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How to Shoot Panoramas

Friday, February 26th, 2010 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography
 
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Did you know that if you have a digital camera, you can create amazing looking panorama photos in just a few minutes using software on your computer? It’s easy and there are plenty of programs that you can download and try for free.

Back in the days of film, it was only the professionals with expensive, specialized cameras and lenses who could produce beautiful super wide photos. Now, with the software capabilities getting better and better, it can be easy to produce amazing panoramas using almost any digital camera.

To explain the technique simply, you can stand in one position with your camera, and take a series of photos as you turn on the spot. The images can then be stitched together to create one long photo. It sounds easy, and it is! However for the best results, there are a few rules you should follow when taking the photos.

How to turn the camera
For the best possible results, the camera should rotate around an axis at the front of the lens, not through the centre of the camera. Professionals will often use a modified tripod to achieve this, but luckily, you can still get great results by hand holding the camera.

Hold the camera close to your body, and keep it at the same height for each photo. After each shot, rotate the camera to the right and make sure the lens is held at the same angle.

Use Panorama Mode if you have it
These days, most point and shoot cameras have a panorama setting that serves a few functions to help you get started. Firstly, it will save a thumbnail of each photo on the screen so that you can easily line up your next photo. Secondly, it will hold the same exposure for all of the frames you take for the panorama, ensuring the same lighting and brightness throughout.

Don’t Change the Camera’s Settings
Make sure the exposure and zoom settings do not change between photos, as this will cause variations in the images and your final result will not work.

Overlap each photo
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A very important rule is to overlap each photo with the previous by at least 15%. I would recommend overlapping by 30%. By doing this, you will ensure better results from your stitching software, which works by merging the lines and shapes of your photos.

Keep the camera level
It is best to shoot panoramas with the camera level to the horizon. The camera position is more likely to deviate when pointing the camera up or down. If you are using a wide angle lens, then the photos will also be more distorted at the edges and will not stitch together well on the computer.

Avoid close objects in your panorama
Large objects close to your camera can distort considerably when you turn the camera. It is best to shoot scenes without prominent foregrounds.

Shoot the Scene Twice
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Shoot the panorama twice in case of any mistakes or errors in your first attempt.

Stitching your Panorama
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There is no shortage of programs that can be used to stitch your photos into a panorama, and the chances are that the photo editing software that came with your digital camera contains exactly this feature. If you don’t have Photoshop or any other editing software, there are dozens of download options online, and some are free! Have a look at these websites:

http://www.easypano.com

http://www.ptgui.com/

http://www.360dof.com/

Stitching programs are often used by architects and real estate agents to create a virtual tour of a building, and enable you to export your images into Quicktime, Flash, or Java, to create an interactive viewing experience of your panorama.

~Zahid Javali

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