Photography Tips


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Manual Layer Blending

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How to Photograph Panoramas

sticgs

I have often been asked why I take panoramic photographs and how I take my panoramic images .  I find creating a panoramic photograph allows the viewer to immerse themself in the location  photographed , living in Australia the panoramic format lends its self to the wide open spaces and unspoilt natural landscape .

Before the digital revolution to create a panoramic photograph required having to invest in expensive equipment as large format cameras and super-wide angle lens to get detailed  high resolution images and professional know how  to get a satisfactory result . Know however with the leaps and bounds technology is progressing amateur photographers can take any number of single photographs while panning around the scene , then use computer software and stitch the images on a computer to create a detailed panoramic photograph . Panoramic photography is a genre that all photographers can access but does require practice and some dedication to get satisfactory results .

Once you have found the location you wish to photography the most important part is to take you time to set up and don’t rush . The more care you take with setting up your shots the better the end results will pay off . I wont go into details of best time to photography or composition  etc as these things can be learnt with taking single shot images .

Setting up involves erecting the tripod , if you have a panoramic head setting this up ( you don’t necessarily need a panoramic head to take panoramic photography’s , but they will help if you include a lot of foreground in your shots and will eliminate parallax error )  Make sure the tripod and camera is as level as possible as this will improve the ease of the images stitching together correctly A spirit level on your tripod head will help with this if you don’t have one you can buy a hotshoe sprit level fairly cheap which attaches to your camera .

I all ways shot my images with the camera mounted vertically (in Portrait orientation) on the tripod . This will give you a greater angle of view plus also will counter any distortion that you may have which is caused at the edges of your frame with some wide lens .

With regards to lens I normally would use a prime lens as they offers superior optics compared to zoom lens , and generally go with a focal length of 50mm or over as this will help eliminate distortion (Please take into account if your camera is not a full size senor then a 50mm lens would probably be equivalent to 70mm due to the 1.6 crop factor so you could get away with using a smaller focal length ). I wouldn’t  recommend using a wide angle lens for panoramic images if you don’t have a panoramic head as they will increase the parallax error . You can still use a smaller focal length and get saficatory results but it will increase you chances of getting images that don’t stitch properly or have distortions in them .

Next is camera settings which is very important when photographing panoramic images , you will want to keep all your settings the same on each shot taken so shooting on manual is a must .  I all ways shot in RAW as they offers the highest quality images plus when it comes to editing they give you more control with post editing  with out destroying pixels plus you can change things like white balance and use recovery to bring back blown hi lights .

For landscape photography you will generally want a clean noise free image so I recommend shooting on ISO 100 or under . In low light you can all ways increase your shutter length as you will be using a tripod and won’t need to worry about camera shakes .  As for aperture you will want to keep as many elements in the image as sharp as possible so a small aperture will increase depth of field .

Next stage is to meter the sense you want to photograph to work out what shutter speed you will require .  it is important to pan the whole scene you want to photograph as there could be a huge exposure difference from the first image to the last image . Take into account high lights and dark area and find a shutter speed which will give you a decent exposure over the whole scene . Some useful equipment may be to use ND grad filters to help even out the exposure between the sky and land to give you a great dynamic range .

Final stage is to focus on a point in the scene you want to photograph and then switch to manual focus , otherwise you’ll find inconsistencies in the focusing a cross the panorama .

Now that you have you tripod set up and your camera setting ready its just a case of panning the camera around the scene and taking the images . Its important to give your self at least 20 – 40 % overlap on each image that will give the computer software enough reference points to enable it to stitch correctly . If you have a panorama head the indent rings will stop you at the correct spot to take the next image , if you don’t an easy way is to pick an object on the side of the first shoot then pan your camera making sure that object is still in frame on your second shot.

Hope this answers some questions people had about how I photography panoramic images . Next post will be how to stitch the images when you get them back to your computer .

Handy Tips

If your shooting lots of simular panoramas in one go it may get confusing to know where one group of images starts and one stops , a help way is at the start of the set of images to take a photography of you thumb up in the frame then start your series of images and after you have taken the last shot take a photo of you thumb facing down . This will make it easy for you to see where one group of images start and one stops .

Don’t be afraid to take lots of images you will learn from you mistakes and develop your skills

Invest in some grad filters these are a must when photographing landscapes

Learn to use your camera in manual mode

If starting out try a small panoramic image of only a couple of images just to get practice .

