Photographing landscapes is an enjoyable experience, and can be a lot of fun.  But! I’m sure there have been times when you just wished you could capture everything your eyes saw.  Well this is where panorama photography comes in, and in this tutorial I’ll lead you through the steps of taking and then editing your images to create a panoramic image that you’ll be proud to show of to friends and relatives.

 

A Panorama photograph is the result of stitching multiple photographs of a scene into a single wide angle view image, and can be in either horizontal or vertical orientations. This Tutorial will explain how I capture Panoramic Images using a DSLR camera, and then edit these images using Adobe Lightroom and PTGui to produce a wide view panorama. If you're unfamiliar with the following camera functions like; setting the aperture & shutter speed manually, adjusting the ISO and White balance on the camera, then please read your D.S.L.R camera manual and it will show you how to do these functions.

 

A Panorama photograph is the result of stitching multiple photographs of a scene into a single wide angle view image, and can be in either horizontal or vertical orientations. This Tutorial will explain how I capture Panoramic Images using a DSLR camera, and then edit these images using Adobe Lightroom and PTGui to produce a wide view panorama. If you're unfamiliar with the following camera functions like; setting the aperture & shutter speed manually, adjusting the ISO and White balance on the camera, then please read your D.S.L.R camera manual and it will show you how to do these functions.

 

Please Note!

Unless you use a dedicated Panoramic head for your tripod, some of your panoramas may show signs of parallax error, this depends on what you are photographing and if there are any foreground detail in your panoramas. Most landscape panoramas have little foreground details, but parallax error can be minimized and something totally fixed by using software like PTGui or Photoshop CS5. If using a tripod without a dedicated Panoramic head, then shooting your panoramas in landscape mode instead of portrait mode will also minimize parallax error has the nodal point of your camera will be closer to the center of the tripod

The instructions below might seem long, but once you’ve done them a few times will only take you a few minutes before you’re photographing your panorama.

1: When using your D.S.L.R camera, always have the histogram showing on your cameras LCD screen. This helps in setting your aperture & shutter speed correctly, as if the histogram data is to far to the left, your image is under-exposed and to far to the right and it’s over-exposed. I try to have the colours in the histograms peaking in the center of it, or just to the right of center.

2: To start of there are two way to photograph a panorama, who can either shoot your panorama hand-held (holding the camera in your hand) or by using a tripod and fixing the camera on it.

· The best and most reliable way is to use a tripod and a remote shutter release, the tripod will keep all your captured images on the same level and a remote shutter release, whether it's a wireless or a cable release will avoid the vibrations caused by using the shutter button on the camera.

· You’ll also need to make sure that your tripod and camera are level in both horizontal and vertical planes, use a small spirit level that is attached to the camera’s hot shoe slot to level the camera ($5 from ebay).

· There’s little point in using a tripod and not leveling it, has this defeats the purpose of using a tripod.

 

 If you’re capturing your panorama hand-held, then you must position yourself so that you minimize camera movement while you’re taking the panorama. Don’t stand with your feet apart and the camera at eye level, try to stand at 45 degree angle to what you’re going to photograph and place the camera in the palm of your hand, then has you take each image use your wrist to rotate the camera for the next shot.

· If you’re capturing your panorama hand-held, then you must position yourself so that you minimize camera movement while you’re taking the panorama. Don’t stand with your feet apart and the camera at eye level, try to stand at 45 degree angle to what you’re going to photograph and place the camera in the palm of your hand, then has you take each image use your wrist to rotate the camera for the next shot.

 

3:  Ok, so you’re found a nice location "Lake Samsonvale, Petrie, QLD, Australia" and you’re ready to take your panorama, but before you start photographing you’ll have to setup your camera.

 

Ok, so you’re found a nice location "Lake Samsonvale, Petrie, QLD, Australia" and you’re ready to take your panorama, but before you start photographing you’ll have to setup your camera.

 

· Use a wide angle lens zoomed out to its lowest mm length, eg;18mm, unless you’re far from what you’re trying to capture.

