How To Shoot Panorama
Most guides will start with you getting a camera and a tripod. Personally, I don't like it.
Well, you need a camera to shoot, but tripod is really not a must. I will explain it later.
Let's begin with the result. The stiching process is not perfect, even if you'll do
everything by the book, eventually you'll need to crop some of the edges.
It might be due to lens distoration, bad software or bad shooting, it doesn't matter, this crop will
hurt. How we deal with it? By being prepared and shoot with some margin around our real image.
Use fixed focal length . It will be almost impossible to stich few shots with varied focal length.
There is one technique in which you can use a varied focal length, but usually that's not what
you are looking for. I will talk about this technique in a different post.
Use manual focus. Auto focus is great, but if the focus on 1 frame will be different from the
others, it will ruin your panorama. Use the automatic focus to focus on your subject, then switch
to manual focus and shoot.
If you're using a zoom lens, you should consider shooting in the focal length in which your lens
have the list distoration.
Shooting in 50mm eqiv should result in a non distored image. the down side of this is that 50mm is very
narrow angle for shooting a panorama, so I wouldn't recommend it at all.
This part is tricky. A panorama's angle is usually very wide, that means that the light in our
scene is not even. A typical panorama on a sunny day will have one bright side and the other
will be much draker. If you'll set your camera to one of the automatics modes the camera
will try to give you the best result per shot, but overall, you'll get a few shoots with
different lighting and this will look bad on your final stiched photo.
Luckly, we have an easy solution. Set your camera to manual mode. Set yourapertureand ISO .
Once these were set, measure the light and see what shutter speed you need in each of the shots
you're going to take. Now set your shutter speed to the average shutter speed. This will guarantee
that most of the scene will be exposed correctlly and the lighting will be as natural as possible.
If the difference between shutter speeds is too high you may consider using the HDR technique.
I will elaborate about it later.
Try to take the shots as fast as you can, it can help you reduce the changes of lightning in the scene.
I usually take 5-8 shots and it takes me about 3 seconds.
Overlap is important. The more overlap you'll get between your shoots the easier it will be to stich them,
but more important, it might reduce the distoration.
Horizontal / Vertical
Usually horizontal frames will be better. You'll need less shots to cover your subject.
I use vertical frames when the subject does not fit in the horizontal frame, but remember, you want
to keep the overlap, so you'll have to take much more shots.
It is also possible to stich a matrix of shots. For example: 2 rows of 5 shots each. If you shoot
More than 1 row, make sure you start at the same place and finish at the same place in all rows.
Generally, I do not recommend to take too much shots, My favorite is 1 row and 5 to 8 horizontal shots.
When needed, I prefer vertical frames over 2 rows. It is easier to stich, and you don't have to align
the multiple rows.
Yes, tripod is not a must, but, it can help you get better results if you are not a skilled panoramic
shooter. Make sure your tripod is aligned (horizontal). If your tripod won't be aligned carefully,
after 3 shots or more you'll see that your shots becoming tilted to one side and this will ruin
Shooting a panorama is like shooting every other scene, therefore, in case you need to take some
long exposure shots, and by that I mean that you cannot shoot a sharp image (thumb rule is 1/30 sec
or slower, but i would say 1/60 sue to the nature of the shooting in a panorame shoot), it is
neccassey to use a tripod.
A good software can make the difference between a well stiched panorame to an amature one. There are many
software you can use. Canon has it's own software called "Canon Utilities PhotoStitch". If you bought
a canon you probably have this software on a disk you got with the camera or you can simply download it
from the internet. It's a nice software but I wouldn't count on it.
Photoshop have a very good stiching feature, but as you know, it is not a free software.
There are a few more software I used but the best I coulf find is PTGui. It not a free one, but it does
an amazing job. You just have to drag your photos in and it automatically recognize the photos order and
the dimensions of the matrix. Than yo can choose in what method you want to stich your photos and than
PTGui does it's magic.
You can get the trial version here: Download PTGui, I'm sure you'll love it.
HDR is a great technique to overcome large dynamic range. Shooting a panoramic HDR is easy
as shooting a regular HDR. If you don't know how to shot and combine HDR photos you might
want to read the How To Shoot An HDR tutorial first.
Once you shot the panoramic HDR you'll probably going to face this dilemma: Should I combine the HDR
shoots and then stich the panorame or do it the other way. In my opinon the answer is clear,
Combine the HDR first. Stiching is much more complicated process in which the result can be affected
with every litle change, your normal frame, underexposued frames and the overexposued frames are not
similar as you might think. The change in colors and dynamic range can affect the stiching process
and the stiched panorams will be differnet and that is a bad start for the HDR process.
Start combining the HDR for one of your frames, save the settings and apply those exact settings
on the rest. This process should give you a good input for the stiching software.
These are the basic technical rules of shooting a panorama. Follow these rules and your post processing will
be much easier, amother and the results will be better.
- Shoot like crazy. It's free and trial and error is the best way to learn.
- Shoot 2-3 shot panoramas even when the subject fit in your frame.
- Avoid positioning your main subject in the corners.
- Keep a nice proportion. Do not take too many horizontal frames.