A Guide to Perfect Panoramas Starring 2 New Photog Tools!
Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3
Our photos were a crooked conundrum — it was sheer panoramic pandemonium.
That is, until we found The Perfect Pano, a rotating tripod tool that clicks into place every 30 degrees so you can overlap your shots evenly. Plus, The Level Camera Cube, a triple axis bubble level that mounts to your hot shoe for straight shooting.
Their powers combined will give you the bestest, all around, straight across, most perfect shots you could ask for in one go.
Never done a panorama? Don’t know how to start? You know what’s coming, don’t you…
We’re going to teach you! We’ll tell you what panoramas are, how to shoot one, how to put it together, and where to find free software to help you. Just keep reading, bucko.
Panorama? What the %@#*’s a Panorama?
A panorama is a series of photos that can be overlapped to form one extra-long photo.
Most folks use them to photograph wide landscape vistas, but there are plenty of variations on the theme:
- Night panoramas: A great way to capture city skylines and mysterious landscapes.
- Vertical panoramas: Why go across when you can go up? Really good for shooting tall buildings.
- Panoramic composition: Some people use the panoramic format to create cinematic images.
- Infrared panoramas: Creates eerie wintery-looking landscapes. Also good for creepy old houses.
Have a browse through the various panorama groups on Flickr to find more inspiration.
Making a Perfect Panorama
What makes a perfect panorama? Well, an interesting subject, for starters. The rest mostly comes down to technical details:
- Keep the camera level. Tilting it will make the final panorama look curved.
- Make sure each shot overlaps enough to be stitched together well (20-30% should do it).
- Use consistent exposures. Measure your exposure for the main focal point of the panorama, then use those settings for all the shots. (Using the “auto” setting will give you “tan lines” between shots).
- If your camera has a panorama setting, use it. It will help your shots align better when you’re done. (Check your manual to see if you have that option.)
Step 1: Pano + Tripod + Level
Slide the Level Cube onto your cameraâ€™s hot shoe.
Step 2: Setting Up the Shot
Don’t tilt the tripod up or down- shoot straight ahead.
Using the Level Cube as a guide, adjust the tripod head until the camera is level in all directions (up-down and side-to-side).
Make any final adjustments to your framing, and measure the exposure for the center frame. Lock in those exposure settings.
Step 3: Shoot, Turn, Click, Repeat
Turn the Perfect Pano until the camera is pointing towards one edge of your panorama (where you want it to begin or end).
Shoot the first frame, then turn the Pano one click and shoot the next shot. It will ensure that you get just the right amount of overlap on each shot, so your panorama can be perfectly stitched together later.
Continue this way, turning one click for each shot, until youâ€™ve captured the whole panorama.
Since the Perfect Pano can turn 360 degrees, you can shoot the whole circular scene or capture just a few frames. Your call, buddy.
No Gear? No Problem!
If you don’t have a Perfect Pano or a Level Cube, you can still make panoramas.
Use an ordinary hardware-store level to straighten out the camera, then turn the tripod head a little bit to take each frame.
You’ll have to eyeball the overlap, but you should still get pretty decent results.
Putting Your Panorama Together
The easiest way is by photo stitching software, which automatically aligns and blends your photos into a single image.
If you have Photoshop CS or a Canon camera, you’re already ahead of the game.
Canon includes a copy of their PhotoStitch software with most cameras, and Photoshop CS has a feature called Photomerge that automatically combines your photos.
In Photoshop, open the pictures you want to stitch, then go to File, then Automate, then Photomerge. Click “Add open files”, then click “OK”. Now you can sit back while Photoshop does all the work for you.
Free Photo Stitching Software
If you don’t have Photoshop or PhotoStitch, it’s OK. A) we still love you, and B) you can get photo stitching software for free.
For once, PC users have more options in this department than Mac users. (Yay PCs!)
Want more info? Go to Panoguide for reviews of different programs, plus panorama-shooting tips.
Manual Photo Stitching
Automatic programs make panoramas easy to build, but the results aren’t always spot-on perfect. If you want utter perfection, you’re better off stitching your photos together manually.
Manual stitching is a labor of love, a swirl of layers, blend modes, masks and distortion.
If you want to try it for yourself, try these guides:
- The quick version of handstitching in Photoshop
- The painstaking version of handstitching in Photoshop
- The painstaking version of handstitching in Paint Shop Pro
Panoramas: The Next Level
- Panographies: Combine dozens of pictures to make one vast panoramic scene.
- Panorama Planets: Warp your panorama into a tiny round little planet.
- Video Panoramas: Stitch video clips together to make one big ol’ moving panorama. (Whoa.)
Show Us What Ya Got!
We want to see what you guys make (on account of you’re all smart and creative and stuff). Upload your panoramas to Photojojo Flickr fan group so we can see what you came up with!