- Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams
- 2013 Photographer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Photography
- Best Business Practices for Photographers
- The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan: Build a Successful Photography Venture from the Ground Up
- Landscape Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
- Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
- The Landscape Photography Workshop
- Starting Your Career as a Freelance Photographer
- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
Introduction for DSLR Camera Users
Have you ever pondered, if you could create artist worthy panoramic photos with even the most basic of DSLR Cameras? I am here to tell you, YES YOU CAN. A DSLR Camera is designed as a tool for the photography buff, professional and even amateur to create nearly flawless photographs of all types of landscape scenery, macro images, portraits and action shots. With a Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera, what you observe - is primarily what the lens sees and - precisely what you can capture onto photo paper.
DSLR cameras were built for versatility and adaptability in their functions. As you grow and develop your amateur photography skills, attachments may be changed, removed or added to adapt how you capture images more accurately. Lens may be changed to produce wide-angle or short-lens macro shots. The Viewfinder helps to capture more than 95% of the coverage area, you are viewing. Believe us; you will not be able to notice the lost coverage of 5%.
Plus, DSLR cameras have larger image sensors that aid in producing high quality action shots and these cameras have a near-zero lag time between when you “click” the shot – and when it “captures” the image. Finally, the DSLR camera gives the control back to the photographer to improve on lighting, speed, exposure and other camera settings. Don’t be afraid, the DSLR still contains a variety of automatic settings for beginners, too!
Steps to Creating Perfect Panoramic Images
Of course, you could purchase an Ultra-Wide 8 mm Fisheye Lens, which will enable you to take 2 or 3 pictures in a row of a gorgeous waterfall or a view of the Chicago skyline from beyond the city’s perch; but the cost for that type of an optional lens ($ 400.00+) can be prohibitive to amateur photographers.
Taking panoramic shots is more of a studied, relaxed and reflective operation, NOT action work – in the sense that you do not to need to quickly execute your camera movements across a wide range of movement and vision to capture a singular moving target. Panoramic photography involves capturing a broad scene of beauty, triumph, despair or tragedy; it tells a story with its epic views.
Let us demonstrate in clear and easy steps, HOW-TO capture the perfect sunrise across the Baja peninsula or a magical evening sunset over the San Francisco Bay Bridge with any DSLR camera, a basic starter kit & lens, a tripod, and your home computer!
STEP TRIPOD SET-UP
Don’t forget to bring your tripod; mine attaches to the back of my camera backpack kit and unfolds for easy setup in just under a minute! I also use a relatively inexpensive Pano-Head attachment, which enables me to lock into a fixed position, the level of vertical axis tilting for the camera. This way, I can rotate the camera from left to right on one level field-of-view (fov).
Be sure to set-up and lock the tripod into the most comfortable and level position for you to perform your work. You can purchase an inexpensive Spirit-Level attachment, as well, which attaches into the hot-shoe of a DSLR Camera and tells you if the tripod is level! Just be sure to set-up your camera in a level and fixed position of movement, best suited to the panoramic view you want to capture.
STEP CAMERA SET-UP
Once your Tripod is up, locked and level you are ready to focus on the camera’s exposure, lighting and speed settings. Besides your level field of view, the next important key element of panoramic photo taking is right here in STEP 2. Remember, we are not shooting action shots so you will need to LOCK In the exposure, lighting & speed to one setting, across all your individual camera pictures.
EXPOSURE – If you use a point and shoot camera, the Panorama Mode (or Stitch Mode), if it has one, will lock the exposure for you. If you are using a DSLR, where you lock the exposure and when is pretty important. You always lock the exposure on the focal point of your landscape and then begin to take the pictures! If you attempt to “zoom” the camera to a wide angle to lock the exposure, it will make the objects which are the central image, appear smaller and less detailed. Remember you want an even natural exposure across all the skyline of your image, so find your focal point and manually adjust your exposure to that setting.
LIGHTING – While you do have time to set-up your equipment and adjust your settings for a perfect panorama shot, you don't have all day to play; so find the perfect natural light to take all your pictures evenly across the plane of view and you are almost ready to go!
SPEED – I only reference speed here in that you want your landscape to not have blurred images from too many moving objects. As you may take many pictures to create your panoramic scene, you want to keep an eye out for flocks of birds flying, cars moving through the scene or such. Some objects moving at a slow or normal pace may be unavoidable and you will be able to place the objects singularly into the finished picture by the process of overlapping your shots.
The reason for this follows: a basic panoramic photograph involves the taking of 3 or more individual camera shots to create a wide angle panoramic view of the landscape. The process of OVERLAPPING the individual pictures will be discussed further in STEPS 3 and 4.
