Shooting Panoramic Pictures

Shooting Panoramic Pictures

There is something really cool about panoramic photography. All the extra visual information makes things seem much more immersive and true to life. Taking panoramic shots with your camera is pretty straightforward too, but there are a few tips – read on for more.

You don’t need any special gear to shoot a panorama, but there are a few things that will drastically improve your results and make your life easy.  If you don’t want your life to be easy, you’re all set.  If you do, you need a tripod.  Having a level, like this fun little guy that attaches to the camera hot shoe is really nice too, but optional.  Whatever you do or don’t have, follow these steps:

  1. Set your camera to manual exposure, if you’ve got it.  Look at your meter reading in the lighter and darker areas of a scene and find a setting that will work for both.  If you don’t do this and leave your camera on auto, some of the pictures will most likely be significantly lighter or darker than the rest.  Looks kinda funny.
  2. Attach your camera to the tripod and make sure you have the right knobs cranked so that you can pan smoothly across the scene.  I like using mine in vertical orientation to get a little more height in each frame.  While you’re at it, make sure things are level.  If your horizon isn’t straight, your pictures look funny.  You can fix this later, but you’ll end up cropping a bunch of your shot.
  3. Start taking pictures from one side or the other.  Pay attention to where the edges of the shot are.  You want to make sure each picture overlaps by about 25% – it will make putting them together much easier later.  Swivel the tripod or your body as smoothly as you can between shots.
  4. Once you have all the pictures on your computer, you’ll need to stitch them together.  I use The Panorama Factory (which works pretty well if you have a tripod, but in manual mode can be pretty fussy).  I’ve heard very good things about Autostitch, especially if you didn’t align things carefully.  Some cameras (the Canon Powershots, for example) come with a mode that helps you take and align panoramic pictures, but it only works when the camera is held horizontally.  Canon and possibly others also include photo stitching software but I wouldn’t recommend using it – the results from Panorama Factory are far better and I assume Autostitch would also give you a better final product.

Panoramas really only come into their own when you can display them at or nearly full size.  They make great prints for that reason.   If you’re looking for a picture with extra impact, panoramas might do the job.

3 Comments

  1. I’ve gone down to Gasworks park a couple times this week to get some night shots of the city. I was thinking about going back down when my tripod arrives this week and doing a panoramic shot to capture more detail in the buildings downtown. I’ll have to check out the applications you recommended.

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  2. Definitely bring a tripod and since it’s windy there, make sure it’s sitting pretty solid. This time of year, the sun is always in the wrong place – doing it at night handily gets around that though!

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