Panoramic Pictures

Learning how to do panoramic photography is exciting and fun. You can create thousands of photos that look beautiful on your wall or home office. It’s not only a great way to practice the way you look at photography in general but a great way to master your landscape photography skills as well.

panoramic photography

“Sunrise at the lake” captured by Jim Kious

Let’s start with why panoramas were invented. Software businesses knew that the scene was bigger than what our cameras could record. So they created a process called stitching. Stitching is a term used to describe taking a series of photos side by side and merging them together to create one single, long, wide photo.

For panorama photography, you don’t need anything too expensive when it comes to cameras. You just need a tripod, clear lighting, and some software.

My favorite software to stitch my panoramas is called “Panorama Maker Pro.” Nowadays they have version 6 available. You can even try it for a short period of time to decide whether or not it is suitable for you. I have created a lot of panoramas with the software. Once complete you can clearly see how it beautifully elongates a photo. This works fabulously for landscape photography. When you want to photograph your scene and don’t have a wide or ultra wide angle lens, creating a panorama is good fun.

Camera Positioning for Panoramas

It’s one thing to make panoramas and another thing to actually take them. There is a particular way to shoot panoramic shots and it’s less difficult than you’re probably thinking.

Let’s start with photographing a landscape shot. Choose the scene you want to photograph. Make sure your landscape has nice lighting and there are no strong shadows across your scene, it will make it a lot easier to stitch if you have a clear and open scene.

panorama picture

“Mineret Lake Panorama” captured by Sierra Pictures

Set your camera up on a tripod. Keep it securely fastened and able to move about from left to right or right to left only. It’s crucial that you allow the tripod to move horizontally. If your tripod slips downward as you’re taking the picture you make risk having your photo blurry, and the software will be unable to stitch correctly.

Don’t shoot into the sun. Have the sun behind you. It’s better to shoot at the end of the day or the start of the day. The light is softer and so much more gentle at the start and end of the day. The colors are deeper too.

Creating Panoramic Photos

Choose manual mode and place the camera in the direction of the part of the scene you want to expose properly. Now keep the camera on those settings the whole time. Let’s say you have the camera at 1/250 of a second, f/20, and ISO 100. You’ve decided that you want a certain part of the picture to be well exposed and these settings will do it. That’s good; keep them that way and don’t change the settings at all.

Once you’ve chosen your settings, now take a succession of photos, one after the other. Turn the camera from left to right, for example. Make sure you leave a section of the scene as overlap. Your stitching software needs to overlap something.

What Kinds of Things Can You Make a Panorama From?

Fast moving subjects may not work, depending on the light. Begin with motionless subjects. Landscapes with nothing but blue sky and a mountain range are good subjects to begin with. Nothing is fast moving so the software should not have any concern stitching your scene together. Let me explain.

how to take panoramic pictures

“Metropolitan Cathedral” captured by Richard Deane

If you’re shooting with a shutter speed of /125 of a second and the subject is fast moving, like water for example, then you may not have a fast enough shutter speed for the motion of the camera and the water. In one photo the water will be at the top of the rock and the next photo the water will be halfway down the rock.

When the software tries to stitch two irregularities together it will not be able to form a complete picture. You must always keep the shot without movement so the software can stitch the image in exactly the same spot. It will then make photo 1 the same as photo 2. There will be no difficulties and the two photos will come together nicely.

If the water is moving at 1/250 of a second, then you need to move at 1/500 of a second. You need to move the camera from left to right, faster than the water. But for now, start with a single picture without movement of any kind. Keep your mind on a stationary subject. It’s simpler in the beginning that way.

There are heaps of ways to make your photos wide and big. Mountain ranges are not the only types of things that look good as panoramas. Once you’ve mastered the shutter speed and speed of motion for photographing a series of pictures, why not attempt a waterfall? Not only do horizontal panoramas work but so do squares (tiles–two at the upper section of the photo and two at the bottom of your image) and vertical scenes.

stitching photos together

Photo captured by Alexander Volek

I took a sequence of shots at Katoomba National Park in New South Wales, just a couple of hours drive out of Sydney, Australia. I did what was referred to as a “tile.” The shot was comprised of 6 photos: 3 bottom ones of the scene and 3 top ones of the scene. I was very careful not to overlap any sections of the water because I was unable to shift the camera quickly and have a fast shutter speed. My overlap points were rock instead of water.

Why did I chose this? This was due to the sunlight dipping behind the mountain. I used a very high ISO to compensate for the light decrease. I knew it would be okay to do this as my camera wouldn’t overexpose anything in shadowy lighting like this. I was fortunate; the shot turned out well.

Stitching Your Photos into a Panorama

Once you’ve taken a series of shots from left to right, say five, simply upload the photographs to your computer. Open up the panorama software program. Then select the photos you want to work on. You will be able to follow the instructions pretty well when you’re in the program itself. If your panorama works well, you should see a big scene. It is astonishing to see, for the very first time, that your photos have now become one and you’re looking at a big photo—exactly the way you saw it with your own eyes. It’s a stunning thing to experience.

Making panoramas is a superb way to become skilled at the art of photography, and it helps you look at scenes in a different way. You will have a fresh appreciation and excitement for landscapes, especially. Don’t just stick with landscapes, though. Once you grow more familiar with the progression, try creating photos of trees, water, oceans (remember your light and shutter), roads, and even pathways.

panorama image

“Columbia River Panorama” captured by Jack Harwick

Everything I have pointed out seems like a landscape scene, but if you do additional shooting you will find you can create a panorama out of just about anything. It’s so much fun to do!

About the Author:
Amy Renfrey writes for DigitalPhotographySuccess.com. She is a professional photographer and photography teacher. She shows you how to take the most breathtaking, brilliant, and incredibly stunning photos every single time you press the shutter button, even if you know nothing about photography and have never used a digital camera before.

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3 responses to “Panoramic Pictures”

  1. Tony says:

    I have never yet tried taking panoramic photos, but think that I will now give it a try – thanks

  2. Lorri A says:

    Great information. I have done a few panoramic photos, it is a lot of fun. I agree with the writer saying that you don’t have to stick to landscapes. I did a panoramic photo of a wedding party last year and it turned out great. I did another one of my son and his friend kicking a ball around and came up with a “panorama” that shows them in multiple positions. Here are some examples of what I’ve achieved using Panorama Maker Pro. I am well pleased with it.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randomdiva/sets/72157630700816844/

  3. Ivan says:

    What’s about using special panoramic heads, how much are they necessary?

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