There’s nothing new about panoramic photography: it’s just that it’s now easier than ever before. In this tutorial we’ll run through the basics of panoramic photography, offer some tips on how to shoot your scene and then show you an easy way to stitch them together.
Words and images by Mark Hamblin
Once the preserve of professional photographers with specialised hardware or expensive film cameras, shooting high-quality panoramic photography is now possible for anyone with a DSLR, or even a point and shoot, so long as you stick to the basic rules.
The technique involves taking a series of overlapping images, then blending them together with stitching software to create a seamless panoramic photograph.
There is no limit to the number of images that can be used to create the panorama, and you don’t have to restrict yourself to a single sweep across the landscape: you can build up the image with two or three rows of images as long as you maintain a good overlap between them.
Panoramic photography: tips for shooting
The golden rule in panoramic photography is to keep the settings exactly the same for each shot. This involves doing things manually, so make sure you’re familiar with working in Manual metering mode.
You also need to set the white balance manually, although you can sync this during processing if you shoot in raw. Wide-angle lenses are best avoided: they can cause problems with distortion that can’t be fixed in software.
A focal length of between 35-80mm is usually about right. While a tripod isn’t vital, it will help you frame successive images.
How to make a high-resolution panoramic landscape
01 Sync everything
Use Manual mode to set the exposure so it’s the same in every shot. If the readings vary, use settings in the middle of the range. Take a test shot and evaluate the histogram. Set the white balance to 5600k and switch to manual focusing.
02 Overlap generously
With the camera on a level tripod, take the first shot on the far left and then take successive shots with a 30% overlap – don’t re-focus. If necessary take more images below and above to include everything you want in the shot.
03 Stitch your images
Import the raw images for processing and make adjustments to one image, then sync with the others. Export files at full resolution and load them into stitching software such as Photomerge, PTGui or Hugin to generate a panorama.
04 Output the Panorama
The stitching software will automatically generate a composite image, but it may require cropping to remove blank canvas. After outputting, make any final adjustments to contrast and colour saturation in Photoshop.
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