Pixean
Jul 9, 2018

Panorama refers to a very wide angled view of some space. This may include paintings, drawings and photographs. Panoramic photography fascinates everyone. This is because it is a combination of multiple frames stitched together. Such wide angled shots are something which we cannot see in our real life. Panoramic shots take a lot of practice to master. The process is not only time consuming and tedious, there are several tit bits one needs to take care of, all the time. Panorama option is already available to us in our smart phones. We just need to pan our camera handheld, following the indicator line on our screen. It is quite simple and some smart phones deliver great results as well. Why is panoramic photography not as simple then? The merging of images in the phone is not the most accurate and they can be found out when viewed on a large screen. This is because; the phone is handheld all the while resulting in changes in alignment. Let us look at the few best practices to panoramic photography. 

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1) A very stable setup:As discussed above, changes in alignment lead to a reduction in the quality of the image. A stable setup is absolutely mandatory for a fine result.You need to carry a sturdy tripod, which can support around twice the weight of your camera gear. Hang some weights or a sand bag from the middle leg of the tripod to further stabilize it. Make sure that the day on which you are shooting is a non-windy one. If there is wind, try to stand between the wind and the gear to avoid any kind of shakes. It is always advisable to carry a remote shutter cable to avoid any shake during pressing of the shutter button. Carry a ND filter in case you want to shoot long exposure panoramas.

2) Camera settings: This will depend on what you are shooting in your panorama shots. In case of a landscape, keep the aperture at f/8 or higher to get the entire scene in focus. The shutter speed will depend on whether you want to shoot long exposure or not. Shoot with the lowest possible ISO. You need to operate the camera in manual mode. This is not going to be a challenge since you have a lot of time here. If you depend on some metering mode of the camera, changes in lighting can affect your camera settings and the judgement of the camera may not be perfect. I will suggest you to shoot in raw mode although many photographers do tend to shoot in jpg. Shooting in raw mode helps you capture a lot of information and hence you can change the dynamics of your image quite drastically in post processing. As far as lens is concerned, any wide angle lens will do but I will advise you to use the sharpest lens in your kitty even if it is a zoom lens. In case you are using a very wide angle lens, watch out for the distortions.

3) Things to keep in mind during the shoot:Mount the camera on your tripod. Check the exposure settings and get over with your first shot. When you pan your camera to get the next shot, do not forget to keep an overlapping space between the two shots. This will help the post processing software stitch the shots based on the overlapping portions. In case you forget to maintain this, the stitching will not be accurate and the entire effort will be wasted. Now the question is how much overlapping is perfect? There is no specific answer to this. It depends on the composition and amount of area you want to cover. If it is not a huge area, you can try to shoot a total of 5 images with around 25% - 30% overlapping area between each of the adjacent photos. In case the coverage area is quite large, you may want to get a total of 7-9 shots with 15% - 20% overlapping area. You can use the grid lines of your camera to get an approximate idea. Keep a close watch on the objects in motion in your frame. You cannot have the same object repeating itself in your shots and appearing twice in the final panorama image!

4) Composition: If you are stitching several images in horizontal frame, chances are that the image will have very weird dimensions at the end. One solution to this can be achieved by shooting the images with vertical composition and then stitching them together. Landscapes are not meant to be shot horizontally only. You can shoot landscapes with vertical or portrait composition too. A vertical panoramic image looks quite awesome when shot properly. For example, you are shooting a waterfall with the sky above and the water body below. Try to involve a few rocks in front of the water body as well, to get a fore ground. Don’t make ugly crops in your image. For example, try to make sure that the bridge you are shooting is not cropped mid-way, or a part of a person is not chopped off, towards the end of the frame. These crops look quite amateurish and reduce the aesthetics of the image.

Post processing: Import the images in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop to complete the work. Stitch them together using the inbuilt stitching function. Once the final image is ready, get down to editing this. Play around with the brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows and clarity sliders. If you are comfortable using the tone curves, you may use them as well. I personally, prefer the sliders to achieve perfection in my images. Post processing is an essential part of the entire panoramic photography process.

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Get out and explore the world of panoramas. Leave alone landscapes; you can shoot anything in panorama mode to magnify its grandeur. Once you follow these best practices, you should be able to get fantastic panoramic images day in day out.