· Set the camera ISO setting as low as possible; ISO 100 is best (but on cloudy days, you may need to increase it).

· If shooting hand-help then you may need to increase the ISO to keep your shutter speed above 1/100sec.

· Use RAW as your image format for best results, if using JPEG as your image format, then use low-compression JPEG.

· Set the camera to Aperture Priority mode and then chose an Aperture between F8 and f11, if it’s a really bright day even f13, the reason for such wide Apertures is to increase the depth of field so that your whole image is in sharp focus.

· Press the shutter release button halfway as you look through the view finder, you’ll see what shutter speed the camera is going to use and use this shutter speed for your test shot.

· Switch the camera into Manual mode and set both the shutter speed & the aperture that you’re going to use.

· Take a photo and see what it looks like, if the histogram looks good then you’re ready to take your panorama, if not then adjust your shutter speed and take another photo.

 

Take a photo and see what it looks like, if the histogram looks good then you’re ready to take your panorama, if not then adjust your shutter speed and take another photo.

· Has you can see in the photo above, the histogram looks good, I use an ISO setting of 100, but used a aperture of F8 and a shutter speed of 1/250.

· This panorama was shot Hand-held at about 8am in late October 2010, there still wasn't a huge amount of light in the sky which is why I used an aperture of F8 and a shutter speed of 1/250.

4: Now to take your panorama, it’s best to shoot from left to right, this’ll make it easier to stitch your images together later. Focus on a point 1/3 into your image, then set your camera to manual focus. This will keep all your images at the same focal distance and will help when stitching the images together.

· Focus on a point 1/3 into your image, then set your camera to manual focus. This will keep all your images at the same focal distance and will help when stitching the images together.

· If taking a panorama where people or traffic might be an issue keep an eye them, you may have to take more than one set of images.

· Now has you take each shot and rotate your camera for the next shot, remember to have a least 1/3 of the last image you took in the next image, this will give the stitching software enough points of reference to stitch your images into a panorama.

 

Now has you take each shot and rotate your camera for the next shot, remember to have a least 1/3 of the last image you took in the next image, this will give the stitching software enough points of reference to stitch your images into a panorama.

 

· If you shooting Hand-Held try to keep your camera has level as possible to maximize the finished viewing area of your panorama.

 

5: Now that you taken your images of your panorama, it’s time to download them to your computer and stitch them together with your graphic program of choice.

6: There are many programs to choose from that’ll stitch your images into a panorama, some of these are; PTGui, Panorama Factory, Panorama Maker, and Adobe Photoshop to list a few. Some of these will let you use RAW files while others will need either TIF or JPG files to work. I use PTGui to stitch my panoramas together, but first I use Adobe Lightroom 3.4 to edit the RAW files then save them as TIF files, I then use PTGui to stitch them together. I’ve found that PTGui has many extra features that most of the others don’t have.

When editing the images in Lightroom, I’ll only edit one image then go to the User Preset Folder and click on Panorama (I created this preset just for this purpose) and right click on Update with Current Setting (this saves all the adjustments that I’ve done on the photo).

 

When editing the images in Lightroom, I’ll only edit one image then go to the User Preset Folder and click on Panorama (I created this preset just for this purpose) and right click on Update with Current Setting (this saves all the adjustments that I’ve done on the photo).

 

I then select all the images in the set and click on the Panorama Preset, this will apply the setting from the edited image to the rest of the images in the set so that all the adjustments that I made to the first photo are applied to the rest of the photos in the set.


I then select all the images in the set and click on the Panorama Preset, this will apply the setting from the edited image to the rest of the images in the set so that all the adjustments that I made to the first photo are applied to the rest of the photos in the set.

These files are then saved as 8bit TIF files.

7: Now I open PTGui and import the TIF files;

· Once the files are imported, click on Align images

 

Once the files are imported, click on Align images

 

· Then chose Mercator has your Projection Setting (I’ve found that for most horizontal panoramas that this projection setting will give you the most accurate view of what you photographed.

