- Look for an interesting scene, then plan your start and stop points. Panos do not only go from horizon to horizon but can also be framed vertically, stacking foreground, center frame and sky . I call this technique my poor man's wide angle lens.
- SIRUI 4 Section Pro Carbon Fiber Tripod N2204
- Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod Kit
- Joby GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X bundle
- Use a tripod for easier alignment.*In good light I prefer to use a stable body stance by holding my legs shoulder width apart, arms and elbows tucked in tight to my sides and forearms resting on my chest for stability. To pan I turn from the hips using a fluid motion, making sure to hold my stance firm.
- Using the view finder frame your first image and then do a practice sweep to see how your last image will be framed. Do this a few times back and forth to help line up a good framing point for all images. It also helps to loosen you up if you are shooting without a tripod.
- Two keys to successful software stitching are to overlap your images by 25 – 30 % and if possible have objects for reference in those overlap areas.
- Use manual mode for camera aperture and shutter speed, adjust shutter speed for each frame to ensure equal exposures. Also use manual focus to lock focus for all frames.
- With the camera setup in manual mode and your camera stabilized pan from the hips pausing at each overlap point for a photo, be sure to use a stable fluid motion to ensure good image alignment. I usually take 3-5 images per pano. Shoot a few different passes to ensure a good set of working images.
- View your images on your computer and choose the best series of photos to use within your computer stitching software, I prefer The Panorama Factory v5 by Smoke City Design. It is easy to use and excellent at aligning images (that's why I can get away without always using a tripod). When selecting images keep in mind that they are on the same level and exposure for best results.
- Import your images into your photo stitching program, follow the steps using the wizard guide to begin the stitching process. Make sure your images are in the correct order with proper rotation. After a minute or so it's done, save it to your photo folder.
- Open the pano up in Photoshop or your favorite photo editing software, to do any further processing, eg. cropping, sharpening, saturation adjustments or the use of a 3rd party plugin.
- Save, Print or Publish to the Web.
- Avoid photographing moving objects eg, waves, trees blowing, people walking, cars etc. They do not blend well when stitching
- Panos can be shot holding your camera in landscape as well as portrait mode (horizontal / vertical)
- Overlap images by 25-30%
- Use objects to help align images eg. trees buildings, mountains, horizon lines
- Wide angle lens can be difficult to align with its fisheye effect
- Use a hotshoe bulb level, they come in handy
- Landscape Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
- Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography
- Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
- The Digital SLR Expert Landscapes
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide
- The Landscape Photography Workshop
- The Landscape Photography Field Guide
Back in the days of old school photography it took a lot of skill and know how to produce a good panoramic photo. In recent years computers and software have become very powerful and efficient at producing top notch images easily. Panorama photography can have a very dramatic affect on viewers and a major wow factor when printed in a large format. Years ago you had to have a special panorama tripod head that required leveling from front to back and side to side, setup took forever. Software stitching had to be done by hand, manually lining up images and overlapping them. It all had to be so precise or it just didn't look right. Not to mention how long it took the computer to process it. Now a days with new technology and new software, shooting perfect panos is a snap.
10 Steps to Perfect Panos
* Tripod Use
There is a time and place for tripod use. Some shots you just can't get without the use of one. But I believe strongly in learning good camera holding techniques. When not attached to the tripod you are free to move around getting different angles and perspectives quickly. The more photo choices you can give yourself the better the chance of finding that wow shot. You know how it is during a sunrise, sometimes you only have 5 minutes of vivid color to get your shot and I can't afford 3 of those minutes resetting up my tripod. For that reason I have mastered the ability to hand hold my camera rock steady.
*All images in this article were shot without the use of a tripod.
It's that Easy