Photography Lesson - Panoramas.

A panorama was once only possible using a special camera. Now with digital photography we can all create panoramas.


Placing the camera on its tripod you adjust the settings to fixed aperture for maximum depth of field and fixed exposure time. Next make absolutely sure the camera is level. A tilt will ruin a panorama, so pay careful attention to this. Now focus about a third of the way into the scene and take anywhere between five and ten overlapping portrait shots. Ensure a good overlap of around 30%, otherwise the joins get quite difficult to deal with later on when you stitch them together in your computer.

Here are the original photos that made up this panorama.



The resulting shot can be around 3000 pixels high by 1200 pixels wide on a 6MP camera. This means the quality of prints is very high, making panoramas a favourite technique with many people. If you find stitching images together in photoshop (or paint shop pro or any similar programme) daunting, there are some great pieces of software that make this task really easy. A free open source program called Hugin is now available. This is the tool I used to stitch the panorama above together. The photo below was done manually.



The same technique produced this lovely shot of a bend in a canal in Bruges.

When photographing for a panorama it is more important than ever to pick a sunny day and take your shots early or late, to get a full dynamic range across the photograph. Dull overcast panoramas invariably dissapoint and are really only useful for testing out the technique.

panoramic head on your tripod can also help improve your panoramic photographs. These are actually easy to make, so there is no need to spend a fortune on a shop bought unit. panoramic heads move the camera so that the lens, rather than the body is above the tripod's pivot point.

panoramic head diagram

In the diagram above the green dots represent the top of the tripod. On a standard head (left) as you turn the camera the lens turns but also moves left or right. With a panoramic head (right) the lens still turns left and right but stays in its fixed position relative to the tripod. This solves a lot of problems when you are trying to stitch shots together to make a panorama.