Panorama – Have you seen the large high resolution pictures which are really beautiful and are noticeably bigger in length than normal photographs, everybody loves them but not all know how to make them. Panoramic images are very simple to make and involve basic photoshop skills. The wide panning photos of a landscape, beach, mountains, bridges, etc are a delight to the eyes. With the advent of camera technology, it has become very easy to capture a panorama than it was back in the days when the film was used.
Mobile phones have made it even easier to build panoramas but the quality of photos cannot be matched to that of a camera, so in this article, we will discuss what is a panorama and how you can create them easily. Keep reading…
What do you need?
To make panoramic images, you don’t need much. All it takes is a camera, a good tripod, a pan head and some basic knowledge of Photoshop. If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, awesome! if not check with your manual if your camera allows you to take shots manually. In some point and shoots, mobile cameras there is a professional mode, that what you want to opt. Also, shoot at 35mm or above, don’t go for anything wider because distortion comes into play which messes the stitching process. If you have a 35mm prime that’s the sweetest lens for making panoramas.
Next up is the tripod, for this, I would recommend something heavy and sturdy. Check out some great recommendations here or if you are on a budget check out this list. Now that you have your camera, make sure you have a pan head on top of it because it gets really difficult to shoot stable panoramas with any other head. If you are shooting something in broad daylight, I would suggest a polarizing filter but that’s optional.
That’s pretty much it guys, that’s what you need to make a panorama.
Let’s Get Started
First things first, make sure your camera is charged and the pan head works fine. The subject or the landscape must be uniform, there shouldn’t be any abrupt changes or object because that will create a problem while stitching. Mount the camera on the head in the portrait orientation and switch to live view. Now, here’s the secret recipe –
Before shooting actually, pan the camera across in the live view mode and make sure that the entire subject will be covered in 4-5 shots in portrait orientation. The reason I emphasize portrait mode is, that way you will be able to cover more ground. Let’s begin shooting!!
- Switch to Manual mode and frame your first shot
- Using the live view mode, make sure you have a nice neutral exposure and click the first shot
- Now the trick is to make sure that the other frames are shot at the same settings and at the same focal length.
- To do that, switch the autofocus on the lens to manual mode to lock it in place.
- Next, pan your camera a bit and compose the next shot. Don’t move it except along the direction of pan.
- Make sure the next shot has around 30% of overlap from the previous one.
- Keep shooting until the entire landscape has been captured in not more than 4-5 images.
The camera settings must not change during the entire shoot.
Don’t forget to switch the lens in manual focus mode.
Always shoot in RAW.
Shoot at 35mm or above
Take a test shot before shooting the entire range
Your basic work is now done! Time to showcase your photoshop skills!
Stitching Everything Together
This is the fun part, the real magic happens here in photoshop. Now that you have all your images transferred safely on your computer, the next thing which you wanna do is open photoshop and import all your images as raw files. The screen should look something like this-
Awesome, now before editing the images in camera raw, select all of them and make changes. This makes sure that all the images are modified in the same way. After you are satisfied, hit open images. Now all the five or six images will be open in photoshop.
Go to file -> Automate ->Photomerge
Here I prefer selecting the auto layout, but you can experiment with other options. Tick the geometric distortion correction. Add open files and hit OK. It will take a minute of two to process all the data and will display a stitched panorama. The file will be thousands of pixels large and wide. If your system is a bit slow, it might take some more time to process but don’t get impatient.
Crop out the part with no information and adjust the dimensions according to your liking. Here is an example – a panorama of my home town in India
A panorama’s resolution allows it to be printed as large as you want and it looks amazing on a big wall. Once you have the stitched photo, you can play around with levels, exposure, contrasts, etc. The last step is to export the image. Go to file -> Export. That’s it! You are done.
Looking at Other Options
Now that you have learned how to stitch up a basic panorama, let’s look at some other more creative options. In my opinion, you should try them only when you have gained some experience with making panoramas. Don’t depend on having the perfect landscape or a beautiful bridge, just go out and shoot. If you are shooting a vertical building or towers, etc. just pan vertically in between shots. Having said all that, let’s look at some other options.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR images have a higher contrast ratio of highlights and shadows. The difference, in contrast, is considerably larger than what a normal camera clicks. Below is an example-
To make these kinds of panorama’s, all you have to do is click each image using auto-bracketing mode on your camera. In auto-bracketing mode, the camera clicks multiple pictures with different exposures. It’s up to you whether you want a variation of 3 stops or 5 stops. The higher the variation the higher the contrast in the result. Watch this video to learn how to make HDR images.
You want to make HDR images of all the separate pictures of the panorama. Next follow the same procedure and stitch them using Files -> Photomerge.
LONG EXPOSURE PANORAMAS
This trick is fairly easy to implement and does not involve much photoshop. Go on out and shoot long exposure shots of waterfalls, rivers, landscapes, etc just follow the only instruction that all the pictures have to be taken at the same settings, in this case probably at 5-10 seconds each. Once you have them on your computer, stitch them the same way.
Well, that’s pretty much it guys, that’s how you can create beautiful panoramas. Shooting panoramas is one of my favorite hobbies and the fact that they can be printed to super large sizes is an added benefit. You can try all sorts of things while shooting just follow the main steps and you will be good to go in any situation. If you don’t have photoshop, try playing around with lightroom or dedicated panorama makers. But the essential process of shooting will remain the same.
If you have made some panoramas, I would love to have a look at them and if you have any other tips share them in the comments section below. In case you have any doubts or queries leave them below and I’ll be happy to help you out.