Panoramic photography is a technique that uses specialised software such as Photoshop to stitch multiple images together to create a wide high resolution image.
For the purpose of this study the following question(s) were addressed:
- What is the process of creating panoramic photographs?
- What is the process of ‘Stitching’ them together?
Using the photo stitching tool in Photoshop (PS) and a set of smoothly flowing consecutive images of a landscape, it should be possible to create a wide format panoramic image.
Tips for shooting;
The golden rule in panoramic photography is to keep the settings exactly the same for each shot. This involves doing things manually, so make sure you’re familiar with working in Manual metering mode.
You also need to set the white balance manually, although you can sync this during processing if you shoot in raw. Wide-angle lenses are best avoided: they can cause problems with distortion that can’t be fixed in software. A focal length of between 35-80mm is usually about right. While a tripod isn’t vital, it will help you frame successive images.
A zoom lens also has more of an impact when used on its widest angle and this can provide higher resolution of the image providing better results in the stitching process, due to the focal length and the zoom ability to fill the frame. Focus is also very important to ensure that the stitching process in software works, any changes in focus or depth of field will result in the photographs not stitching together successfully.
Ensure that RAW files are used when making the images, as these files hold more resolution and can help with the overall quality of the final image. Manual camera settings are also required for this procedure. The aperture (Usually a larger aperture of f/22 or f/32 to allow the entire scene to be in focus), ISO and shutter settings should remain the same throughout taking each series of photographs. Manual focus should also be used, along with a tripod (with a bubble level) for panning the scene and a remote for the shutter release to avoid any camera shake.
Some photographers are known to stitch hundreds of images together to create a ‘Gigapixel’ panorama. Stephen Oachs shoots series of individual frames and uses this technique to create extremely high resolution images.
Step 1: Prepare the shot
Look for scenes with interest across a wide field of view, with strong features on both sides. Form a panoramic shape with your fingers or swivel your camera to get a feel for how the scene will look. Level your tripod to get everything perfectly square.
Step 2: Sync everything
Use Manual mode to set the exposure so it’s the same in every shot. If the readings vary, use settings in the middle of the range. Take a test shot and evaluate the histogram. Set the white balance to 5600k and switch to manual focusing.
Step 3: Overlap generously
With the camera on a level tripod, take the first shot on the far left and then take successive shots with a 30% overlap – don’t re-focus. If necessary take more images below and above to include everything you want in the shot.
Step 4: Stitch your images
Import the raw images for processing and make adjustments to one image, then sync with the others. Export files at full resolution and load them into stitching software such as Photomerge, PTGui or Hugin to generate a panorama. We’ve used Elements because it has a Photomerge Panorama tool that makes stitching photos really easy. (Digital Camera World, 2013)
If you’ve ever tried lining up panoramic photos manually, you’ll know there are all sorts of issues with perspective and distortion. Thankfully, Photomerge resolves these problems for you, producing seamless panoramas automatically. You may need to crop off a few untidy edges, but the process needn’t take more than a few minutes.
Under Files, click Add Open Files. On the left, in the Layout area, select Cylindrical. This creates the panorama inside a virtual cylinder, which is best for landscapes. The Auto and Perspective options are more optically correct but create a ‘bow tie’ shape that requires a lot of cropping. Photoshop Elements does an amazing job of correcting perspective and merging frames, but it will leave irregular blank spaces around the edges. Elements 10 and above, though, can automatically fill in the problem areas using surrounding details. The alternative is to crop your panoramas manually.
Shoot 1: Taken from Jeffery Hill, Longridge
Here I have composed three images in the horizontal landscape position.
Stitched them together using Photoshop.
For the shoot below, I accidentally left my gradual Neutral Density (ND) filter on in the landscape position. However, I have decided to include these images to show what can easily go wrong during landscape photography.
Then I have composed a set of four images in horizontal, also stitching them together to combine the different effects.
Panoramic photography is a very useful tool for capturing landscapes. The stitching technique is quite simple in Photoshop (PS) but for fully appreciating the final image, specialist printing is required. I am very pleased with the images that I have produced and will implement this technique in my future photography when working in the landscape environment.
 MANSUROV, N. (2010) Panoramic Photography Tutorial. Photography Life. [Online] Available from: https://photographylife.com/panoramic-photography-howto [Accessed: 27th January 2016]
 OACHS, S. (2013) Gigapixel: How to Create Large Scale Panoramic Images With Intricate Detail Using Your Everyday DSLR. Outdoor Photographer. [Online] Available from: http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/how-to/shooting/gigapixel.html#.Vqj9e4_XKYM [Accessed: 27th January 2016]