Panoramic photography (sometimes known as wide format photography) is a technique that combines multiple images from the same camera together, to form one single, wide photograph.
In the past, panoramic photography was created by physically aligning separate photographs. As you might have guessed, this didn’t turn out too well, since it’s nearly impossible to align separate photos perfectly to the point where they make one flowing image. Now, however, with the developments in computer software and photography, it’s possible to stitch together several photographs into a near-perfect, seamless panorama.
In this article, we’re going to explore the different types of panoramas and the best tips for shooting fantastic panoramic photography.
The three types of panoramas
Most people associate panoramas with just a wide horizontal image or vertical image, when the reality is a bit more complex than that.
The first and easiest panorama to create is the partial panorama. In essence, these are wide-angle views that are created by joining multiple images together to create a wide-angle image either vertically or horizontally. These are so easy, in fact, that most mobile phones now come with a camera setting to take one! This can be a wide-angle shot anywhere under 360 degrees.
Next are panoramas that cover a whole 360 degrees. These are designed to cover the whole horizontal field of view around you, and are somewhat more difficult to take compared to a partial panorama.
Full spherical panorama
Finally, we have the full spherical panorama which is by far the most difficult to create. These capture the whole view around you both vertically and horizontally. These are often posted online as interactive images, created by using special software such as PTGui.
Tips to create winning panoramic shots
Now that you know the basics about the different types of panoramas, you should be ready to experiment and get your panorama on! Note that since this is a beginner’s guide, we’ll be focusing on partial panorama tips which might also work for 360-degree panoramas.
Use a tripod
This one often crops up in our tips and tricks guides, but in panoramic photography, it’s more important than ever.
Using a tripod means that your shots will align in at least one axis, meaning that when it comes to merging the photos later, fewer of the photos will be wasted resulting in a larger and more accurate panoramic image.
Use a zoom lens
For the best results, use a zoom lens. These will allow you to zoom in and out, giving you more options and versatility no matter where you’re taking your panoramic. It’s also recommended that you take any lens filters off, especially any circular polarizers as they can easily mess up your sky.
Shoot in manual mode
For the best results, you’ll want the exposure to be the same for every photo in the panorama. That means the aperture size, shutter speed and ISO need to be constant for each and every shot. If the values change throughout the shoot, different parts of the image will appear lighter or darker compared to the rest.
To ensure your values don’t change, shoot in manual mode and set your values based on the best ones from test shots.
Flip the camera 90 degrees
When taking a panorama, try flipping your camera the opposite way around to how you plan on taking your shot.
For example, if you’re taking a horizontal panorama, taking several vertical shots to capture more of the sky and ground, creating a higher resolution panorama and capturing a broader, more detailed image. On the other hand, if you’re taking a vertical panorama, using horizontal shots will capture more details to the left and right of your subject.
Overlap your shots
To ensure your photo merging software works, overlap your shots by more than one-third. If your shots aren’t overlapped, the software might not be able to align the photos.
Merging your photographs together
Your panoramic will only be complete once you’ve merged your photographs together with post-production software. Many software can be used, but the two most popular by far are Adobe Photoshop and PTGui
While Photoshop’s sole purpose isn’t panoramas, it’s definitely the easier option of the two.
Simply go to File > Automate > Photomerge, and a dialogue box will appear. Click Browse and select the images you wish to use for your panorama. Make sure that ‘Blend Images Together’ and ‘Geometric Distortion Correction’ are both checked, then click OK. The merging process will then begin. It may take a while, but after the process has been completed, crop your panorama and you’re done!
The most popular tool for panoramas is PTGui. It’s a little trickier to use than Photoshop but provides more stitching options and customization.
Once you’ve opened the software, click the Load Images button and browse for the images you wish to use, then click Open. Once the images are loaded, click Align Images and let PTGui do the work. Eventually, a window will appear. Select the right projection for your panorama then return to the main screen and click Create Panorama, which will take you to another tab to set the size and format. Finally, click Create Panorama and PTGui will begin the merging process.
There are some tips for newcomers to get comfortable with panoramic photography. Stick to these, and you’ll be a pro in no time!
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