selecting File > Automate > Photomerge… A free alternative is to use Hugin to stitch together complex panoramas such as 360×180 degree panoramas.

If you become obsessed with taking panoramas, you may want to add get a special panoramic head for your tripod. These heads are specifically designed for taking panoramas and allow you to position the entrance pupil/no-parallax point of the camera’s lens over the pivot point of the tripod in order to eliminate parallax errors. See my review of the Panosaurus. There are even robotic heads that automate the process and take the pictures for you. Parallax errors become most obvious when there are really close objects in your scene. I have taken many panoramic shots of landscapes and seldom see parallax errors but if you are a perfectionist, you will probably want to invest in a one of these heads.

Click here to find out more about taking panoramic photos.


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