How to Shoot a Stitched Panorama
Written 5 years ago by Mark Evans
Back in the day, it used to be that only professionals or people with wads of cash could afford a Panoramic camera to capture Panoramic images; the time and skill required to stitch images together was beyond the scope of your average digital photographer and the tools to do so were even more primitive or non-existent. Not so today; in present times there’s an abundance of photo stitching software and even adverts on TV with little kids taking and stitching photos together, so while the process may look like child’s play, there are still a few things that need to be considered when taking the pictures for a stitched panorama.
- Tripod – Ideally you want a really sturdy tripod with a Levelling Base in between your tripod and head so that you can get it level quickly. However if you’re like me and only do panoramas every so often then a normal tripod will be fine.
- Level – Getting your camera level is pretty important, soÃ‚ if you’ve got a tripod with a levelling base then fine, but a tripod with a built in level or just a hotshoe level will suffice.
- Camera – Kinda important!
- Computer with Photo-stitching software
How to Take the Photographs: Step One
Start by getting your tripod level; easily done with a levelling base, but if you don’t have one, not to worry. If you’ve got a level on your tripod, adjust your leg heights until the bubble is right in the middle, then rotate the base around 360 degrees, checking the base stays level all the way round. If your tripod doesn’t have a level then sit your hotshoe level on it and adjust the legs as necessary like above.
Swing your camera over into the portrait position so that you’ve got more resolution in the vertical direction, and make sure the horizon is straight with your hotshoe level.
Make sure your camera is on manual mode, then set the exposure so it’s the same for every photo. Set your White Balance (not on auto) so that it’s also the same for every photo.
Set your focus point and hold your shutter release half way to obtain focus, then switch your lens to manual focus. This means your depth of field will be the same for all your photos as well.
Take a note of your start position and take your first frame.
Rotate your camera so that there is about a third or more of the frame overlapping with the last frame and take the picture. This way your photo-stitching software has reference points between each photo, and should hopefully stitch them together without any problems.
Repeat step six until you’ve completed your panorama or the full 360 degrees. Done!
There’s lots of good stitching programs out there, however some work better than others. My favourite so far is PTgui, although I’ve only used the trial version which sticks an annoying PTgui logo all over the final result, otherwise it’s a really intuitive program, and easily converted my bunch of images into a pretty cool looking panorama. Autopano Giga is another program that’s a cinch to use, just load your images, hit detect and a preliminary panorama is whacked together in no time. However, using the render panorama function to create the final image took an age to complete (because it defaults to a higher resolution panorama) and the sky in the finished image didn’t seem as smooth as PTgui. Another nifty program that comes with Autopano Giga is Autopano Tour, which has the ability to output 360 degree virtual tours. All you need to do is have a 360 degree panorama already created from one of these programs, and it will convert it in a matter of seconds into a fully functioning virtual tour, awesome!
The availability of these powerful software packages has no doubt put stunning panoramas in reach of the everyday photographer, and I would have to say, there’s still something satisfying about creating a panoramic image from stitching photos together, and having made this step from an XPan I had my doubts, but now I think stitching may actually have a future in my photography.