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19 responses

15 02 2009
Mis Dentist

Great lesson… so informative.. I’m looking forward to go back to Perth to practice it…
Thanks alot

15 02 2009
dan proud

great stuff kirk, very handy.

16 02 2009
Rohit Mordani

– I totally agree on taking photos with the camera mounted vertically !

– I always use the center focus point as the point to mentally mark while moving the camera to the next shot – that has been very helpful

– Try and wait for people (and other moving objects) to move before taking the photo

– USE A TRIPOD (well – if your girlfriend/wife isn’t there, otherwise it has to be a quick hand held pan ) !

– Check the focus carefully – one wrongly focussed shot can kill a panorama !

– Learn Photoshop (especially the stamp tool) and clean out the panorama – all the ghosts

21 02 2009
Christopher Boles

I recently took a sunset panorama using 7 horizontal images. After reading this article I can now see where I can improve the same shot next time. I never thought of doing vertical, but I can see where that can draw in the viewers eye by having more foreground. My sunset was using the camera in automatic exposure, but after reading this tip, manual mode is the only way to expose and focus. Can’t wait to get a new tripod and panoramic head!

2 04 2009
John Roshka

Amazing tutorial. I’m not doing panorama, but thought about it as a way to diversify. I think I’ll start it as soon as possible.

18 05 2009
yudi

hi kirk, thanks for the tips… but i’m still wondering how can you manage the exposure difference from the first image to the last image? could you please be kind to explain it more….thks

4 02 2010
Miklós

Hi Kirk,
Now I understand the panorama technic well – thank you. But how can you reach these wonderful colors?

5 02 2010
kirkhille

Hi Miklos ,
The best time of the day to get some amazing colors is just before sunrise or just after sunset . You will need a some cloud cover so when the sun dips below the horizon it will reflect up and off the clouds given some amazing colors . However you will not get great colors on every sunset sunrise shoot you go on , but the more times you go out at these times the more chances youll get of getting a photo with these colors , Also pay close attention to the weather and weather forecasts as this will improve your chances . Thanks for stoping by as well .

4 05 2010
Chris Bishop

Hey Kirk,
Came across you after finding your post on the boat house (http://knol.google.com/k/kirk-hille/matilda-bay-boat-house/3kalfg96gbw9i/1) in Nedlands, Perth. Anyway just wanted to say this was a great read.

Cheers,
Chris

11 05 2010
jasechong

Kirk, great page of tips!

One problem I ran into at a beach at sunset was that the seabreeze was relatively strong so there was quite a bit of fine water spray around in the air, putting drops onto the grad filter. I didn’t have any cleaning stuff with me, so ended up wiping it with my clothes, but ended up smudging the filter which resulted in blurry patches on my shots. Do you have any insider tips on what to do here?

12 04 2011
Reina Chadwick

Hi Kirk,

We spoke last a little over a year ago. I wanted to ask you about the Miami Skyline image and usage.

Please email me at your convenience.

Reina Chadwick
Arts & Business Council of Miami
reina@artsbizmiami.org

24 04 2011
Greg

Great tutorial. Would you mind if I linked to this from my site’s Panorama page? This would be useful information for my visitors and would send some traffic your way. The link would be from this page http://www.landscape-photography-fine-art.com/panoramas.html.
Regards
Greg

24 04 2011
kirkhille

Hi Greg ,
Yes thats fine to link to this page .
Regards

15 07 2011
Archie

Hi Kirk,

awesome pictures and site! how do you stitch single shots with long exposure, esp. the water effects?

16 07 2011
archie

Hi, Greg,

how do you stitch the long exposure single shots together? especially with water effects?

thanks,

archie

18 07 2011
kirkhille

Stitching long exposure shots together is the same as stitching any other photo . As long as you dont have the fore shore in the the shot its actually a lot easier to stitch long exposure . If you have the fore shore in the shot you either have to be quick taking your shots or wait for simular waves and take the shot so the images match up .

3 09 2011
Jock

Hi Kirk,
Great tutorial. I’m finding myself VERY inspired after seeing all your pano stitches. All great!!!

Just wondering, is there a standard crop size that you go for (in inches)?

A lot of good wee tips that I’d never have thought of here that should help for future pano attempts.

Cheers again,
Jock.

12 06 2012
mindmyweb

thanks Kirkhille I will definitely try this sometime next week

13 08 2012
bestill

thanks kirk, just wondering what program you(or anyone else) can recommend?

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