How To: Panoramic Photography – Part I
A panorama – or panoramic photo – is usually made by stitching several pictures, taken with the same camera, into one. Although you can also achieve a panoramic effect with only one photo by simply cropping it aggressively – especially if you are using a wide angle lens – I will stick to the “multiple photos” approach in this article as it offers more possibilities.
A panorama can in general be horizontal, vertical or even be a mosaic of pictures taken in both orientations. For this article I will assume you want to do a horizontal panorama, which means the final photo will have a width much greater than its height and photos will be taken from right to left (or left to right if you prefer but my camera only takes ine way). The technique can, as you will see, easily be adapted to do vertical panoramas.
Making a panoramic photo really only takes a couple of important steps.
The first step is taking the pictures;
The second is stitching them using your computer.
The more effort and attention you put in the first step, the easier the second step will be and the more realistic your final photo will look.
Taking the pictures
Whether you are shooting inside or outside, and especially if you are planning to shoot a particular event such as a sunset, it is a good idea to arrive early at the location of you shot as a proper setup can take some time.
What follows is the most important tip of the whole article: Put your camera in all manual mode, including manual focus.
This will ensure all the sub pictures making up the final panorama will have the same exposure level (hence the same brightness/contrast) and the same depth of field. This will make the stitching a lot easier since you will not have to adjust the individual pictures for exposure and focus.
A few extra tips will get you the best results out of this:
Do not use a polarizing filter unless you really have to. When you are going to rotate the camera in order to take the pictures, the incidence of the light on the filter will change and this will result in different colors hues on each picture. This can make the stitching very painful.
Try to use a focal lens of 50mm or greater. This means “zooming in” a little bit. Of course it also means you will have to take more pictures to cover the panorama, but it will result in more details in the end.
It is better to do this because, if you use a wide angle lens (or short focal length), there are changes that objects in the foreground will suffer from distortion, and you will be in trouble to stitch the pictures.