A Panorama image is basically several photos stitched together to create one big wide angle scene.
It is best to pan the camera from left to right while holding it level, or using a tripod, and take between 3 and 5 separate photos,
eg. a Left, a Center, and a Right Photo for the most basic Panorama. Also make sure you do about 30% overlap on the photos.
In fact all Photo stitching software works left to right, and so always pan from left to right.
Panoramas are great for Landscape shots, Beach shots, City Shots, Sunsets, or anywhere that you need to take a big wide view into a single image.
We could buy an expensive wide angle lens to get Panorama shots, or a 360 camera, but all of this is totally unnecessary, as we shall see in this lesson on how to make Panoramic Images.
Example Panorama Photos
Taking a Panorama shot captures the whole view so that the image is a lot more like actually being there.
Often a sweeping Panorama image can capture the look and feel of a location far better than just a single image.
Taking a Panorama often produces a semi circular type view, and this is great for images of Beaches.
Panoramic Views are great for capturing Sunsets.
If you are on a PC and want to take a look at the previously shown examples full size, then click on the link below:
Sony Camera Auto Panorama
Many compact cameras and even DSLRs have Panorama Modes on them that will automatically stitch a series of photos together.
Here at Photos By Passy we use Sony cameras and have found their Panoramic Mode to be brilliant.
In particular the very compact Sony RX100 pocket camera has a great Panorama function which is excellent for travel photos.
The following video shows just how fast and easy it is to use the Sony RX100 for making Panorama Images.
The camera instructs you to move the camera left to right, but it takes a little bit of practice to get used to the speed at which you need to rotate. If you rotate too slow or too fast, the camera does not build the Panorama and tells you to try again.
We have also found that a tripod is not necessary, and as long as you follow reasonably well along the line of the horizon, it stitches together the image really well.
Eg. Just find a horizontal line, like the horizon of the land or sea meeting sky, and try your best to stay horizontally steady and locked on while rotating your body.
A problem can arise if we are facing into the sun anywhere in the Panorama. In this case we simply point at the sunny area and lock the exposure using the AEL button on Sony DSLR Cameras.
Eg. What we need to do is get a consistent exposure throughout the Panorama. Often, one part of the landscape is brighter than others. Make sure we set up for this brightest scene. We want the final image to look like what we see through the camera, as if we had made the Panorama from one single photograph.
Panoramics are great for Sunset Photos, see our lesson on Sunset Photography for more information:
Even if you do not have an auto Panorama function on your camera, sets of individual photos can still be taken and stitched together in Adobe Photoshop. In fact, sometimes we get better results from individual images stitched together than we do from using in-camera auto panorama.
In fact we suggest for important shots that you do a an auto camera panorama, as well as taking a set of overlapping still shots for back up.
Adobe Photoshop and Bridge
If you do not have a Sony Camera with auto panorama function, then you can get Adobe Creative Cloud to stitch together three to five individual
photos into a Panorama very easily, as shown in the following video.
You have to start off by bringing your three photos into Adobe Bridge. (Bridge is a simple windows explorer type application that is customised for images. Once the three to five images are all selected in Bridge, it is simply a matter of going to the top menu bar in Bridge and doing Tools > Photoshop > Photo Merge as shown in the video.
The following fifteen minute video shows how to create a Panorama in Photoshop, as well as providing some expert tips on shooting Panoramic images.
In this method we do not have to use Adobe Bridge, and start straight away in Photoshop and do File > Automate > Photo Merge as shown in the video.
Note that you “Browse” to select your images after opening the Photo Merge function. Also it might take 2 or 3 minutes for the merge process to run.
After doing the merge there will be 3 to 5 separate layers, right click in the bottom right hand side layers panel and do “Merge” to create one layer to work with for doing touch ups and adjustments.
The Photoshop Auto Merge function works really well, even for hand held non-tripod sets of 3 to 5 photos.
We have found that some Panoramas turn out better by doing individual overlapping shots in Photoshop Merge, rather than using the camera’s auto panorama function. Therefore we recommend for inmportant shots to do both: use the camera auto panorama as well as taking some overlapping still shots as back up.
After Photoshop merging we often get some chequered flag blank areas around the outside edges of the merged image.
Rather than crop down to remove these, we can select them all together (hold down shift) with the magic wand and contiguous off. It is important to select all the blank transparent areas together at once.
Next we do Select > Modify > Expand and expand the selection by 20 pixels, (which is needed for the next “content aware” step).
Finally we do Edit > Fill > Content Aware and click OK. We wait a few minutes and Photoshop miraculously fills in all the blank areas by smart copying in some of the surrounding scenery.
Eg. If we merge four images, it is likely that our image will be about 15,000 pixels, or 110cm (about 3 feet) wide, and so processing takes a while. (Eg. up to several minutes).
