I love panoramic shooting.  Getting giant images that really fill the viewer’s eye. Making these images has gotten much easier with improvements in camera sensors and stitching software.  But still, a little help goes a long way.  Here are three quick tips to getting better panoramic photos. After all, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

The Hand Knows

When shooting panoramic images, its pretty easy to get a ton of exposures (particularly if I’m shooting HDR).  When you jump into post into post you can get a little overwhelmed.  Where does one pano end and the next begin?  Sure, you can look at metadata, but sometimes it’s still a guessing game.

Let the hand fall out of focus.  When shooting panos I set the camera to manual focus so the settings stay consistent.  This is just a visual cue point for finding your place when browsing images.

Let the hand fall out of focus. When shooting panos I set the camera to manual focus so the settings stay consistent. This is just a visual cue point for finding your place when browsing images.

That’s easy… just hold up your hand in between shots to signify a scene break. When you’re browsing in Bridge, Lightroom, or Aperture the scene break is easy to spot.

Go Manual

We’ve all come a little too dependent on the computers inside our cameras.  But when shooting panoramic photos its critical to switch back to manual mode. And by Manual…  I mean 100%.

© iStockphoto | mikerogal

© iStockphoto | mikerogal

The last thing you want is for the aperture to change and your depth of field to vary as you pan,  You’ll also want to avoid exposure variation as well.  This manual override goes for both the camera and the lens… go for full control.  I recommend taking a few test shots from around the arc and adjust your settings then let it rip and shoot the whole pano.

Use a L-Bracket

Ideally, you want to shoot in portrait mode for a panoramic photo.  This causes the least amount of distortion as you rotate the camera around.  Essentially you are creating a circle out of several rectangles.  A portrait orientation allows for more sides to the shape, hence a smoother curve. Unfortunately most cameras mount to their tripods in landscape mode.


What’s Your Secret?

Do you have any great tips for better panoramic photos?  Please post them below.

Disclaimer: These are just a few ways to shoot panoramic photos.  I hope these tips help.


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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Instead of taking a picture of my hand, I always start from left to right. So, if I sort my pictures in Lightroom by capture time, the panorama pictures will just stand out naturally.

    I use Nodal Ninja and make a point to memorize how much I need to turn the camera at each picture for a few major focal lengths.

    Longer focal length = less distortion. My personal sweet spot is about 100mm.

    The way I think about rule of third in pano: if the main subject is on the right, take 2 additional pictures to my right and 4 to my left.

  2. My favorite tip lately is to shoot more than one row! I’m shooting grids, not just wide images. It allows me to show the whole experience of being there from the rocks on the ground to the clouds in the sky.


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Gear, Landscape, Panoramic, Photography, Shooting


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