Panoramics are fun, I have only used a Film panoramic a couple of times but digital panoramics I kind of like making.
Sometimes I make them because my lens is not wide enough to get my subject in the frame and there is no room to move further back. Other times I want to give the viewer more contexts and a wider view.
I made the first panoramic using photoshop7 and it was hard work. The photo merge function was bit and miss. Image This could have been due to my incompetence in taking the picture which I think it was or Photoshop not being advanced enough. The one thing I have noticed since this outing into digital panoramic photography is that it now takes more photos to make my final image.
The first panoramic image was made in 1843, by Joseph Puchberger using a hand cranked 150 degree panoramic camera which used the daguerreotype and was 24 inches long. This camera was superseded the next year by Friedich von Martens who added gears to make a smother exposure. In photographic history, technology moves fast and soon the wet plate process made photography easier and less expensive. Panoramics were made by making twenty four images and in the dark room joining them together. The most famous of these early panoramics were made by George N Bernard, who photographed for the Union army. Once George Eastman had developed his flexible film panoramic photography was set for the mainstream, with companies making cameras solely for panoramics.
There are different types of panoramic cameras; short rotation cameras, where the lens rotates around and the film sit on a curved plane. This type of camera distorts strait edges giving them a curved effect. Full rotation cameras produce 360 degree images. The camera lens rotates with the film moving at the same speed leaving a clean 360 image. Fixed lens cameras are the most common camera and are what they are named. They have a fixed lens and a flat image plane where the whole frame is exposed at the same time like a normal camera.
Stitched panoramics also called segmented panoramics are partly from the digital age when you take a series of images and use a sticker program like Realviz or Photoshop’s own photo merge function. Some cameras have an inbuilt panoramic system where you take pictures and overlap them in camera. I have found this mode hit and miss and don’t like using it. I make my images by stitching them in Photoshop though there are some things you can do to make your life easier.
Making life easy
Not all images suit being panoramic. Choose your view carefully, try and make sure that you have a clear and large field of vision with no telegraph poles, trees and buildings blocking your image. Think about your angle and how you would take the picture if you had a panoramic camera.
If your camera has a panoramic mode try to use it, it will help you match up your images and automatically do a lot of stuff you would need to do manually otherwise. As I have said I have had mixed out comes by using the in camera mode, also I like to be in control when making my images.
If you are going to do this without the in camera feature or your camera doesn’t have one then you need to do a couple of things.
First choose your point of focus and think about your depth of field. Both of these are important as when taking panoramics you need to have the focus the same throughout the image otherwise your image will look strange and may not match when it comes to stitching with parts of the image in focus and other bits out of focus. Also your aperture setting needs to be the same as any shift in depth of field due to the aperture changing may have the same effect.
Once you have focused the image and decided on your DOF, then you need to meter the exposure of your scene. You need to take an average exposure of the whole scene so your image has a constant exposure and no changes in exposure between images. The same with your white balance set it and don’t change it. Panoramics are made best when everything is manually controlled.
The best panoramics are made using a tripod. You can shot them hand held but it is not recommended.
Now it’s planning the shots. When taking your shots you have to leave a good amount of overlap to be able to stich the images together. I normally try to overlap by a third when shooting. At this stage I look at what my subject is and what I want in the picture. Looking through my camera I divide the scene up into a grid. This grid is how I will shot the image. A basic grid would be three by three, a nine image stitch.
Once the image is taken you need to head to your computer and your stitching program. To stitch your images select them and import them into your program of choice. In Photoshop there are different options in photo merge. I normally use the auto function; unless the image has come out slightly wrong then I will go back and choose a different option. The auto mode is pretty good. I also always choose to have the images blended together and remove geometric distortion and vignette removal. Depending on your machine and how many images you have to stich it can take some time so go and get a coffee.
However you stich your images together there is always a view things to do straight afterwards. In Photoshop where I stich my images I always zoom in at 100% to check the stitching. If there are any ghosting of artefacts because a person or a car has moved this needs to be noted and corrected. I do this by duplicating the layer or importing in that part of the image. Once duplicated or imported I correct or erase the ghosting. If you are missing parts of the sky duplicate the sky flip it horizontally and blend it in. Once corrections have been made, edit the image as you wish.
The only warning I would make is; the more images the more power your computer will need to manage the image. Taking a 74 shot 360 panoramic created a 1.75 GB tiff file. In my work flow I like to keep all my layers in a smart object, leaving a large file size. The image size is 80 inches x 20 inches. As a single compressed layer file it is about 500mb.
I would start taking images where you feel comfortable practising your technique and workflow that works for you. Once you feel ready start experimenting in different places and settings and more images.