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How to create panoramas

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Category: Specialist

Panoramas without tears - Panoramas aren't as hard to create as you may think. As this article will show.

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Making panoramas is great fun and you do not need any special hardware to shoot them. All you need is a computer and some software, but even this is not entirely true because some compacts can do this internally.

Here, we show you how you can shoot them handheld using a compact or a DSLR.

As for suitable software, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements both have Merge functions but specialist stitching softwares can work more effectively. Realviz Stitcher, PTGui, Easypano and Panorama Factory are popular softwares worth a try. Some cameras come supplied with software so this is worth checking

For this image of London’s Royal Albert Hall, Panorama Factory (www.panoramafactory.com) was used.
From this:
Panorama inside the Royal Albert Hall
To this:

Panorama inside
            the Royal Albert Hall

Gear
Your DSLR and standard lens will do nicely. You can use a normal tripod head but in this example, we are taking the handheld approach.

The important thing is the choice of scene. Scenes with close to the camera elements will not stitch properly with this method. For such scenes you need a dedicated panorama head such as those from Nodal Ninja, Panosaurus and Manfrotto.

Try this technique outlined here with landscapes, cityscapes and interiors.

Technique
Once you have found your scene, you need to set the camera up properly. This means manual white-balance, manual exposure and manual focus. This ensures consistency from frame to frame. This applies whether you shoot JPEG or Raw. In Raw, you can tinker on the computer but using manual exposure and white-balance speeds the process up.

Getting the manual exposure correct is usually the most demanding factor because in a typical panorama there is a wide tonal range. Just take a meter reading and do a couple of sample shots to make sure you are getting the right tonal range with detail in the highlights and the shadows.

A focal length of 50mm or longer should work fine but wide-angles can be used too – the focal length for the Albert Hall image was the 28mm setting on a full-frame DSLR. The lens used was a Tamron SP28-75mm f/2.8.

As you shoot the panorama, also make sure that you do not inadvertently move the zoom barrel and change the focal length.

Shoot in the upright format, starting from the left and moving to the right. Ensure that there is one-third or half a frame overlap. You can shoot horizontally, but going upright gives a little more room for error. It also means your panorama is not too long and thin.

It helps if you do a ‘dry run’ first to make sure you are recording key elements within the scene.

Shoot steadily rather than too quickly, otherwise you could be waiting a few seconds between shots towards the end of the sequence. This is only an issue with Raw and if you are shooting in JPEG mode, this is not usually a problem anyway.

Once you get the images home it is time to stitch them and that tutorial is featured on this day too.
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