Pano-1-2

Nikon D7100, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @28mm, F/16, 1/13s, ISO 160, five frame panorama.

It’s simple to make several pictures into one panorama, and I really think you should try it. Panoramas are usually wider than your average picture, and this is good because our daily view of the world is also very wide (just stretch your arms out to the sides and compare where you can see them compared to above and below your face). Photoshop makes it easy to stitch pictures together, and there are many other excellent applications that do it, too; but I’ve got Photoshop handy, so that’s what I use.

No matter the software you choose, you’ve got to give the software some help by overlapping the pictures by at least 20%, though I favor something more like 30% (even more if I’m using a wider lens). How do you know how much is 20%? Fortunately, your camera’s viewfinder can help. You may have grid lines in your viewfinder that are either quarters or thirds, or your have focus point options. Frame your first picture, notice which tree or object is on the right side of the frame at the grid line or focus point and pan your camera to the right until that object is now at the grid line on the other side of the frame. That’s how easy it is to overlap your pictures.

Pano-1-3

Over lap your frames by at least 20%. The first frame on the left has the tree on the right side, and the second has the same tree on the left side. Use an object to mark how far each pan should be.

Photoshop is powerful enough that it can work with your images even if you were hand holding the panorama. However, you’ll get the best results by using a tripod, and I have a tip that helps me get perfect overlaps every time, but it requires the right features on your tripod.

Let me make a simple statement, and don’t hate me for it: your pictures will be better if you use a tripod. I’m not just talking about landscapes, either: I mean every picture you make from portraits to street photography. I know you’re thinking, “A tripod is too slow for what I do,” or “I have a tripod, but I just don’t like it,” and I used to feel the same way before, but when I found the right features and practiced using them as much as I do with my lenses and lights, the tripod really freed me to be more creative, work faster, and have fewer garbage pictures at the end of the day.

The most important feature on a tripod that makes it a powerful tool is the head. If you’re buying a tripod, make sure to get one that has a removable head or even buy the head and sticks (legs) separately. Make sure that you get a ball head–I know some people swear by their three way pan heads, but they don’t need these tips. Get a ball head. Make sure that the ball head has one knob for moving the camera around on top, and a separate knob for panning the camera. Panning means swiveling horizontally without adjusting the camera’s position otherwise. Also make sure there are tick marks to measure the pan.

Pano-1

Be sure to buy a ball head with a knob dedicated to panning, and make sure it has tick marks.

These tick marks make it even easier to get the perfect overlap in panoramas. Look in the viewfinder, line up an object on your grid line, look at the tick mark on your tripod, pan the camera to the other grid line, and look at the tick mark again. However many ticks the camera moved is how far it has to move for each frame. This is great! I shot a ten frame pano the other day and I didn’t have to keep my head bent over looking in the viewfinder for each shot–I just moved it two ticks, fired, moved it two more ticks and fired again.

So, get out there and start shooting some panos, overlapping at least 20%. And trust me that the right features in a tripod will revolutionize your photography and free your creativity.

See Levi’s other tips here, and join him on Twitter.


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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. The local photography club had a “Show and Tell” theme of panoramas for one monthly meeting. I was going to leave it to the Photoshop guys, but I found that Corel Paint Shop Pro can create panoramas, so I thought “Why not?”

    I didn’t have a cookbook or tips for creating one. I have the Canon Lens Work book, published in 1981, and for my lens, the Canon FD 28mm lenses, the horizontal angle of view is 65°, so I was safe under 65°; I used a 45° change for each photo to make it easier and also provide overlap. I also made sure that the tripod head was level.
    Common sense told me to use full manual control. I metered for the darker frame and set it for that.

    This was the best of my two attempts. I also did one at the dam, but I couldn’t make the merges seamless.

    Hilton Public Boat Ramp Panorama

    Canon A-1, f5.6, 1/125, ISO 100, film: Kodak Ektar 100 (3 frames)

    PS: I may like ball heads if I used one, but when replacing my tripod, I stuck with a three-way pan-tilt head.

    Reply
    • See what I mean? If you have a 3way head you know what you like :)

      Reply
      • Old habits die hard. I don’t remember when I bought my Slik U212 tripod; it’s been that long ago. I lost the tilt locking nut; it’s probably somewhere on the NASA Causeway when I photographed the final Space Shuttle launch. Later, the center column gearing got stripped, so it was time to replace it. I chose a Manfrotto with one of their 3way heads.
        But I got one great tip from a news photographer of Florida Today for the launch of Atlantis, that of mounting the camera backwards on the tripod so that the tilt handle is under the lens; that way, the handle doesn’t impede the angle of the tilt. I did a visual survey of those using tripods around me and I was the only one that had mine mounted backwards.

        Reply

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About Levi Sim

Photography is my life, and I'd like my photography to be part of your life, too. Whether I make pictures with you or help you learn to make your vision pop out of the camera, I'm happy to help.

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Adobe, Panoramic, Photography, Software, Technique & Tutorials

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