You’re out with your friends, and you’re standing on top of a mountain from where the view seems great. But your camera just won’t cover it all. There’s also no space to go back, and you’re not carrying a wide angle lens. This is where panoramas come in handy. They allow you to photograph an entire scene and not just part of it.
In the old days, photographers would create panoramas on manually by panning across a scene and taking a couple of exposures on film, then printing and stitching them in a lab. Or you got yourself one of those super expensive panorama cameras like the Hasselblad X-Pan.
It was far from ideal, and it was far from easy.
But now, with the help of proper technique and post-processing software, you can get near-perfect panoramic shots. Some photographers stitch over a hundred photographs to create gigapixel panoramas.
WHAT IS A PANORAMA?
Panorama, or panoramic photography is wide-format photography in which you take multiple exposures and merge them together to create a massive picture, sometimes 180 degrees or more. Panorama was introduced by early painters who wanted to give a wider view of the scenes they were trying to project in their paintings.
HOW DO YOU SHOOT A PANORAMA?
A panorama is created in two parts
Photographing the scene via your camera
Using post-processing software for e.g. Adobe Lightroom to merge them together
While there are people who can shoot a panorama handheld, a tripod will allow you shoot images along one horizontal plane easily. You can also get a panoramic head or an L bracket if you’re into real estate or architectural photography. But for our purposes, a tripod should do just fine.
Making a panorama look like one photograph is the hard part. Which is why you have to adjust settings manually. The computer in your camera doesn’t know that you’re trying to shoot a panorama, and will expose each shot differently if you left the job of setting the exposure to it.
Focusing should also be done manually. Your focus should be set to a distant object that you're photographing or at infinity. This way, your camera won't change focus each time you take a picture.
Because we want everything in focus, the aperture should be set to a higher f-stop, preferably f.8 or above.
Try to find a sweet spot in the center of the photograph using your camera's metering options. Take a few pictures to ensure the bright and dark areas of the photograph are exposed to your liking and not based on the automatic values suggested by your camera.
Set your ISO manually and use the same ISO for each picture.
Because light reflects off each object differently, auto white balance could make your photograph look like a shade chart. Set and lock the white balance manually, like you did for your focus.
Shoot In RAW
Set your file format to raw, so it’s easier to correct exposure and color in post-processing. To fully understand the possibilities of shooting with a RAW file format, click here.
PHOTOGRAPHING THE SCENE
The next bit is taking the photographs. Once you’ve mounted your camera on the tripod, make sure the horizon is aligned correctly in your viewfinder.
Simply pan the camera across the scene you want to photograph and click a few pictures. Make sure that each image overlaps the other by 30% to maintain focus across the entire picture, and to make your panorama look like one image.
Watch out for wind and moving objects when taking pictures. It can spoil the evenness of your panorama. Half of it will look like it’s moving while the other half might be still.
PROCESSING THE IMAGE
The second part of creating a panorama is the processing. There are tons of free software on the web for panoramic photography such as Hugin and Image composite editor, but we personally use Adobe Lightroom to stitch the images together.
Open the images in Adobe Lightroom, then click on the ‘photo’ option and merge the images together.
You can straighten it a bit more, or crop it to your liking and that’s about it.
If you’d like an in-depth tutorial on how to create the perfect panorama, click on the video below.