Panoramas can produce some awe inspiring photos, providing the viewer with a much wider viewing angle than they would typically see, either from a photo, or their eyes. You can create small panoramas, merging just three photos, or go the full 360, and produce miniature globes like in this post here.
There’s a few things that you need to bear in mind though…
Shoot Portrait for Panoramic
When you’re creating a panorama, you are typically taking lots of photos, side by side, so you’re not exactly short of width. What you will struggle with though, is creating a panorama which is tall enough to include everything, and still look right. So simply by switching to portrait, you give yourself a lot more room to work with.
It also helps out if your lens choice isn’t exactly perfect. The panorama below was shot with a 50mm lens, on a crop sensor body, so the focal length was effectively 80mm. Not exactly ideal. But it managed to work out just fine.
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A tripod is really good at keeping everything nice and level. Obviously. When I’m shooting a panorama, I like to mount my camera on my tripod, and line up the horizon with a focus point in my camera, so I know how to compose my photo in each shot.
You can actually find specific tripod heads which are made for panoramic photos, but I doubt you need to invest that sort on money.
The truth of the matter is that good software, such as Photoshop, allow you to make small mistakes, and still come out with really good results. If you’re using free software though, then they tend to be a lot less lenient.
Make sure that you don’t just take the photos so that they meet at each end, instead, aim for an overlap of about 50%.
The reason for this is two fold. Firstly, it allows the computer to see where it needs to stitch the photos together, and secondly, it will make allowances for any barrel distortion in the lens. When the photo stretches off in the corners on a really wide angle lens, it produces a distortion, so a good overlap will remove this.
Depending on where the sun is in the sky, the exposure is going to change as you point the camera in different directions. That’s if you leave the camera in any mode, other than manual.
I really like shooting into the sun, like in the photo below, so if I had kept my camera on a priority mode, then the exposure would change throughout, and Photoshop would have had a really hard time trying to stitch the photo together.
Shooting a panorama? Always shoot on manual.
Clearly, this isn’t going to be a processing free process if you’re using a digital SLR, so it’s time to whip out Photoshop. You can also use GIMP, with this plugin, but the results are nowhere near as good/easy/accurate as Photoshop. I’ve even used $300 panorama software and not produced results as good as Photoshop.
So Photoshop have made this really easy. Just open it up, click on File, go down to Automate, and then Photomerge. Then you simply select your photos, click on auto on the left hand side, and Photoshop will do the rest.
When it’s done, it’s usually pretty darn good, but if you want to make any adjustments, you can do so pretty easily. They use layer masks, so you can select a certain layer, and decide on which part of each photo you want to come through. Like I said though, it does a pretty good job by itself.
Then you can make any more necessary adjustments, and then Bob’s your uncle… A panorama in less than a minute.
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