Back in the days of film photography, it was difficult to shoot a panoramic photograph without an expensive, specialised camera. But now it’s easy to do – all you need is a digital camera and some suitable software.
Later versions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements include it, and there are also stand-alone software programmes for stitching panoramic photographs.
In essence, you take a series of photos, and the software then stitches them together. Before I first tried it, I thought that stitching sounded complicated – but in fact it’s easy, all you have to do is tell the software which pictures to stitch, then you go away and make a cup of tea, and when you come back you have a panoramic photo!
The part of the process which does require some care is in the taking of the pictures to be stitched. Here are a few pointers:
1. Keep the camera as level as possible, as tilting it can cause problems later for the stitching software.
2. If you are using a tripod, make sure that the head moves sideways between each photo, but not up or down. A pan and tilt head will be easier for this than a ball and socket head.
3. If you’re making a horizontal panorama, consider holding your camera vertically rather than horizontally. (And vice versa for a vertical panorama).
4. Leave a lot of space around your subject, as some of the edges will get cropped off in the stitching process.
5. Before you start taking the photos, take an exposure reading from part of the scene that you want to be properly exposed, and then set that exposure using the manual exposure mode on your camera.
6. Allow a good overlap between each shot – try to have the images overlapping by approximately 30%.
7. Try to avoid having any foreground objects close to the camera, as this can sometimes cause problems in the stitching process. To take this type of picture, you would need a special panoramic tripod head.
8. On a day with mixed cloud and sun, try to take the whole series of pics in one type of lighting – it would look very odd if some were taken in sunlight and some in overcast light!
9. It’s best not to use a polarising filter, as uneven polarisation can cause problems when stitching the sky.
10. It’s a good idea 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!