What actually is a panorama?
Panoramic Photography is a method of creating images that increase the field of view beyond ability of single wide angled photograph, therefore increasing the aspect ratio of the finished product.
The idea of a panorama shot is to better convey the expansiveness of the given scene we wish to photograph. Since we don’t view the world in single images, but as a continuous stream like video, a panorama gives a more accurate representation of natural vision, and communicates more detail and authenticity.
The Essentials of Taking Panoramas:
- Keep the Camera Level
This is the most essential part of the process. Keeping the camera level ensures the vertical and horizontal alignment of all the objects in shot are maintained. If you are going to shoot handheld, make sure to steady yourself and keep a keen eye on the lines in each image to keep along the same level.
- Use the right lens/focal length
Although a wide angle lens allows you to complete a panorama in just a few shots, it’s best not to think in that way. Eight great shots with the correct lens, is much better than three with an inappropriate lens.
With a wide angle, particularly “fish-eye” lenses, the curvature and distortion can create significant problems in creating the final composite image. The software you’ll be using to stitch the images together will be working hard enough to correct the smallest of distortions, so using lenses with ultra wide angles will only make this process more difficult!
- Keep a constant overlap between images
Make sure to overlap each individual shot by between 25-35 percent. For example, if you’re shooting left to right, identify an object or a landmark in the right hand third of the frame, and ensure this appears in the left hand third of the next frame. This allows for clear and easy stitching later in post production.
Camera Settings For Panoramic Landscapes
Its difficult give specific ISO speeds or aperture settings for example, because obviously those will be different for every scene’s lighting conditions, however there are lots of general settings observable in most situations, that are good to remember:
The lower ISO you can use and still expose correctly, the smoother and more “grain” free your resulting images will be. Using a larger f-stop will put more of the image into focus, resulting in sharp images across the panorama, but be aware this significantly affects the amount of light entering the camera so balance this with your other settings to achieve a balance you are happy with.
As for file types, you can achieve decent results with fine Jpeg images, but most people these days creating panoramas will be using software capable of handling RAW files. The RAW images will retain much more data about the scene, which allows for greater manipulation.
It’s best to maintain the exposures and white balance as Manual, as this stops the camera from making discrepancies between the individual images. As for focus, if you keep your finger half-depressed on the shutter, most cameras will refrain from refocusing between shots, allowing you to keep the same view across all the photos you wish to combine together.
For example, with the image below, some of the images had the sun directly in shot, some didn’t. The camera would expose differently for this if I allowed it to, at which point they wouldn’t fit together naturally. There would be sharp contrasts all the way through the panorama along the fit lines.
Stitching the Images Together
There are lots of programs for image stitching, from Photomatix Pro 4.2,7, to Photoshop CC.
Depending on the degree of quality you want to achieve with the final result, these softwares offer the ability to either automatically find points of similarity and line up the images, or manually select those points for a slightly more accurate result.
The software also can help with any issues thrown up by the lenses/cameras used to capture the images. Vignette removal and distortion correction are just two of the extra features to correct abnormalities. The images usually export/save as Jpegs, making them universally editable/uploadable for most software/browsers.
Once combined, you can also use your usual image editing software to make fine tuning and final corrections to the whole image, whether it’s just to adjust the levels, or you want to completely rework the colours into a piece of surreal photo art.
Hopefully this tutorial has helped you understand the finer details of landscape panoramic photographs. If you have any further questions, please feel free to comment below.
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