STEP TAKING THE SHOTS!
Finally, you are ready to make magic with your DSLR camera. The two previous steps may seem like a lot of work, but once you have gone through the process of set-up once and your eye for scenery is beginning to sharpen, you will be ready to make magnificent memories in three to five minutes!
By standing in front of your vistas, scan the horizon and mentally view your image as behind a see-through TIC-TAC-TOE board, divided into thirds, or sixths, or ninths; all the squares lined up side by side (for horizontal panoramas) or two/three rows of verticals (for vertical panoramas). Once you mentally embrace the tic-tac-toe board over your landscape, you have an idea of the number of individual frames within your entire landscaped scene.
For best results, start your panned panoramic landscape by shooting the scene from the far left to the far right of the landscape. Keep your camera level and begin shooting at the far left of your field of vision (with your main image as your central focal point). The next shot should include a 25 to 30% overlap of the first frame.
Take six to ten practice shots and be sure to do the following three things: 1) take note of the aperture and shutter speed of each individual shot, that the camera is suggesting. In the beginning sequence of your practice shots, 2) don’t forget to amply overlap each picture, and 3) pick the middle setting of the aperture and shutter speed from the practice shots and dial them in – then set your metering mode to manual and you are ready to shoot-for-real.
The individual number of shots will begin to multiply by using the overlapping process. IF YOU ARE USING A WIDE ANGLE LENS – the number of individual shots will be greatly decreased, but remember this – using a wide angle lens does NOT always create an incredible panoramic shot. This may all sound daunting, but it is really simple. Keep your eye on the viewfinder and remember each frame, twisting your wrist slightly to move to the next shot, while including 30% of the previous shot. Avoid tilting the camera or tripod up or down during the process.
Remember, the size of your finished landscape will be reflected by the number of individual photos you took, while on the scene. So don’t skimp on photo taking – a wide angle view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge with a sunset behind may take up to 30 or more pictures to catch the entire vista. So don’t skimp on the picture taking!
NOTE: This is why it is important to maintain the natural lighting of the entire scene and to watch for major movement across the landscape! Keep in mind; do not use flashes when taking panoramic shots. The process of the flash going off while the lens is in motion creates a blur and a distortion of lighting to the entire landscape. Upon completion, you can pack up the equipment and move on to capture your next landscape!
STEP BACK AT YOUR COMPUTER
In the old days, creating a panoramic photo, involved the use of expensive cameras, even more expensive lens, or a professional photographer and hours in the darkroom stitching images together by overlapping individual exposures onto finished paper. Today, with any basic DSLR camera, you can create the same incredible scenery and images.
By shooting several pictures and stitching them together on your computer, you can produce marvelous wide-angle vertical or horizontal panoramic shots, or even 360 degree panoramic pictures! There are several software programs available to consumers who are looking to create award winning photos! From free panoramic or stitching software you can use online, to purchasing software your can upload or install on your desktop; the process is relatively easy and self-explanatory to use.
Be sure to avoid overlapping individual pictures without an obvious landmark in each scene to more accurately line up one exposure over another. Look for a tree or building or some other type of marker in each frame to line-up the entire scene. Don’t forget to check the top and bottom of your scene to ensure lighting and skyline matches naturally.
Also, most DSLR cameras come with their own stitching software as a part of the purchase package. Be sure to check your kit, before you decide to use online, free programs or purchase software.
Before you consider purchasing a specific type of wide angle lens for your DSLR camera, try using your starter or normal lens, when creating digital panoramic shots. Once you begin to get comfortable with the process of panoramic photography and as you grow from an amateur to an expert in the photography which commands your interest, you can decide on the expense and type of lens which you will own in your bag of tricks.
Remember the reason for panoramic photography is to capture a 180 to 360 degree unbroken and comprehensive view of a scene. Since the human eye typically captures only 80 to 120 degrees in view of a scene, a panoramic photo enables the viewer to observe scenery in its entire context, telling a much broader story.
Summary for Perfecting Panoramic Photos
A panorama is a large composite photograph of a 180° to 360° field of view for a particular landscape setting. The best panoramic photographs tell a story with their landscaped scenery, even if it is simply one of beauty in nature. Taking panoramic photos was once left for professionals and incredibly expensive camera equipment, with hours in a darkroom perfecting exposure and lighting for the entire setting.
With the quality, popularity and relative simplicity of DSLR cameras today and the ease of processing software available, even beginners can create magnificent panoramic views of any given scene. Using DSLR camera equipment enables the photography buff to take crystal clear photos, with even exposure, capturing vivid and colorful scenery and perfect natural lighting, every time!