10 Tips for Shooting Great Panoramic Images

By Geoff Harris

Weekend Assignment : Panoramic Images

Panoramic images

I vividly remember the time I took this photograph:  it was on a trek in the Indian Himalayas, and the previous evening we had reached this lake, the highest point of our walk.

We camped a little way from it, and made plans to get up at dawn and hope for a still morning, so that we might find the mountains reflecting in the water.  It seemed a good idea at the time…  maybe not quite so good at around 5 am, when our guide woke us!

Groggily I pulled my outer clothing on over my sleepwear and stumbled out of the tent, trying to remember which direction the lake was in, then set off towards it, squelching over boggy ground still half asleep.

When I reached the lake and saw that our prayers had been answered, and the water was a perfect mirror, I woke up properly very quickly!  Then came the question of how to compose the picture.

I did a few tighter pictures, but I really wanted to include the whole vista of mountain and reflection and grass at the water’s edge.

And my lens was just not wide enough!  So this was definitely a situation for shooting a series of photos, to be ‘stitched’ together back at home into a panorama.

Lots of different companies offer stitching software – you can often download trial versions the one I use is in Photoshop Elements 9.  That part is easy, the software does it all for you!  The challenge lies more in taking a suitable series of photos that will stitch successfully.  Here are my 10 tips:

If you’re making a horizontal panorama, hold your camera vertically rather than horizontally. (And vice versa for a vertical panorama).
Use a small aperture to maximise the depth of field and if required a tripod with a pan and tilt head so you can easily maintain a horizontal shooting angle.
Set your exposure mode to manual and manually take a reading from the middle of your view. This ensures the exposure remains the same for all the shots and make for a better job when all the images are stitched together
Leave a lot of space at top and bottom of a horizontal panorama (or at each side if you’re doing a vertical panorama), as some will inevitably get cropped off in the stitching process.
Allow plenty of overlap between one image and the next (approx. 50% overlap when using a 50-70mm lens).  Far better to have too much overlap than too little!
Keep the camera as level as possible.  Tilting it up or down can cause problems with overlap.
Avoid using a polarising filter, as uneven polarisation can cause problems when stitching the sky.
Avoid moving towards or away from a sunset or sunrise as the sky goes from dark to light or vice-versa.  If you want to include a sunrise or sunset place the sun in the middle of your panorama
Try to avoid having any foreground objects close to the camera, as sometimes the stitching software can struggle with this.  To take this type of picture, you would need a special panoramic tripod head.
I like to mark the beginning and end of a series for a panorama – just your own finger pointing to left or to right will do the trick.  It just makes life easier when you’re looking at hundreds of thumbnail images back home!

So go out and shoot a panorama photograph this week end may be upload it to our Monthly Photo Competition

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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