Panoramic Photography – How to Shoot Panoramas

Panoramic photography used to be a complex, time-consuming, and costly type of photography back in the film era. Now, in the digital age we’re living in, creating a panorama is as simple as buying a decent camera and downloading a specialized software. That is basically all the gear you need if you want to keep it simple. But we’ll show you how to shoot for more than just the ordinary.

What is Panoramic Photography?

seaview panoramic photography

Panoramic photography depicts a field of view significantly wider than what we would achieve by shooting just one exposure. Panoramas tell a complex story of the scene and make the viewer feel as if it was there. The term “panorama” has Greek origins, and it translates into “all sight”.

This type of photography uses techniques that stitch up a multitude of images from the same camera and of the same scene (usually a landscape) to form just one wide photograph that can either be horizontal or vertical.

Film photographers used to spend extended hours in the darkroom to put the images together by overlapping the exposures onto the photo paper. Now, anyone with a digital camera or a smartphone can easily create panoramic pictures thanks to the advances in software. Furthermore, it is now possible to stitch hundreds of high-resolution photographs to create “gigapixel” panoramas.

In our day and age, this kind of photography is extremely popular among either amateur photographers and travelers, but also among professional landscape and architectural photographers.

Types of Panoramic Photography

Inner-Cylinder Panorama

When taking an inner-cylinder panorama, the camera’s setting remains fixed while shooting. The final image is then formed by post-processing the pictures taken by turning the camera. The pictures must be placed inwards from end to end as to form a cylinder, and this is why we call this an “inner-cylinder” panorama.

Outer-Cylinder Panorama

In the case of the outer-cylinder panorama, the subject stays fixed and pictures of the whole circle around the subject are taken. When processing the photographs, the images are also placed end-to-end but this time, they should be put outwards. This way, you get an “outer-cylinder” panorama.

Inner-Sphere Panorama

The easiest way to shoot inner-sphere panoramas is to use a fish-eye lens and then stitch the photographs together in an editing program.

Outer-Sphere Panorama

Equirectangular projection sphere panorama

As the name suggest, the subject is similar in shape to a sphere. When shooting this type of panorama, the camera should be rotated around the subject. Then, the photographs have to be put together to form a sphere with the images placed outwards.

Planar Panorama

A planar panorama is characterized by the representation of less than half of the full scene. As a rule, this type of panorama must have a less than 180-degrees field of view.

Equipment – What to Bring with You

Camera. You will, of course, need a decent camera to get work done. Generally, speaking any type of digital camera should do, even a smartphone. However, it is ideal you shoot with a DSLR in full Manual mode.

Lens. If you have a DSLR, any wide lens should do perfectly when shooting panoramas.

Tripod. You also need a sturdy tripod to keep your subject in place.

Shutter release cable. A shutter release will prevent camera shake and increase the picture’s sharpness. Having both tripod and shutter release will ensure the minimum blur possible.

Tips on Taking Panoramic Photographs

  1. Put your camera on Panoramic mode. Almost any digital camera, be it a point-and-shoot or a DSLR, has a Panoramic mode. It prevents the camera from changing the exposure settings between the shots which will ease the process of stitching the photographs.
  2. Choose the subject wisely. Not everything is meant to be shoot for the sole purpose of creating a panorama. As a rule of the thumb, try to take pictures of subjects that don’t move. While you may enjoy the hustle and bustle of a big city, putting together the images of moving cars and people will be a pain. The final picture will look nothing more than a kid’s play if there’s too much movement going on.

It is not surprising why most photographers prefer to go outside the cities and shoot nature scenes. Landscape photography goes hand in hand with panoramas.

Panorama Lake District

  1. Check the weather. As previously discussed, movement is bound to ruin your panorama. When doing panoramic photography, you must also avoid shooting in area where the wind blows in various directions. The wind will disrupt the grass, tree branches, and other elements in your picture, and when you finally stitch them together, it might result in a not so visually pleasing image.
  2. Shoot vertical panoramas. We usually shoot horizontal panoramas because that’s what we mostly see and are accustomed to. However, vertical panoramas should not be neglected, as they’re the spice to this kind of photography. Don’t worry about being harder because you must follow the same principles as with the horizontal shots.

Very tall buildings are a good subject to get started on, and then you can get moving and shoot waterfalls, mountain ranges, or other subjects in a more natural environment.

Stitching Photographs

Now that you have taken a multitude of shots, it is time you place them all together to form a single image. This is done by using editing software that can handle panoramas.

Every so often, we turn to the familiar Adobe Photoshop.

Open up Photoshop and go to File>Automate>Photomerge. Then, click Browse and select your photographs. Check the “Blend Images Together” and “Geometric Distortion Correction” boxed and click OK. This will get the merging process going and your panorama will be ready in just seconds.

If using Lightroom to manage your photographs, you need to select all your pictures, then click right and go to Edit In>Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.

Additionally, you can use PTGui. This is a specialized software developed specially to meet the needs of panoramic photographers. You get more stitching options than with Photoshop, and it supports all lenses. The program can create spherical, gigapixel, or HDR panoramas, as well as Tiny Planet photographs.

Whatever software you choose to work with, the end result will be depended on the quality of the shots you take. This is where you most need to invest time and effort in order to put together a stunning panorama.


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