Why would you want to shoot a panorama? Possible reasons, which overlap with each other, might include:
- The subject is too large or too close to fit into a single frame with the lens you have (or the one that happens to be on the camera).
- To take advantage of different ways of projecting an image of the world around us onto a flat page.
- With the help of additional software as the basis of different, and more interactive, ways of presenting an image.
How do you go about it? Essentially there are two steps:
- Shoot a series of overlapping images (a good overlap of up to 50% helps the next step work properly).
- Put the images into a piece of software which will align the different frames with each other, adjust e.g. exposure so that the joins are invisible.
- Output the result as a single image.
Some cameras these days can perform all three steps, so that what comes out is a panoramic image with no other processing involved. This note assumes the use of post-processing software, such as:
- Adobe Lightroom. Probably the easiest to use, especially if you are already using Lightroom to organise, and do much of the processing on, your photos. After creating the panorama Lightroom offers a few options on the projection to use and how to deal with the inevitable gaps round the edges where alignment is not perfect. Appears less capable of dealing with large panoramas than the others. See instructions here.
- Adobe Photoshop. A similar set of options to Lightroom, but a bit more awkward to use. Perhaps the main disadvantage is that one has to choose the options before the align and combine stages, so to try another one means going back to the beginning. See instructions here.
- Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE). A free-standing program for generating panoramas, providing the biggest range of options of the three on how the output is presented. This is also pretty easy to use and allows you to experiment with presentation options after the hard calculation of alignment and combining the images. Download for free here.
This image is constructed from only two images , but still using the same techniques as above. Two images were used partly to give the wide angle wanted, but also to allow a different point of focus in the two halves (top and bottom) of the picture.
This image was created to emphasise the converging perspective lines as well as creating a striking image. It is made from about five original photos.
Shooting interiors is fertile ground for very wide angle panoramas – in the limit 360 degrees (as in the image of my dining room above). This one is a close to 180 degree view of the Painted Hall at Greenwich Hospital. With any image this wide a conventional perspective is impossible and one or another seriously ‘distorted’ projection is required.
Or one can do something quite weird like this. It was the result of giving the ICE software (by mistake) the original photos for two full 360 degree panoramas of a local art gallery, which it then tried to combine into a single image.
Having created a panorama one can then use additional software to present the image in more interactive, and possibly more interesting, ways, including:
- A complete panorama which the user can pan sideways and up or down to examine different views.
- A number of linked panoramas providing a virtual tour of a building or other location.
- The ability to present the same view in different resolutions, allowing zooming in to the limit of a long lens on any spot on the 360 degree image.
Here is a tour of the Letchworth Arts Centre (now sadly deceased) which includes examples of
each of these aspects. This was created using (free) software from krpano – more examples can be seen on their website here.