 

Then chose Mercator has your Projection Setting (I’ve found that for most horizontal panoramas that this projection setting will give you the most accurate view of what you photographed.

 

· Make the necessary adjustment that need to be made; like Straightening the horizon and correcting any vertical distortion that may be present, then crop the image to eliminate the areas that are not need any more. (the help file within this program will show how to do this).

 

Make the necessary adjustment that need to be made; like Straightening the horizon and correcting any vertical distortion that may be present, then crop the image to eliminate the areas that are not need any more. (the help file within this program will show how to do this).

 

· Once you’re satisfied with what your viewing, click Create panorama.

 

Once you’re satisfied with what your viewing, click Create panorama.

 

· You then be given 4 choices of file formats to save your panorama; JPEG, TIF, Photoshop (psd) and Quicktime (.mov) which is use to play your panorama as a Quicktime movie file. I use TIF in 8bit format (you can use 16bit TIF if you want) with no compression.

 

You then be given 4 choices of file formats to save your panorama; JPEG, TIF, Photoshop (psd) and Quicktime (.mov) which is use to play your panorama as a Quicktime movie file. I use TIF in 8bit format (you can use 16bit TIF if you want) with no compression.

 

8: Now that the panorama is saved, I re-import it into Adobe Lightroom.

· I do this for two reasons;
No1: It’s part of my workflow in cataloguing all my image files.
No2: I’ve found that sometimes I need to adjust some aspect of the image like; saturation, brightness, and contrast.

· The panorama is then cropped at a 6 x 17 ratio, then saved as an 8bit TIF file.

· The 6 x 17 ratio is just a personal preference that I use after much researching on image sizes for Panoramic Photographs.

·

9: Now you can show off your Panoramic photograph to all your friends and/ or upload them to flickr for others to see your efforts.

 


Now you can show off your Panoramic photograph to all your friends and/ or upload them to flickr for others to see your efforts.

 

10: My personal experiences photographing Panoramic Photographs.

· I use a tripod for 60% of my panoramas, the rest are shot hand-held, and I’ve learnt over many years how to keep my hands steady while rotating the camera in my hand.

· Sometimes it just isn't physically possible to use a tripod, and at other times I may be out with my family or friends and I see a scene that's worth capturing as a panorama, so I shot it hand-held.

· It's true that you should use ISO 100 to get great panoramas, but! Time of day, weather conditions, and other factors play an important part in determining the ISO setting I'll use and also what aperture & shutter speed I use.

· I've found through trial and error that if you overlap your images by more than 40% when capturing you panorama, the stitching software sometimes has problems stitching your panorama together.

· I never shoot a panorama in anything else than manual mode, as this is the only mode on your camera that the setting will not be over-ridden by the camera.

· I make sure that before I start capturing any panorama that Auto ISO is switched off, as this setting can change the ISO that you've set originally and this will affect you images.

Here are a few of my other panoramas that I've captured.

 

Flaming River Sunset, Caboulture River, S.E. Qld

 

1: Flaming River Sunset, Caboulture River, S.E. Qld  Olympus D3040, 1/160s, F2.6, ISO 100 (not a D.S.L.R but shows what can be achieved with a Compact camera.)

 

Montville Tourist Precinct, S.E. Qld.

 

2: Montville Tourist Precinct, S.E. Qld. Nikon D80, 1/320s, F6.3, ISO 250

 

South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, S.E. QLD Nikon D80, 10s, F8, ISO 320

 

3: South Bank Parklands, Brisbane, S.E. QLD Nikon D80, 10s, F8, ISO 320

 

Festival of Sails, Suttons Beach, Redcliffe, S.E. Qld Nikon D80, 1/320s, F8, ISO 100

 

4: Festival of Sails, Suttons Beach, Redcliffe, S.E. Qld Nikon D80, 1/320s, F8, ISO 100

 

The Strand, Townsville, North. Qld.   Nikon D70s, 2.5s, F5, ISO 200

 

5: The Strand, Townsville, North. Qld.   Nikon D70s, 2.5s, F5, ISO 200