In this quick tip, I’m going to talk about creating a super wide angle panoramic image by shooting multiple photos and combining them into one. Sometimes you’re in a place where you want to take a wide-angle photo and the lens you have just isn’t quite wide enough to capture the whole scene. With some practice, you can take multiple overlapping photos with almost any lens to make a super wide angle high-resolution panorama.
In a perfect world, you’ll use a tripod with a panoramic head on it, like the Nodal Ninja or an automatic system like the GigaPan. But the reality is you’re probably out and about shooting other pictures with your DSLR and won’t have any of that hardware with you. There are a few things you need to do every time you make a multi-shot panoramic image.
Exposure and Focus
Since you’re going to be combining multiple photos you have to be consistent in both exposure and focus. If one frame is darker or has a different focal plane than the others, the whole thing is going to be messed up.
Horizontally or Vertically
When taking the pictures you can hold your camera either horizontally or vertically. I prefer to shoot vertically because then I get more space on the top and bottom of my frame.
You also want to overlap each frame about a third of the way into the next. So keep an eye on the edges of your picture, as you move from frame to frame. This last part is super important, what you want to do when you’re taking the pictures is rotate the camera around what’s called the nodal point. Which is roughly around the middle of the lens. What you don’t want to do is hold the camera out in front of you and just take pictures from side to side.
Pretend there’s a stick coming up through the middle of the lens and rotate the lens around that point. What’s going to happen is, you’ll find that your stitch works much better and you’ll have a lot more space to play with when you crop the image at the end.
After the images have been shot you can use a lot of different stitching software to put them all together. I like PhotoMerge which is built into Photoshop if I have about 20 images or less. If I’m going to shoot more than that I’ll usually use the GigaPan hardware and their software as well.
After I’ve combined them all, then I’ll bring them into Photoshop and do any final toning to make the image really sing how I want.
At the end of the day creating one of these high-res panoramas is really half science and half art. Get all your settings right. But don’t forget basic composition rules and make an image that you’ll be happy to print and show off at any size you want.
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