panorama photo © Bob Coates Photography
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Capturing Red Rock panoramas

Photographing in the panoramic format can give your images a different look. Anything out of the ordinary can help set your images apart. And that’s a good thing. Here’s how.

Photographing panorama images: Technique

Let’s talk for a moment about the technique of making a panoramic capture of a scene. While this may seem obvious to many I find that it is a common error in holding your camera in the horizontal orientation. While there might be a time for this, the resulting panorama will be very thin. You can add some pixels and height to your final image by holding the camera in a vertical orientation.

Four image red rock snow panorama

When making your captures, give your software an easier time of turning out a solid result by overlapping your frames by about 30 to 50 percent. With more overlap your stitching software has more “points of contact,” which makes it easier to create a seamless final image.

Screen capture of Adobe Bridge with images

Ideally, if you are going for super accuracy in your final photo you would have your camera mounted on a special tripod head allowing the lens to be rotated around the nodal point of the lens. Using the nodal point makes for almost no distortion when the images are combined. The heads also have markings and click stops so the overlap can be exact. This lesson is a bit more casual as I was hand-holding and will share some ideas for making the casual work for you also.

Additional possibilities

In addition to the technique above if you are trying to make your image quite large (adding pixels to the scene) you can repeat the panoramic captures making more rows and overlap in rows above and/or below the previous row of images.

You can use an old videographers’ trick for getting a level and smooth rotation as I do. Point your feet in the direction of the end of your panorama. Then twist your belly back to the beginning of your scene. With elbows locked to your side and the camera focus set to manual and infinity and a suggested fairly small aperture of f/8 to f/11. Then fire your frames in sequence starting left and moving right. Shooting in this direction allows you to get a quick visual of which images go together when you head off to post production.

One other aside — depending upon the lighting density of the scene I’ll also bracket exposure for possible HDR work before assembling the final photo. My Lumix cameras have a built in level that is visible on the screen which is extremely helpful in keeping the horizon from shifting while making the captures.

5 image © Bob Coates Photography
Five image panorama of the same scene for a totally different feel

adobe bridge screen capture

How many frames should you make? Shoot as many as necessary to cover your landscape with the overlap suggested. The number of frames can change the feeling of your panorama immensely. The two examples I include in this post have four and five images respectively.

Panorama software

I’ve found Adobe Photoshop to be perfectly useful in joining the images. If you are doing lots of panoramic imagery with multiple rows it would be well worth getting a specialty panoramic software. I invest in software when it will save me time.

Let’s take a quick look at my Photoshop workflow. First images are selected in Adobe Bridge. Highlight the respective images and open in Adobe Camera RAW. After the same adjustments have been applied to all the images click Done. The files will now have those settings applied when the images are handed off to Photoshop in the next step.

adobe camera raw screen capture
Adobe Camera Raw with all settings applied equally to all images

Highlight the images. Click on the Tools Menu > Photoshop > Photomerge. Use the Auto Layout with all the boxes checked. If you find the result not exactly to your liking, try a different Layout option.

adobe bridge photo merge dialog screen capture
These were the settings used to make the panorama using Adobe Photoshop. Note: Depending upon your lens you might need to check the Vignette Removal check box for best results.

If you have any questions let me know in the comments below.

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