Panoramas are a great tool to capture cityscapes, especially when shooting sweeping skylines that cannot fit in the usual 3:2 or 4:3 ratios. Another benefit is that the added resolution that comes with stitching a panorama will also allow you to create massive high-quality prints.
Photographing a cityscape panorama can be more complicated than it seems, so let’s go over a few tips to make sure your files are ready to be stitched together in Lightroom or Photoshop (which we’ll explore in my next article).
1. Level your tripod head
Maybe the first tip should be “use a tripod,” huh? It helps a lot in making sure everything is nicely lined up. Then, make sure your tripod head is leveled, so when you rotate your camera, it doesn’t start leaning on the far edges of the panorama. If your tripod has a bubble level, use that. Otherwise, you can easily buy one to put in your camera hot shoe.
2. Shoot cityscape panoramas vertically
Once your tripod is set up, put your camera in vertical mode. It makes it easier to shoot and stitch and results in fewer errors. An added bonus is that since the height of your panorama will have more pixels, the whole image will have a higher resolution.
3. Don’t shoot with a wide focal length
Do not shoot wide! The wider your focal length, the more distortion the lens will introduce and the harder it will be to stitch the images together. I personally prefer shooting at 35mm or tighter. You should Also keep some room in your foreground and in your sky, as you’ll likely end up cropping in post-processing.
4. Photographing cityscape panoramas in all manual
Shooting in manual mode and manual focus is key to maintain consistent exposures. Now, if you’re like me and would rather not go through the process of figuring it all out manually, just to use other modes for your test shots and then switch to manual while keeping the right settings and focus.
5. Overlap images by a third
You’re (finally) ready to shoot, which is going to be easy after following the previous steps. The last tip is to overlap images by about a third. It’s very easy to do if you have the rule of thirds grid overlay in your viewfinder. Just line up the line with whatever was at the edge of the image in the previous frame. It will make sure there’s enough information for your software to stitch images together.