You can make Panoramic Photos too!
Panoramic photos have always been one of my favourite image formats. I owned a Hasselblad Xpan for a while, if you don’t know what that is, it is a film camera that allowed me to shoot panoramic images, one of the downsides with film is that it is not as convenient to use as a digital camera. No manufacturer makes a ‘panoramic’ digital camera yet… and I say yet, as I think it will happen eventually.
Right before Christmas I interviewed Ken Duncan on The PhotoWALK Guys Podcast episode 12. Ken is very passionate about panoramic, and his words “even Ned Kelly saw the world in Panoramic” – Ken is onto the manufacturers to make a digital Panoramic camera, and hopefully, someone will make one some day as I think it will be awesome!
Whilst we wait for the digital panoramic camera to happen, we have to learn how to make a panoramic images with our normal camera. And there are 2 ways to effectively do this.
Making a panoramic image from one photo
My Nikon D800 and D810 both are 36mp camera, and the quick and easy way is to crop at a ration of 3:1 and I get a Pano, and still end up with a fairly decent file size, especially if I am just posting images on the internet. This image was shot with my 14-24mm Wide angle lens, then I cropped it into a Panoramic Format. This would be difficult to do with stitching because of the moving elements in the shot.
Making a panoramic by stitching several photos together
The second way to make panoramic images is taking several photos and ‘stitching’ them together in software later. This requires a little more thought, skill and planning. But is also quite easy to do. One of the benefits is you retain a huge amount of detail, the photo below is 11 photos stitched together then cropped, even once cropped it is 15000 pixels wide! (it is much smaller here for the web)
Making a HDR panoramic image
Loving HDR meant that sooner or later I was going to have to try a HDR panoramic image, this panoramic of The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains is 35 images blended and stitched, it took me hours and hours to do and was quite complicated.
7 Tips for shooting Panoramic Photos
1. Use a Tripod
I am a big fan of using a tripod for most landscape shooting, but when shooting a Panoramic Image it’s almost essential. You can get away with hand holding, but stitching later could be difficult.
2. Use Manual Mode
You want every photo to be the same settings, and if your camera is on AUTO it will change things for each photo as you take your shots. The when you stitch them together it will be almost impossible to make them all look the same and you will end up with something that looks more like a patchwork then a panorama.
It’s free to take photos on your DSLR, so shoot as many as you like! Don’t be afraid to take more than you need. This has been something that has worked well for me, you can always crop your photo later or choose not to use them all.
I like to overlap each shot by at least 30%, take note of what is in your shot and think about what the software will have to work out how to stitch your photos together later. This tip sort of goes hand in hand with tip 3, overshoot… it doesn’t matter how large your overlap is, take as many shots as you need.
5. Don’t use filters unless you have to
Using ND filters, Graduated Filters and Circular Polarising Filters will just cause you heartache later when you’re trying to stitch your photos together. One of the side effects of many of these filters in vignetting, and this is sometimes hard to correct when stitching. I use a ND filter sometimes, especially if I am shooting water, I want the water to be blurry as it does not stitch well otherwise because it is always moving (unless it is a still lake)
6. Set your White Balance Manually
Set your white balance manually so it stays the same for each photo. If you shoot RAW you can always fix this later. If you can get this set when taking your photos you will be better off.
7. Manual Focus
The last thing you want is for your focus to be changing between each shot. Work out what your main focus point is, and focus on that, then switch your camera to manual focus and make sure you do not move the focus between each shot.