This whole process is shown around the 10:34 mark of the video below, it shows the selection, expansion, and content aware filling.
The following video shows how Adobe Lightroom CC can be used to stitch together a Panoramic Image.
The final panorama image created from the dull original raw images is superbly amazing!
These tips are for if you are taking a set of individual shots that you plan to stitch together in Photoshop.
If you are using a Sony (or other brand) Camera set in Panorama Mode, then the camera should do all of its own settings automatically.
With a bit of practice you should be able to shoot basic Panoramas in Panorama mode without even using a Tripod.
However, if you want to get a high definition photo to make a wall hanging print from, then the individual shots method is probably better.
1. Use a sturdy tripod and try to stay level when panning the camera and taking your 3 to 5 shots.
2. Make sure you have plenty of overlap of the sceneray inbetween Photos, eg. about one third or 30%, and an absolute minimum of 25%.
3. Do not shoot in auto mode (or some images might be dark and some bright and they will not stitch so well. Use Manual Mode so that the exposure stays the same in each image you take, (or hold down the AEL button on Sony cameras).
4. Overshoot the length and height of the Panorama so you will have room to crop later on.
5. Try not to have your camera lens set at wide angle for each shot, use a middle zoom setting to avoid image distortion.
6. Shoot with an aperture between f8 and f11 to f16, (which might mean using a 1 to 3 second shutter speed) with ISO as low as possible around ISO 100. This should give the sharpest most detailed images.
7. Focus could shift from image to image, and so set up the first image with the area most important to be in focus, using Manual mode focusing on the camera.
8. Use slow shutter speeds which will blur moving objects like cars, people, and animals. Try to avoid moving objects if possible.
9. At slow shutter speeds the images might be too bright, (like at the beach) and so you may need to use light reducing ND Filters.
10. Do not use Polariser Filters at all because as you pan the camera the light angle changes which shifts the Polarising.
11. Make sure your lens and sensor are perfectly clean. One dot will make a machine gun line of annoying dots across the photo in auto Panorama Mode! (These dots can be removed with the clone stamp tool in Photoshop but it is best to avoid them if possible).
If any of your Panorama faces into the sun (like a beach or sunset photo), it will be hard to get the exposure to be uniform.
The basic rule is to set the exposure for the brightest part of the sky, and shoot in Raw + JPG. If we do not do this and let the brightest part burn out and have whites, we cannot fix these in Lightroom or Photoshop; but we can fix dark areas where the sun was not shining.
Getting great images is a combination of manually setting your camera exposure for the sky (and then holding down the AEL Auto Exposure Lock button on the camera while framing and taking the shot, especially on Panoramic shots).
This definitely applies when using a Sony DSLR like the A77, which has a brilliant in camera Panoramic function, as well as an AEL button.
Manually pre-focussing with focus peaking turned on is also vitally important.
Making a Facebook 360
As far as we can tell it is not possible to make your own Panorama Photos do the “360 viewing thing” in Facebook. Read on for details.
Along with each JPG image there is camera EXIF Data that indicates the camera that took the photo. If this data could be altered to fake the photo as being taken with a 360 type camera like changing the Make to “RICOH” and Model to “RICOH THETA S” then maybe we could trick Facebook to upload it as a 360 image.
In Photoshop File > File Info, the camera EXIF data cannot be edited. It cannot be edited in the “EXIF” option in Adobe Bridge either.
Apparently there are special apps you can download on the web to change EXIF data, so you can fake your image as being taken by a special 360 camera, but your image must be at least 100 degrees wide angle, and less than 1.7MB in size for FB to upload it.
We found that the easiest way to modify EXIF data is in Windows Explorer. Simply right click your image then go to Properties > Details and scroll down to Camera Make and Model. Click in each field and change the data to Make = RICOH and Model = RICOH THETA S and then click Apply and then click OK.
This did not seem to work in the FB Upload and so we tried changing the properties to Make as “LG Electronics” and the Model as “LG-R105”.
This did not work either, even when we made the Photo very narrow in Facebook, it still displayed as a single narrow strip and not as a 360 scrollable image.
The “Short Answer” seems to be that you cannot upload your own Panoramics to Facebook as 360 scrollable images. It seems that you have to buy a special 360 camera or use your mobile phone in Panorama Mode.
Here are a couple of web lessons with tips and tricks in them to help with Panorama Photography.
Videos About Panorama Photography
The following is a great Video about manually shooting a night Panorama and then adjusting it all in Adobe Lightroom.
This next 25 minute video shows how to fix a dull sunset photo Panorama into something really spectacular using Adobe Lightroom.
Gallery of Panorama Images
The following link is to a Flickr Photo Gallery of Panoramic shots that we will be adding to as we do more Panoramas.
So if you are out and about, take a few Panoramic Images.
One of our future goals is to go into the city one evening with a tripod and do some night panoramas. We will let you know how it goes.