Photo Friday! – Panoramas


It seems it’s slowly becoming a tradition for me to put the Photo Friday post on Sunday. I’ll try to do better next time, I promise!

Also, as the week was somewhat busy, I didn’t actually get that much time to shoot anything new (well, I did, but it’s not really a good theme for a Photo Friday). At the same time I still have quite a lot of pictures that I didn’t share in any shape or form before, so I thought, I’ll make a new post using some pictures I took in the past.

Today’s theme is Panoramas.

I shoot most of my panoramas hand-held, as I don’t always have my tripod with me. The basic process is to decide whether to shoot a panorama in landscape or portrait mode (more often than not I choose landscape), decide the starting and the ending frame, and shoot as many frames in between the two as needed, keeping the camera level.

A few tips I have are:

  • Set the camera to manual mode. This means:
    • manually choosing Aperture and Shutter speed (I try to use the Aperture of at least f/8 or more, depending on the subject and the lens I use)
    • setting the ISO manually to which ever setting is appropriate
    • setting the manual White Balance (even if you shoot raw, you’ll be glad later on that each frame has a consistent white balance, as you can apply the same modification to all of them at once) and
    • locking the focus (use auto-focus to focus on your subject, then disable auto-focus)
  • If you have a tripod with you, mount the camera on it and level the tripod. Some tripods will have spirit levels, ideally both on the tripod itself as well as on the head or even a mounting plate. It’s easiest to start with the camera completely level, with the horizon right in the middle of the frame. This is pretty much the only time I set the horizon in the middle and therefore break the rule of thirds. In addition to that, I also have a small spirit level that I can slide into the hot shoe of my camera — this allows me to verify that not only my tripod is level, but that my camera is too. Sometimes you’ll find that it seems to be level at one end of the panorama, but comes out a bit at the other end — if that’s the case, try to level it in the middle of the panorama and just accept a slight mis-alignment at each end. You can somewhat correct for that in post-processing.
  • If you don’t have a tripod, just make sure you keep the horizon level (and ideally in the same spot in the view finder) throughout the whole shoot
  • Finally, when taking pictures, start at one end of the panorama (e.g. on the left), take a picture, shift to the right, take a picture, and so on, until you reach the last frame. It is worth it to shoot an extra frame on the left and on the right, in case you need to trim or crop the final picture in post processing — leave a bit of margin.
  • Similarly, try to leave a bit of margin on top and below the picture — again, due to perspective change, you may notice that the final picture is a bit narrower (top to bottom) at the left and right ends than it is in the middle. Having a bit of a margin there means you can crop it to get a rectangular frame.
  • The pictures you take need to overlap each other for your panorama stitching application to find the common points. I tend to keep around ⅓ of the frame to overlap with the next (e.g. if shooting left to right, the right hand side third of my current frame will overlap with the left hand side third of my next frame). This means that three frames should give you about 1 ½ to 2 frames wide panorama.
  • When shooting a lot of pictures, I take a quick picture of my hand at the start and the end of the panorama (so if my panorama is 9 pictures wide, I’ll shoot 11 pictures, the first and last being a picture of my hand). This then later on allows me to quickly find my panorama and distinguish it from other single frame shots.

For post-processing, you can use a plethora of free and commercial software. I do all my processing in Adobe Lightroom. When I download the pictures off the memory card, I apply initial processing in LR (typically lens distortion correction, camera calibration, exposure correction, white balance correction, sharpness and noise reduction, a bit of clarity also called local contrast, and vibrance) and then export my collection of frames to become a panorama as .PSD files into Adobe Photoshop Elements. I then use PS Elements functionality called New / Photomerge Panorama, which is surprisingly good at this, and just let it work out the panorama. I then, in PS Elements, make a copy of all layers and merge that copy into a single layer, which I then crop to get rid of blank space. Finally I re-import the resulting .PSD file into Lightroom and apply my final touches to it there.

2 thoughts on “Photo Friday! – Panoramas

  1. Cześć 🙂
    Już piątek minął a my czekamy na kolejne zdjęcia !!!
    Chyba nie zamierzasz zmieniać “tradycji” 😉

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